What the Victorians taught us

Developers are furnishing high-spec properties with details from the Victorian age, such as log stores and dumb waiters. Karen Keeman hunts down the items making a comeback
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The Independent Online

It's often assumed that the more money you have to spend on your home, the glitzier and more high-tech the accessories become. But home builders at the top end of the market are noticing a growing demand for some extras in the more high-spec homes that hark back to more traditional times. Not just the range cooker, beloved of top-end kitchen designers these days, but more prosaic additions that recall "upstairs/downstairs days" - walk-in larders, wine cellars, log stores and even dumb waiters.

It's often assumed that the more money you have to spend on your home, the glitzier and more high-tech the accessories become. But home builders at the top end of the market are noticing a growing demand for some extras in the more high-spec homes that hark back to more traditional times. Not just the range cooker, beloved of top-end kitchen designers these days, but more prosaic additions that recall "upstairs/downstairs days" - walk-in larders, wine cellars, log stores and even dumb waiters.

"The Victorians had the right idea," says David Smith, marketing chief of Octagon developers. "Life in those days revolved around entertaining at home and the house was designed to accommodate this." Octagon, which builds mostly in Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, is including serveries next to the dining rooms in many of its multi-million pound homes. Set up with warming ovens, a fridge, running water, a dishwasher and cupboards, the servery ensures that food cooked in the main kitchen down the hallway arrives at the table hot. "Although this is an old idea, taken from the upstairs/downstairs era when people had servants, it still works very well today when entertaining a large party or even for everyday use," Smith says.

For the modern family, traditional features need to work alongside new appliances. At Walsingham Manor in Chislehurst, Kent, Laing Homes has included walk-in larders in certain models. Laing has demonstrated how the old and the new can work together by using this feature in an ultra-modern, futuristic, kitchen/diner in the show home; prices from £1.65m. "Our research revealed that buyers wanted a Victorian feel with a modern specification, and the walk-in larder is one of the most functional parts of traditional house design," said Sean Ellis, managing director of Laing Homes South East Thames.

In Galliard Homes' Marlborough Place development in St John's Wood, north London, the four-bedroom townhouses provide flexible living space with a strong emphasis on large entertaining areas in what would have been the parlour. A family room and conservatory lead from the kitchen on the ground floor, but for formal entertaining, a first-floor dining room leads to an elegant drawing room, both serviced by dumb waiter. "Installing a dumb waiter makes perfect sense because it connects the kitchen with the dining room on the floor above," says David Galman, Galliard's sales director. "Townhouses are popular, but developers should consider the practicalities of living in one if the eating areas are on different levels."

The homes also include a lower-ground self-contained flat for either the nanny or a grandparent - today's equivalent of the traditional below-stairs staff quarters. Prices for the homes start from £3.35m.

Millwood Designer Homes developments in Kent, Sussex and Surrey stick firmly to traditional features. Kitchens include a "snug" area for comfy chairs near an open fireplace, ground floors offer a boot room with hard-wearing tiled floor, and buyers can even have a log-storage area adjacent to the living room. "We are a nation of traditionalists on the whole," said John Elliott, Millwood's managing director. "These features have survived the test of time because they still look great in today's homes."

In the past, only the very best addresses had a wine cellar. At Try Homes' Coombe Hall Park in East Grinstead, west Sussex, two of the models have a cellar equipped for storing up to 1,200 bottles of wine. Deryn Hemment, MD of Spiral Cellars, which installs them, says: "The growth of the wine markets has meant there are more collectors of fine wines." House prices at Coombe Hall Park start at £575,000.

Octagon: 020-8481 7500; www.octdev.co.uk

Walsingham Manor (Laing Homes): 020-8658 3743; www.laing-homes.co.uk

Galliard Homes: 020-7624 4627, www.galliard-homes.co.uk

Millwood Designer Homes: 01732 770991 www.mdh.uk.com

Try Home:s 01342 302522

Spiral Cellars: 01372 279166; www.spiralcellars.com

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