Monday, 23 February 2015

Revisiting properties I've sold. BIG mistake.

The other day I drove along the Upper Richmond Road and noticed a For Sale board outside a house we lived in for 13 years.

It's a wonderful house in a less than wonderful location.

Back in the mid-1990s we were able to afford it because it is at the wrong end of Putney (east) and slap bang on the side of the south circular (or south standstill, as I call it).

Five bedrooms, three bathrooms, three or four reception rooms, large entrance hall, a wider than average garden and drive-in parking also made it ideal for our growing family.

Over the years, it became our first real 'doer-upper'.

We knocked down walls, splashed out on a Bulthaup kitchen, laid stone floors, installed a steam room, built a master bathroom bigger than most bedrooms and made it into a contemporary and hugely comfortable home.

People were surprised to pitch up at this naff end of Putney and find we'd built a modern, slightly minimalist home. (Most of our friends were still living in homes that looked much like the ones they'd grown up in.)

Anyway, we finally had enough of the almost non-existent District Line, the thundering trucks that shook the house and the hours wasted trying to cross over inadequate Thames bridges. And sold up.

Now it's for sale again, and I couldn't resist taking a look at what the current owners had done to our pride and joy.

BIG mistake.

A few parts of our kitchen may still be in place...but the rest has been turned into a temple to dodgy taste.

Perhaps most tellingly, the garden, once a restful haven, has been ripped out and replaced with a single, flat expanse of lawn. Like the interiors, it's bereft of imagination or humanity.

The bathrooms are beyond naff - ugly in their use of too many materials and self-consciously faddish.

Horrible cheap looking built-in cupboards have appeared in virtually every available alcove. And even the steam room has been violated with the installation of some sort of multi-coloured floor!

I was so upset looking at the agent's photos, I had to shut down Zoopla before I got too angry. I felt like going round to confront the owners.

But of course, this would be certifiable madness and pointless.

And I've been here before...

On a bay near St Tropez we did up a beachfront duplex with the help of a Notting Hill architect.

Cool cement finishes, white painted wood floors, grotesquely expensive minimalist bathroom fittings, open stairs, impractical white get the picture.

Three months after it was finally ready to move into, we sold it and bought a little house a few doors down.

A year later I persuaded our agent (who also managed the property for its new owner) to take us into the flat again so that I could show the architect how it had finished up. I ignored the agent's pleas not to go, assuming of course that my masterpiece would have been preserved in its entirety by a grateful buyer. Another BIG mistake.

The white wood floors had been covered over with cheap shiny blue ceramic tiles. The hand-made cement topped kitchen had been ripped out and replaced with a basic Ikea setup. And the state-of-the-art brushed nickel bathroom fittings (all hardly used) had been chucked out in favour of GOLD (look) taps.

This time I almost threw-up. All over his disgusting blue tiles.

Why do these things matter so much? After all, even after spending far too much on the flat we still made money. And we'd moved to a much better property (far away from the obnoxious little Italian man who lived in the ground floor flat).

What does it matter that someone doesn't share my aesthetic, doesn't fall in love with the way we've done things, doesn't keep it just the way we'd keep it?

Arrogance? Maybe.

But I think it's more to do with the fact that any building project is so difficult, so exhausting and so emotionally draining that you want people to appreciate this, respect what you've done and keep it just the way it is.

Stupid, I know.

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