The compact flats that have big potential for first-time buyers

Can a swish London flat cost just £100,000? Jonathan Christie meets two men on a mission to bring high design to the masses
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The Independent Online

A funky London pad - it would have to cost £300,000, however small, right? Well, thanks to Warren Johnson and Alex Grossman, that may not be the case for long. Their company, Home Factory, aims to reinvigorate the market for prefabs and shared-ownership schemes by injecting them with design credentials normally reserved for penthouses.

The idea is simple. Keep costs down by manufacturing the flats off-site to a standard design and then delivering the shells ready to be slotted together. Couple this with an innovative architect and a friendly local authority, and you should create a London home that's modern, sexy and costs just £100,000. The finished apartments will be available through shared-ownership schemes that aim to help as many people as possible on to the property ladder. The idea's not new, but what sets Home Factory apart is the belief that their spaces should break away from the drab interiors that dog the perception of this market and start afresh with innovative design. "What we saw," says Johnson, "were first-time buyers who'd scraped their deposit together to buy something uninspiring and were left disappointed with what they'd got."

"We used the award-winning architects Andy Martin Associates. They'd gained a reputation away from the low-income market, and specialise in creating beautiful interiors. We wanted their expertise, but not any preconceived ideas. Their brief was to design a contemporary, one-bedroom apartment that utilised mass-manufacturing techniques to create an affordable, modern home that we would want to live in."

As with any good design, the quality is in the detail. They've sourced fittings, flooring and finishes that break the conventional developer rules as well as rethinking the standard specs that most new-builds get saddled with nowadays. Building outwards was an issue, so the normal 2.4m ceiling heights have been pushed up 30cm to maximise the sense of space, while postage-stamp windows have been jettisoned in favour of expansive sheets of glass.

This approach is reminiscent of the Urban Splash model of starting from a position of high design ideals, a similarity that Johnson acknowledges. "We're treading a similar path to them by taking our design-led ideas into unglamorous areas with an aim of making them desirable again. Through the website, we'll be trying to create regional hotspots by inviting people to sign up to where they would like to see our developments. If we get 40 names in any place, we can go to that local authority and hopefully do a deal with them.

"By marrying our design aspirations with a tight budget, we allow people who are struggling to get on to the property ladder a chance to get a great place within their budget. Housing association schemes usually offer shared ownership on a 60 per cent mortgage, 40 per cent rent basis. We aim to create a mix of outright sales, shared ownership and rented [homes] within any given development."

020-8960 1151; www.home-factory.co.uk

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