Property abroad: Designer pads

They used to be the preserve of the filthy rich. Now there are ultra-modern homes for almost every budget

By Laura Latham
Wednesday 25 March 2009 01:00

Opulent architect-designed homes were once limited to the obscenely wealthy but, as property markets have become more far flung, there has been a revolution in architecture. Now, even those of us without deep pockets can live in high style.

This change has been driven by a desire among buyers for modernist properties designed with a degree of creativity. "There has definitely been a shift in demand," says Ted Baillie, developer of several quality residential projects on Portugal's west coast. "In addition to preferring natural materials, such as stone and timber, owners now want lots of glass to make the most of great views and maximise available space and light. They like the effect of bringing the outside in."

Properties at Baillie's Joia Das Dunas resort are a classic example of what buyers want. Designed by local architect Vasco Vieira, they offer double-height ceilings and open-plan living spaces, linked to outside terraces by glass walls that pull back to open up the villa completely.

Baillie says even areas that attract less adventurous purchasers are seeing signs of change. "On the Algarve there's a lot of traditional-style development but you can definitely see a move towards modern design."

The same is true throughout the world, as affordable properties are becoming increasingly glamorous. Agency CBRE, for example, has projects on the popular Thai islands of Phuket and Koh Samui featuring sleek buildings that wouldn't look out of place in central London. Though here you get stunning beachside locations, infinity pools and entry prices of around £100,000.

Similarly in the US, where prices are in a slump, it's possible to pick up chic new apartments in Miami and New York from under £300,000. UK agents Aylesford have a great selection in both cities, as does developer YOO, which also boasts opulent interiors designed by Philippe Starck.

Turkey is another region in which to find upmarket design for less. Some local developers have caught on to the fact that many buyers like sleeker, metropolitan-influenced homes.

"People want contemporary style," explains Eric Caya, of Bodrum-based developer Cumberland Properties. "Trends are changing as our client base is getting younger. We're seeing buyers aged 35 to 45 and they want homes created by good architects with interiors designed by professionals."

Caya has engaged local architect Deniz Kutay and Denmark-based Michael Christensen on several of his projects and has achieved properties with a clean, contemporary edge. They don't carry a hefty price tag either, though Caya admits they may be more than standard developments. "There are clients wanting a designer feel who are prepared to pay for that level of quality."

Joia Das Dunas: 0845 224 3658, ; Cumberland Properties: 020-7586 7179, ;

CBRE: ; Aylesford: 020-7349 5100; ; YOO: 020 7009 0100;

Modern: Buyer's guide

* It's fixtures and fittings that often show build quality. Open drawers, check hinges and handles to ensure things are finished professionally.

* When buying a new-build, discuss landscaping and amenities.

* An architect's name can put a premium on prices but their reputation should help guarantee quality.

* Don't buy modern for the sake of it. A well-designed home should suit its location without looking incongruous.

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