The Luxury Property Forum (LPF) hosted a webinar to discuss a trend they identified for ultra-high net worth individuals leaving London to move to a country or seaside locations. Priya Rawal, Founder and CEO of The LPF who chaired the webinar, identified this trend to have increased as lifestyles have changed during the pandemic, with British as well as overseas buyers wanting to add a country home to their prime property portfolio.
The panel of experts were ADAM Architecture director Robbie Kerr; Laura Conduit, Partner at Farrer & Co; Sanjay Sharma, Managing Director of Interiors with Art; Cate Statham, Senior Building Surveyor of Knight Frank; and James Carter-Brown, Head of UK Residential Building Consultancy at Knight Frank.
Considering this trend, it is important to understand the country house market, the differences between town and country houses in terms of buying, developing, and maintaining them, as well as the challenges of working with listed and heritage buildings. Views were given by all members of the panel, here is Robbie Kerr’s view in response to questions he was asked at the webinar:
Robbie agreed that this trend is now very visible with people wanting more space, better quality of life and the cache of a house in a beautiful landscape in the country, which they can get with their asset in London. He felt that clients are wanting to make their mark with a desire to retain a sense of identity for where they live and what they have as their home which is still split between “hotel living” with vast en-suites and multiple rooms, and the “cosy family home” with practicality and functionality. Design is being challenged by global influences and connectivity, with Instagram and Pinterest, which is resulting in an interesting new mix of modern and tradition.
Robbie referred to the research Tomorrow’s Home conducted by ADAM Architecture and Grainger plc in 2015 which included the finding that people would live further away from home and commute less often.
Priya asked Robbie: “From a design point of view, what are the main considerations that an architect needs to consider when renovating a listed country house?”
Robbie explained how it is often difficult for clients to accept that there are certain things they can’t do to their own property but that it is important to start from a solid understanding of the significance of the listed asset you are working with and on; ‘significance’ is an important term used by conservation offices.
Technically to explain what is listed in a property, Robbie describes it as if you turned the house upside down, everything that doesn’t fall out is listed! That doesn’t mean that things can’t be changed to the rest of the house, but clients must understand the impact of the listing.
A Heritage Report should be commissioned at the very start by a good team of historic building consultants. ADAM Architecture have a very strong in-house team, and we also work collaboratively with external consultants. Clients often treasure this Report after the alteration works as it can uncover secrets of their house that they didn’t know.
Robbie explained that from his experience, he has often found the smallest changes can ‘unlock’ these buildings, such as changing the use of rooms, or a minor extension can transform how the building is used.
Priya asked Robbie: “What should a client look for when choosing an architect for this type of project?”
The most important thing is for a client to find an architect who will listen to them and won’t force their ideas but with their experience and passion will help to unlock or realise their vision. It should be an exciting process, of course there will be ups and downs, so you need to be able to get on with your architect as you may be working with them for a long time.
Priya asked Robbie: “What is your view on the extent that new homes are going to be increasingly developed in the countryside and what do you expect for these kinds of developments?”
The trend Robbie feels that we are going to see more and more is that the well-built traditional country houses we have across our countryside will be re-invented, re-used and retained. There is infinitely less carbon embodied in the construction of these existing buildings but if clients are going to build new then sustainability is going to be front and centre of any decision making. We should be building the Listed buildings of the future with sustainability at the core and often for multi-generational use.
The webinar took place on 18th November 2021