Out with the old, in with the new

Forget updated Victorian properties - developers are turning their energies to building strikingly modern houses that are tailor-made for 21st-century living. Mary Wilson reports
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The Independent Online

One of Nottingham's smartest residential areas is The Park, a nine-and-a-half acre private residential estate below the castle. It's a traditional area, from an architectural point of view, with the majority of properties being Victorian, with a smattering of Georgian terraces. Some of the houses are quite substantial, selling for around £1.25 million, and many have been converted into ritzy, modern flats, but from the outside, the look of the area has remained the same for decades.

That is, except for three houses which have been built by Bill Hammond, a radical developer, who in his earlier life was a professional stunt double, riding motorbikes and horses for actors, and standing in for Michael Elphick in the series Boon, which ran for several years in the 1980s.

In 2001, he built a pair of unusual semi-detached town houses on the site of early Victorian stables, which had become workshops and were then demolished. These had angular roof lines and a lot of glazing and were as modern inside as they were outside. Now he has built something even more dramatic - a stunning seven-storey house called One Degree West, designed by the same architects that he used for the semis - Marsh and Grochowski, who have been responsible for a number of other outstanding new houses elsewhere in the city.

"This is substantially more radical than the last two," says Hammond, "as well as being much larger, with over 3,000 square feet. It is on a very elevated site and from the studio on the top floor there are fantastic views over the Trent valley."

As he discovered when he built his first two contemporary houses, Nottingham's planners are very supportive of modern architecture. This house lies between two stoic late-Victorian buildings - a former school, which Hammond converted into flats a few years ago. The plot for the new house was the playground in the middle.

"Nottingham has an incredibly enlightened planning department," says Hammond. "They don't want to see pastiche, but something which looks as if it has been built in the 21st century."

The design of One Degree West started, rather unusually, with the parking space.

Congestion can be a bit of a problem in and around The Park, with little off-street parking. Hammond used his imagination and solved this by putting in a hydraulic stacking system which takes six cars. "This is the first time this system has been used in Nottingham," he says, "and the house was basically designed to wrap around and accommodate the car-parking block."

This parking block may not look very exciting, but the house above it certainly does. At the back, you have a mixture of glazing, terne-coated steel, sand-faced red brick, black slate and western red cedar. "It's on seven different levels, although because of the slope you come in on third-floor level from the front," says Hammond. "It was quite a tricky site to build on."

Internally, it is just as dramatic, with a glass and steel staircase climbing up one side of the house, a drawing-room with a cantilevered glass landing and a large circular window from which you can see the views from your bed in the master bedroom.

Above the garden room, there is a music room. "This is where all the QED music system is led back to and it has a little galleried area where you could put a grand piano," says Hammond. It also has a secondary kitchen and walk-in shower room, and could be used as an independent floor for teenagers. Above that is the dining-room with cherry-wood floor, and above that, at entrance level, a kitchen, breakfast area and hall, which has a honed granite floor.

On the next level you have the drawing-room and then a large void up to the bedroom "deck" with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Above that is the pièce de résistance - the large studio with red-cedar terrace, protected by the roof which flies out way beyond it. FPDSavills (0115 934 8000) is selling One Degree West with decked and limestone terraced garden with water feature plus three-metre square plunge pool in stainless steel for £850,000.

In Lower Bourne, near Farnham, Surrey, Lane Fox (01252 821102) is selling Bourne Lodge, a Huf Haus which was completed in January this year. Huf Hauses have been going for many years in continental Europe, but have only recently started to be built here. Each glass-and-timber-framed house is designed and fabricated in sections in Germany before being constructed in double-quick time on the chosen site.

In a lovely one-acre plot with mature trees all around, it is low maintenance and highly energy efficient with four bedrooms, laundry room, sauna and reception hall on the ground floor; open plan dining-room, drawing-room, morning room and kitchen, plus family room, study and another bedroom on the first floor. It is for sale through Lane Fox (01252 821102) for £1.35 million.

And in Branksome Chine, near Poole in Dorset, the Light House on Lakeside Road is for sale - a stunning and very individual modern house, designed by James and Kirsten Crinan and finished last year. The house, which has sea views from the top floor, recently won the Poole Pride of Place award and was highly commended in the Daily Telegraph Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine awards. Although the Crinans have put their heart and soul into the project, they are now selling up because they are now moving abroad.

The house has a striking curved roof, open-plan interiors and a vast expanse of glazing. There is a spectacular wooden staircase with glass balustrading, and a hall with a void up to the roof. On the ground floor there is a large living area with kitchen and study; on the first floor three bedrooms, two of which have galleries on the second floor, where there is a conservatory. It is for sale through Lloyds (01202 708044) for £1.95 million.

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