Buy Of The Week: Strawberry Hill

It was nearly scuppered by planning regulations, but a modernist development on the Thames is wowing the locals

By Joey Canessa
Thursday 18 July 2013 02:24

It's certainly not well known for its ground-breaking contemporary new-builds. But if you were to take a boat trip along the river at Strawberry Vale, a new modern development called The Edge stands out from the crowd.

When Nuggy Lianos and his partners set up Quad architects in the early 1980s, the economic climate meant that business was slow. By 2003, though, the development side was well established and, with some notable projects behind them, including the Manser Medal-nominated Quad House in East Twickenham, Quad bought the prime riverside plot that was to become The Edge apartments. The site, which ran down to the river's edge, had been granted approval for a small development that held little appeal for Lianos. His ideas were more far-reaching than the restrained scheme that had been approved.

Having bought the plot, there followed an anxious 12-month wait for planning permission for Quad's own ambitious scheme. Lianos had taken on a high-risk project. "I had invested heavily, even in terms of servicing the interest on the bank loan. If we were refused planning permission, I couldn't have afforded to appeal against the decision. We would have had to go ahead with a scheme that fitted in with the original approval, just to cover our costs."

Fortunately, this wasn't the case. Providing planning officers with 3D models and photo-realistic visuals enabled Lianos to convey subtleties of design that are often difficult to illustrate.

An unusual additional restriction was placed on the plot; a large part of the green area had been designated as Metropolitan Open Land, the equivalent of "green belt" land, which means that it's protected from any building work in order to protect the view from the river. Lianos felt uncertain whether or not he should argue against this as it restricted the plot's overall build size significantly, but now feels that the initial setback has added to the beauty of the finished building, which has a luxurious lawned area sloping down to the rivers' edge.

The Edge is made from a "flat slab" reinforced concrete construction, which provides enormous freedom of choice in terms of how the units are divided. "The system employs slabs of concrete resting on columns. There are no load-bearing walls to hold back your design, allowing each apartment to be totally different from the others."

Once the columns and slabs had been constructed, there was a strong skeleton to accommodate all the glass areas, timber cladding and rendering in a flexible, imaginative way. As Lianos says, "it's beautifully balanced aesthetically, yet without a strict geometry. Although it's not a strictly modernist approach, we have manipulated the design beyond simple functionality, playing with the angles of the building to perfect its appearance as well as to maximise floor areas."

The development consists of eight apartments of varying size. All but one has outside space of its own in the form of a balcony or a terrace. The two lower ground floor flats also have patio gardens, and all the apartments have access to the lawned area that runs down to the river. Plans have also been approved for the building of a jetty with four moorings.

Apart from the imaginative build quality, what sets the apartments apart are their interiors. Lianos has selected white oak doors and walnut floors, which complement each other beautifully. A rich cream limestone has been used for the bathroom flooring in all of the apartments and again in a darker chocolate colour for the bathroom surfaces. The showers have a powerful body jet facility to provide a stimulating massage that can "blow you off your feet". Another futuristic feature is the "futronics" lighting system, programmable in the living room areas, which allows 20 different scenes to be set by remote control.

Quad has been responsible for every creative aspect in the building, including the design of the kitchens. Seymour kitchens has hand-made box-frames of iroko hardwood to support and contain the cupboards and appliances, and the sink is built into a long, large and monolithic iroko island. All the fridges are substantial and American, with built-in ice-makers. The results have been so successful that even Lianos is slightly surprised. "We are considering bringing our kitchen designs to the market when we move our offices from Chiswick in the near future," he says.

The risks involved with the project have paid off handsomely for Quad: three of the apartments were sold off-plan, and by May only five were left. Lianos has been delighted with the local response to his building. "Even neighbours who I thought would probably be shocked have come round to tell us how much they love the place, which is a great vote of confidence."

Get the spec

What's for sale: one upper ground-floor apartment

How big: 103 square metres internal floor area, including living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, study and balcony

Serious kit: underfloor heating, walnut floors, oak interior doors, bespoke kitchen, bathroom with limestone floor and marble mosaic, programmable lighting, lift

Extras: parking, landscaped riverside gardens, river mooring available

Buy it: Savills, 020-8614 9100, £650,000

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