NPME

PuttingYourHomeOnTheMarketPart1

posted by Natalie Paddick

I was talking to a friend on Twitter the other day, who is selling her home and it occurred to me how difficult and unsettling this process is… Not to mention the stress of trying to live in a home that has to look like a show home … I have sold and styled a large number of houses, for ourselves and for clients so I thought that I would share a few helpful tweaks with you…

Declutter – Obvious! But the advice is don’t declutter too much! What does this advice even mean? Basically it means tidy up your rooms take out any ‘stuff’ that makes a room look messy, clear surfaces. It is key to make a room look like it has free open space… But don’t make the rooms look sterile, for example leave the odd attractive ornament on show, to give the room a bit of ‘panache’. Remember the proportions of a room and work with that. Try and make key focal point in each room. If the rooms are very large, then be more expansive. People like to buy into a lifestyle, so make yours look attractive. [Which of course I know it is *winks*] Quirky is okay but not too distinctive or individual!

Fix, Clean & Freshen Up! – Obvious [again], but so often people do not do it!?? You would be surprised at how many people think that they don’t need to clean an item because they are taking with them? No! and No! Again! Clean everything in your home! Inside and out! Make your home sparkle! Polish and clean to your hearts content, if that is not a direct contradiction in terms! Trust me when you get to the end of your cleaning frenzy, you will wonder why you don’t always live in this stratospherically clean new lifestyle. Well to be honest you will only feel this sense of euphoria, for a brief period! Because you have now imbibed so many cleaning chemicals that it has gone to you head in the form of endorphins. As this wears off, it becomes clear to you that keeping your domicile as tidy as this, whilst the house is on the market, can become more than a bit tedious, if not almost inhuman! But needs must! Don’t tidy up before each viewing, you have to keep it clean as you go forward with the sale. You are going for the ‘wow’ factor and the ‘curb’ appeal! All buzz words but you have to keep your spirits up in the face of possibly months on the market, whilst you live in your own show home!

You have to take on board that, although this is your home ….It is no longer really your home, it is your bargaining chip to your future life … What I am saying is keep your chin up and/or drink wine, which also helps! .. Start getting detached from your house … Not easy … But necessary!! Stiff upper lip and all that!

Get a theme going – Sounds obvious, again, but it is about drawing people in, making them believe that this is their new Utopia, I know this all sounds a bit exaggerated, but buying a house is a big deal… The most expensive purchase most people are going to make…Let’s move on to Estate Agents!! Pick carefully, make sure that they do all the viewings, I have worked with estate agents that try and get you to “show” the house for them… No! Keep your distance from a potential purchaser and don’t forget, you are paying the estate agents fees, and that is not going to be cheap! I think it’s essential to tell the estate agent how the house is to be viewed, for example, which rooms to go into first, so there is some sort of story being told, making the visit flow….Be strong with your agents. Have a viewing plan.

I have experienced on many occasions when a property does not sell in the first couple of months, the Estate Agents sometimes try to put pressure on you to reduce the price… If you don’t feel this is right don’t… For the record I have never reduced a price of a property because, if someone is interested they are entitled to make a fair offer for your house, on the other hand if you have reduced the price, a potential viewer then sees your property on line, they can sometimes think that there is something wrong with the property or that you are desperate to sell and it will / can put people off viewing. Don’t get me wrong estate agents are very good at their job, but it is a job! They want to get your house sold as quickly as possible and pick up their fee. Also keep in mind, they put the price on your house in the first place! They have done viewings, hundreds of times over, they can get a bit laissez faire. I once sold a house to Freda, from the iconic pop band Abba, so star struck was ‘our’ estate agent … He forgot if he was working for me or her, [she was lovely, by the way]. And I had to ‘re-focus’ his mind on the fact that it was us paying his bill! So take the estate agents advice, but don’t be afraid to make your own rules, it is your house / asset after all!

The Kitchen – Is the most important room in the whole house, it is worth the most per square foot, in the whole house and can make or break a deal, prevent or prompt a potential buyer into submitting the all-important offer..

Here are some simple ways you can update the look of your kitchen, for example replacing the cabinet handles on the kitchen doors for a different or more contemporary style, can actually make a dramatic difference. There are so many styles of handles can be purchased very reasonable with a quick Google search. Important Tip - Make sure you measure the screw holes in your cabinet doors accureratly, the last thing you want is new handles that do not fit to the existing holes!

Once you have cleared the surfaces, which makes the kitchen look bigger, find a feature bowl and fill it with fruit.... Or, I am a particular lover of glass vases full of eggs …. I think it is the earth mother in me?

Be sensible accentuate the positives, for example if there is a nasty stain on any of the worktops, why not disguise it by putting a strategically placed chopping board over it then place a plate of cheese and grapes on top! You are not being deceitful you are selling a perception, anyway the survey the buyer should have will pull up any relevant faults, but by this time your buyer is already hopefully sold on your house and a small stain won’t put them off. … Remember, all houses come with their quirks and foibles… That is part of their charm.

Another great and simple tip of mine, is to get a recipe book stand, find one of your favourite cookery books, and flip it open on a lovely picture and showcase it on the stand! Simple but this will just remind a potential purchaser of just how delicious this room is going to be for them. People love food, hence we have so many cooks and cooking programmes! Even I blog about food and my favourite recipes.

If your oven /cooker /Aga is a bit old, looking sad, buy some bright fresh new T-towels that you can bring out on visiting days and hang them decoratively over the oven door handles which hides a multitude of sins and freshens the look! This sounds mad, honestly I am a ‘bit’ but it works. I have always liked to bake bread, on a viewing day the delicious smell of a loaf in my bread machine cooking away makes the room and house smell delicious.. I have also been known, when selling a property in the winter time to stand over an Aga stirring a large pan of drinking chocolate! Silly but really it helps the purchaser get into the mood! And anyway my children are always ready for a hot chocolate! .. So it made sense to me!

Sitting Room – Make it look as spacious as possible, people want to relax in this room, but they like it to look stylish, too … Buy some new bright colour coordinated cushions, to spruce up the look, if you have the budget, you could always put in some reasonably priced blinds to match, there are many companies that will make bespoke blinds at great prices. Please do not make the mistake of just buying one or two cushions, more is better, don’t make it look like you are desperate, that is worse than having no cushions at all! If you don’t like cushions [men don’t seem too], get a few feature throws for a bit of bling. Clean up the side tables and get some mood / ambient lighting to set the scene, all the lifestyle stores sell these items at reasonable prices or there is of course our on-line, buddy! Remember to switch them on for the viewings and turn the main light down for the maximum effect… If the room is large, strategically placed vases of flowers can make a big impression. Not necessarily just cut flowers, buy some good quality fabric flowers and top up the look with a few sprigs of real greenery from the garden, which can easily be changed to keep the display at its best. Top tip, put a cap full of bleach into the water, no too much, but what this will do is keep the water clear, this tip also works well with real cut flowers too, there is nothing worse than murky, stinky water in a flower arrangement! [Well there is, but let us not go there in this article!]

Many viewings are of course during the evening so why not put an open bottle of wine on a table with a couple of glasses and some nibbles? This will make for a relaxing homey environment… And you get to eat and drink it later! If it is winter light the fire, if you have a working fireplace - obviously! Otherwise it is not advisable! Make sure you light the fire in advance so it is crackling away when your viewers arrive, don’t light it too early so that it is just a damp squib when they arrive, it is all about planning and strategy. If it is summer (see my previous blog) fill the fire place with candles, doesn’t matter if its candles in bottles or candelabra’s, just remember to light them before your viewer/s arrives… It will give the most amazing atmospheric feeling… It will feel like home …. [Theirs!]

Bedrooms – Eeeeek!! This can be a bit of a minefield… I drove my children mad … Once, [actually I drive them mad quite a lot!] It is so difficult to get young children to keep their areas tidy and you will drive yourself mad if you even try! … Just go with it, the best you can! Decorate a high shelf or two that is out of the child’s reach making the feature look cute. Put a big old basket, chest, designer bucket, whatever suits in a corner of the room - this can be a life saver! It makes tidying as quick as quick, you can ‘lob’ all the toys in the basket at the last moment, making the room look tidy! Teenagers are a little more challenging, in every respect! I have no idea why they revert back to being ‘mucky’ cavemen as they get older? It is a mystery? … There is no point in fighting them! .. You have enough on your plate, so my advice is to short circuit the shouting and do a quick daily circuit around their rooms and ‘mess’ areas. I know I should make them clean up … But trust me when selling a house it is just not worth the agro, there is enough stress already! Also Fabric Freshener comes in handy, if you know what I mean!

So back to bedrooms …. Clean crisp bedding is obviously essential, try to withhold any need you might have to use “overly” patterned sheets or too vibrant colours. Keep the theme cool and sharp …

Again pinch ‘that’ tip from the sitting room, putting stylish new cushions at the head of the bed, plumped up and perky… Make your bedroom look sumptuous.. This is the relaxing area… Make sure there is a mirror or two in the room, you know what I think about mirrors …. If you don’t, I will tell you .. I love them, they are my go-to interior design tip! Strategically placed they open up a room, reflecting, refracting and making the perspective of the room appear bigger and brighter. Add ambient lighting with a couple of well chosen bedside lamps. They can add a sculptural feature and change the dynamics of the mood – Try a dimmer too! Add a throw, for a bit of sumptuous charm…

Really / Really important … I have worked in hotels where they completely overlook the ‘blinking’ obvious! No make-up or hair drying / styling areas, a necessity in a bedroom! I cannot express how important this is… If you have a dressing table … Great .. Set it up! A mirror, perfume / cologne bottles [with a spray or two before the viewing], a pot plant on the table, better than cut flowers as it will last longer.

Perhaps a nice stylish tube / tub or two of hand or body cream. If you must have your make-up on show, moderate it, put what you need in colour co-ordinated bowls, and make sure it looks fresh and clean. If you do not have room for a dressing table then mock one up! A chest of drawers will suffice as a substitute, put a mirror on it or on the wall to maximise space. The reason I say this is because it is an important style tip, men and woman feel that they have a private ‘personal’ styling space, essential. How many times have you gone on holiday to a hotel or stayed in a villa and found yourself doing your make-up whilst balancing your make-up bag on your lap, trying to get close enough to a miss-placed miniscule mirror on a wall that is placed at the wrong height! Don’t even get me started on sitting on the floor blow drying your hair! The same situation applies to men…. Most probably not the makeup bit!

Again, you are not selling your house in a completely perfect condition, no one does, houses have foibles! It is a living entity and therefore needs maintenance, if someone puts in an offer, then of course they are going to do a more forensic investigation of the property. That being said, if for example, your carpet is not in the best condition think about an “on trend” rug, there are loads on the market, which can add a new dimension to a room.. PS! Try and find a place to put a full length mirror in the room, if you can’t find a place what about putting one on the inside of the cupboard! Or just outside in the hallway…

See Part two below .......


PuttingYourHomeOnTheMarketPart2

posted by Natalie Paddick

Bathrooms & The Little Girls Room – Make sure it smells nice! You can hide air fresheners discretely in the room. New fresh towels are a must! A must! They are your stage set for colour, you can move them out of the room when not being used for a viewing, and they give a fresh crisp and clean feeling! Good quality hand soap and hand cream, always looks and smells nice too. Always check the toilets before a viewing …! A new loo seat in a colour coordinating style to your towels can harmonise they the whole look. In some of the bathrooms I have used horizontal poles on hooks over which I draped magazines… Let’s face it people read in toilets and the magazines add a splash of colour and pizzazz. Make sure they are new magazines .. If you get my drift!

Halls and General Areas - Make sure there is good access, don’t let dozens of shoes block the floor area, remember this may well be the first viewed area when your potential purchaser pop’s their head through the door! Make a statement, this is your big chance! Open up the area with the strategic use of mirrors and maybe a statement piece of art work. Hallways in old houses can sometimes be quite dark, a good way around this can be the use of feature secondary lighting, such as plug in socket lights on a wire cord. When using this type of lighting make sure the spot light is focused on a subject.

Gardens & Outside Areas – Apart from keeping them tidy, it is always important to make a view, a focal point or two! It does not matter if it is summer or winter, you want to give your buyer an idea of how lovely it will be to relax in this space. If the outside area is small, make it appear to be bigger! Again mirrors! Wall mounted planters or just some simple but bold flushes of colour are essential. If the garden is bigger… Personally I love a water feature, and there are so many to suit any design or budget. But it can be expense work, so if you feel you do not want to run to that, put out a table and chairs, in the summer use cushions make a splash of comfort, pop a jug of orange juice and some glasses on the table, Pimm’s if you prefer! Because I am a avid cook I usually have a cake or two around for the children, pop one on the table with a couple of plates for your “guests”!.. Just for the look, this gives an image of how they can relax and / or entertain in their new home. If you don’t cook improvise with some posh biscuits… Make it look normal and natural, you have to sit somewhere whilst there is a viewing, why not outside? I know it sounds a lot… First impressions count! … You have to pull out all the stop’s my friends!

If it is winter, leave the table and chairs out, keep them clean and pop some colourful foliage on the table in some lovely pots / Baskets … Choose a colour scheme that suits your design… Colour in winter is a challenge, but evergreens with brightly coloured berries are in abundance……

If you have the opportunity to have some pots, hanging baskets or window boxes go for it, especially to the front of the house. First impressions again! Secure them well! ….

Lighting – Go around your house, switch the main lights off and the side lights on, check the focus of the lighting – ambience! Consider if it is worth the relatively small investment of dimmer switches as an option for the main lighting so you can select the effect creating an atmosphere. If any light bulbs have blown …. Change them!

If your kitchen is dark, work tops hidden under overhead cabinets.. Why not brighten things up with under counter / cabinet lighting. Mains, low voltage, LED and battery there is a simple solution, which will not require an electrician or in fact any real DIY aptitude on your part. This can be unbelievably effective and can really make a difference to the feel of the room.

Storage – Whenever I look at a house for ourselves or for a client, storage is one of the things I consider high on the ‘tick box list’. You can kill a viewing dead with not giving the impression that the property has a good amount of storage space. If you love books and magazines and have a collection they can look great if organised. Put them in piles of similar size and quantities. Erect the shelves according to the size of the books, biggest books at the bottom, largest at the top, it makes a great feature and gets them out of the way. I have been known to use utilitarian garage storage shelving, it is brilliant, it is cheap and easy to erect, you can choose the dimensions of the shelves to suit your items and they come in a range of sizes and frame colours – and they are very strong and durable! In fact they are perfect in children’s bedrooms to get the clutter off the floor, but make sure like all items of furniture that they are securely fixed to the wall! Just in case your ‘little darlings’ find them an interesting climbing frame!

Do a purge, you don’t want to take all this unused ‘stuff’ to your new home, it takes up space AND it will cost you money to get moved there, when in reality you are only going to throw it all away once you get there! Cut out the middle man! Put clothes that you are not going to use away, I store them in suitcases and hat boxes on the top of my cupboards, which look great and it is another way to get things out of the cupboards and make space. What about shoe boxes, they can be easily obtained on line and are a fab way to sort your shoes and they stack neatly. It is good advice…. One big job done ready for your move to your new home, which will reduce the stress levels … Now there is a plus!

Just a thought! (A big thought)

If you have not already utilised every conceivable option to maximise your property … Here is another idea to throw into the mix? Is there any extra leverage in say, a loft or garage conversion, this may seem like a massive expenditure! But just obtaining the planning consent will add immediate sales and value to your property with a minimal investment.

One last thing … It is so disheartening when you have made all this effort and a viewer comes into your beloved home, flits about the place like they own it already, makes one or two disparaging remarks and the odd very negative comment AND looks down on you like you are a second class citizen. This happens, you do and will have to suffer this indignity but it is always the means to the end! Grin and bear it, they just may buy it!

Don’t get jaded, hang on in there! When you’ve had a number of viewings, but still no offers… It is easy to get a bit low … Don’t

The” purchaser can very often be the last person you would imagine! But there is a purchaser for every home. Just keep the faith and keep the house looking like a designer shop…

I have had some very odd viewings over the years, one old couple, two ladies, after the viewing sat in the garden on the outside bench and ate their sandwiches! Needless to say they did not buy the house – Day trippers - Yeh!! On another occasion, [another house] I used to try and keep our delinquent cats out of the house, believe me they were not socially acceptable! Unfortunately, the Estate Agent left the door open and our most outrageous Bengal cat … strolled nonchalantly into the kitchen to join the assembled family of potential purchasers. Without further ado or formality, in my beautiful kitchen, Bangers the cat started to vocalise in a very animated way, “retching” and “retching” as if she had swallowed her entire body weight in fur balls! The guttural howling was spectacular, it was like a soundtrack from a horror film which culminated in her regurgitating one half of a masticated baby squirrel! Hideous and disgusting in equal measures … The family were ushered out of the kitchen, ‘quickly’ and that was the end of that viewing! …. No, they did not buy the property, but as far as we are aware needed no long term counselling either!

Finally, there was one occasion when a person was so enamoured with the prospect of replacing our lives with theirs in our property, that when viewing they asked me where we ate our dinner? I was a bit bemused by the question as the property had a large kitchen with centre island console that sat eight. Plus a separate twelve seater dining room and a sitting room large enough to comfortably house a table for six should you want to eat whilst watching the TV… Eventually I came to my senses and responded … ‘If you buy the house …. You can of course eat wherever you want!’ … They did not buy the house, perhaps due to confusion as to the eating arrangements – Who knows!

But the person who did buy the property I thought was a fantasist, not a purchaser! Posing in every room, hand on chin, hand of hip … Looking pensive, looking important… He requested I take his ‘selfies’ in every one of his various states of repose and in practically every room! Frankly I thought this man was a complete waste of time.. WRONG .. As I said – You never can tell - He was the one that bought the house!

So good luck, keep up the hard work, maybe get a few interior design magazines to give you some ideas …. And soon you will be moving into your new home …. X


BlogNightmareNeighbours

posted by Natalie Paddick



Winter Landscaping .. Making a Space Look Bigger …  With or Without your Neighbours Help!


Over the winter, we had the opportunity to make a client’s outside space look brighter and bigger. The property a new build home had a small dark front courtyard, as a result of the neighbour’s large misshapen overhanging fir tree. The courtyard had dark gravel, weeds and a great deal of debris which dropped from the overhanging branches and not to mention the droppings from the pigeons living in the foliage overhead! Not a pretty sight!

Now the obvious solution to this is to approach the neighbours and come up with a reasonable solution to either reduce the tree in height, thus stabilising the tree or as the tree was so misshapen take it down completely and replace it with something more suiting to the location. Or so you would think! It is a potential ‘neighbouring dispute’!

Your rights within the law in this country is if a neighbours tree, shrub or bush overhangs you perimeter creating a problem. You are entitled to remove the overhanging branches up to your boundary line only, making sure before you do this that the tree concerned does not have a preservation order on it! Again it is good neighbourly behaviour to advise your neighbour that you are going to do this. You must ask them if they require any branches and leaves that belonged to the boundary hedge back as they are your neighbour’s property. You can’t just throw them back into the garden of your neighbour as this is considered fly tipping! Our clients are Malaysian, just arrived in this country to their beautiful new home. The law in Malaysia is that if your neighbour trees, shrubs etc. overhang your property then the owner of said tree has to have them removed at their cost. A much more sensible option?

If you have tried to negotiate with your neighbour over the reduction of the “high hedge” impacting on your property, and they are being difficult about it, then another way of dealing with this issue is to approach your local council under the High Hedge act; Anti-Social behaviour act of 2003. The council will then mediate on your behalf for a fee of circa £400.00. If found that the hedge is too high and therefore anti-social they will enforce the owner of the hedge to remove/lower the height of the hedge at their expense. However this can be time consuming!


Our clients being very reasonable, honourable and decent people requested that I went around to speak to the neighbours on their behalf to explain the problem …. Here we go! So first I wrote to the neighbours explaining the situation, (they were not unaware of the problem, the developer had already written to them about the issue and I had a copy of that letter.) A week later, I rang the gate bell of the neighbours and the automated gates opened.. I walked in and went to what looked like the front door. No one came to greet me. So I went back to the gate and rang the bell again assuming that the owners would talk to me over the intercom. Nothing happened apart from some very strange incomprehensible electronic sounds out of the speaker … I waited and waited … But after about 5 minutes still nothing happened….With the exception of the electronic gates opening and closing .. So I moved on to the other neighbour who had other tree’s that were overhanging my clients garage to advise them that we were going to take the branches down. This neighbour was full of courtesy and was happy for us to take the damaged trees down. As a gesture of good will I offered to replace the trees with some new more appropriate specimens of her choice. Simple!

Suddenly, I became aware that someone had come through the electronic gates behind me. I approached the women, smiling (I had no reason not to smile!) As I got closer I could see that she was extremely agitated. I said ‘Hello’ … ‘I am working next door and your fir tree is overhanging my client’s garden creating a mess and shade …. My clients would like to remove the overhanging branches as they are undermining the roof of their garage….. ‘This women went ballistic … She pulled on to her hair saying that she was about to wash it and I had disturbed her… She said she hated the developer … And that her house was here first! …(This was not going according to my plan!) .. This woman continued to rant, her voice rising in volume’  … It was spectacular in a bizarre way … I started to wonder what I had said that had produced such a hysterical Cruella de Vil performance; it was like the moment in the film when Cruella realises her two Hench Men had lost the valuable puppies!!

I am not a wall flower, (anyone that knows me will tell you that!) But I am all for peaceful negotiation where possible. So … I tried in vain to pacify this enraged contorted puce faced women. I pointed out the facts in as nicer manner as possible. Best tactic I could think of when dealing with a screaming hysterical banshee. She threw her hands up, pulled further on her hair and screamed that she was going to see me in court! Rolls eyes … Like I have said before Interior Design & Landscaping is a dangerous career!

The problem I have found with this job and dealing with my clients neighbours over the years is that in most cases it is not about the problem in hand, in this situation, for example, the overhanging branches. It is about something far deeper… No one likes change and jealousy’s set in … And become deep seated… It is ‘road rage’ on a property level …

Subsequently, I received a three page letter from this woman’s husband to the office. Stating that my ‘invasion’, (ringing the gate bell!) Had upset his wife, his letter was full of misinformation that was completely irrelevant to the situation in hand. The overhanging branches! It was full of vitriol, personal insults and information on how important their lives are over a menial like me? I am not without caring for people’s emotions and personal feelings, but some rational approach needs to be taken?

Yes I really have to deal with this type of nonsense regularly! More often than you would think! ..My advice if you have a neighbouring dispute is; try and stick to the point! Most neighbours just want what is reasonable .. It is not a personal attack on the way you choose to live your life .. Try and negotiate for a happy all round solution to the problem … Try and take your neighbours feelings into account … Don’t turn it into a war .. And I should point out that it does not matter how long your house has inhabited its location if the local planners have approved planning then there is nothing you could do about it! Move on!! Please note I understand these things can be difficult … But be reasonable ….

The upshot of all this … Is that my courteous Malaysian clients are still dealing with these neighbours writing polite letters in order to negotiate with these people … But these disputes can go on for ever! …

So in the meantime … Our brief was to make the dark courtyard brighter. We replaced the dark gravel with bright creamy white Travertine paving slabs. Put in a huge, nearly 4ft high pot with a bespoke stainless steel water feature in the corner of the courtyard. Installed uplighters and down lighters in stainless steel, which creates views, atmosphere, movement and sound and in the evening focal point oasis of light. Installed a bespoke wooden planter filling it with sculptural plants, which as they grow will give shape and form. This completely opened up the area, made it feel much larger and to some degrees has actually defused the darkness caused by the overhanging trees. 


Footnote! Before we stopped working on this project, albeit we are going back later in the year to do the front garden and a conservatory. The tree neighbour’s husband came by to look at the landscaping … Interesting that it is fine for him to come over unannounced and walk onto the property with his friend to look at his overhanging tree! Double standards? Any way he told our workmen that because our neighbours had made the fateful mistake of landscaping their front garden; would mean that no tree surgery was ever possible! I roll my eyes! This is of course just rubbish and another excuse not to do anything about the tree! The point is that the branches, if not the tree will need to come down at some stage … You wonder what the point of the battle is? Like I said it is all about control, jealousy and unreasonable behaviour … I will keep you briefed on what happens next! …. But the courtyard looks fabulous … Result!  



BlogTheRockery

posted by Natalie Paddick

The Making of the Rockery .....
 
Sipping wine in our garden resting between two gruelling but exciting jobs, in a beautiful location in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire ... The immortal words were uttered........ “WE NEED A VIEW!” ... A light bulb moment!!!????
 
Our house which was the Folly in the style of a Greek Temple; had once been the 100th room of the McAlpine Estate. The original owner of the main house had counted all the rooms and found that there were only 99, disliking uneven numbers. He commissioned the 100th room to his estate with the construction of a Folly. We rebuilt and refurbished the Folly into a bijou but stylish home; but that is for another blog! ... The Folly is in the centre of a plot of land surrounded by enormous beech tree’s and manicured laurel hedges...... There was I thinking we were going to have a break from work... But no a plan was hatched ...  Immediately and detailed sketches and drawings were worked on... Conversations with local planners took place to check what building regulations are requirements were needed.... 


The first of a number of issues relating to the build was that we could not break through the underground chalk membrane as this would affect the Thames Water regulations. This is a problem if you are intending to dig deep! ....There was no way of knowing where the chalk started and the clay stopped, the only way this could be tested was to start digging! A risk as the project was very grand, the  dimensions of what at the time was referred to as the ‘hole’. Were 35ft deep, by 50ft wide, by 75ft long. We had already ordered and paid for 200 tons of rock that were due to be delivered from a quarry in Yorkshire. We decided to dig! Hell!! .... You don’t do this unless you are mad or committed, fortunately we are both and it was a landscape designers dream!  

Having checked with all local authorities to see if there are any underground utilities running under the property, The Southern Electricity Board (SEB), sent a team of people with all sorts of gadgets to make sure we were okay to dig. The paperwork came back with the green light ...... Day one the digger started, clearing the area getting it ready for the crane to come in..... The quantity surveyors calculations, stated that we would need three eight wheeled lorries in constant daily rotation for approximately three weeks..... The crane was capable of lifting one ton of soil per scoop. Boy it was going to be exciting!..... The digger started, I was in the Folly working when the was an explosion like I have never heard, and all electrics went off! Opening the front door .... All eyes were on the hole that the digger had just dug, there was much scratching of heads and bemused looks ... It would appear that we had hit a 4 inch high voltage mains electrical cable and put a nick in it!!
 
Within fifteen minutes you could hear sirens blaring, cars hooting and general mayhem off in the distance? ..... Then three siren blaring cars skidded to a halt outside our gate, a number of panicked looking men came flustering into the garden. The Southern Electricity Board had not identified a major electricity cable running across the garden. The digger had hit the cable and blown all the electricity at the local sub station; which had knocked out most of the electricity in Henley, not least the traffic lights and all the banks electronic communications!! ....  ‘Opps’!! The site was shut down, SEB workers arrived and there was much panicking!! Emergency cables were set up and order was eventually restored electricity wise to the local area!! 

As you can imagine this sort of high lighted the project to the press and the locals. Not least delaying the project whilst we fought with the SEB as to who was to blame and who was to pay for the reinstatement of a new electricity cable. Eventually the SEB  agreed that they had not highlighted the cable to us and offered to go halves on it’s relocation!! ... We declined to pay for their mistake and they then spent a week relaying a cable at their cost! ... And so we started again!

As the ‘hole’ got bigger it became impossible for the digger to get any deeper so, we used the crane to drop the digger into the ‘hole’. Once we got to the desired depth and width, we shuttered the base with timber sheets in readiness for the pouring of concrete for the pool base. Because of the complexities of the design the company Ready Mixed Concrete had to mix a special concoction of concrete with a water proofing additive, the same mix that was used in the construction of the underwater harbour in Tokyo. When they came to pour the concrete they bought a camera crew, as they were going to use the project in their new sales promotion documents! 

We ploughed on, installing steal re-enforcement around the entire sunken construction.... But we had another problem, we had become a sight seeing location by interested locals...The Folly was on a private single track road, so viewing traffic along with our constant use of the road taking away spoil, was impacting on our neighbours .... It is always important to keep the neighbours happy where you can!! ... A local reporter turned up at the property to interview us.... It turned out that the rumour was that Michael Jackson had purchased The Folly and was digging an underground tunnel to the nearby Friar Park Estate, which was up the road to us and was the home of George Harrison .... Friar Park is the most beautiful landscaped estate, which has secret tunnels running under it from place to place... But we had no intention of digging into George Harrisons house... As you might imagine!!!

So we were forced to erect shields to protect our new found fame! But this interest came at another cost ... One day the local authority's turned up unannounced; we had been informed on and if it was not to be Michael Jackson’s secret hide away, they assumed we were mining for minerals!! Give me strength!! ... I mean really can’t anyone do a bit of landscaping construction in their garden? After much discussion and grumpiness on their part, they agreed we could continue, but they were going to keep an eye on us!! At this moment and the memory of such negativity from others my quote would be Carp Diem .... And ignore the bank balance!!
 
There was one very frightening moment, (outside of the bank balance!) At 3 am in the morning; I stood at the top of the ‘hole’ and my partner stood at the bottom. It was pouring heavy rain and we needed the walls of the ‘hole’ to hold before the last pouring of the concrete. As the walls were made up of clay, the weight of the rain could at anytime undermine the sides of the construction. Now that would be expensive!! Fortunately we had put extra support on the road side of the construction in order to prevent us taking out the road in case we had this exact situation! The next morning one side had collapsed, in the process it had demolished all the steal reinforcement on that side of the ‘hole’ making it look like bent safety pins! ... More reconstructive work was needed ...
 
The Butyl liner arrived, which was made to a special size and was so heavy the crane had be used to get it off the lorry and in place.... All the rocks had been sized an numbered in order of where they were to be placed, the smallest rock was half a ton and the largest 7.5 tonnes; because of their weight there was no second chance in placing them, it was a very precise business!! ... Some of the stones had to be drilled so they could be held in place with stainless steal pins ....   

I can still hear the noise of the cranes loud alarm system screeching, warning lights flashing, when we tried to place the largest rock on the podium stone. The wonderful crane driver, rocked the boom so that the rock swung backward and forward; I thought the crane was going to fall into the rockery. But this crane driver was highly skilled, he placed the rock with perfect precision..... In a conversation with him afterward he said that it was an unnerving moment in his life, but he was used to pressure as he currently held the title of the United Kingdoms heavy weight bench pressing title!! ....
 
The rockery had three 100mm (4”) outlets, which pumped water loudly all day. It had a cut of switch at night, you could hear it firing up in the mornings.... It was an amazing site .... We bought in another digger to excavate a valley to the rockery and heavily landscaped the whole area ..... On one occasion we were woken in the middle of the night with helicopters and flood lights scanning at low level over the rockery... It was in 1999, after the appalling attack on George Harrison, by an armed intruder, who had stabbed him. The police were searching the area for any accomplices and they thought that maybe they were hiding in the rockery. We would also have the odd balloon flight going over the top of the house to take photographs, they would wave and call to us in the garden!   

It was beautiful in every way, it played the centre of stage at many a bohemian party and private events. We swam in the pool and climbed the rocks. I loved it and was passionate about it. We have done many other landscaping projects, but the rockery was for us! We sold the house to a pop star and moved on to our next project. But we had created a ‘Folly with a View’; that will remain there long after we are gone and always be in my heart forever! 


BlogChristmas2014

posted by Natalie Paddick

A Christmas Blog .....
Photographs of Project Nordrach House, Somerset ...

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly Little Blog, to raise the Ghost of an idea, of the things I hold dear at this time of year! 
Which shall not put my dear readers out of good humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me ... (Hopefully!!) ... “Bah!!” Said Scrooge .... “Humbug!” ...

“If they would rather die?” Said Scrooge; “They had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”
 
“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail “..... “Marley was dead: to begin with!”
 
“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. Or indeed a festering Minced Pie?”


“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity missed.”
 
“Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man’s pockets.” 
 
“Why do the spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?” (Really mine is a white wine!!)


“They are what they are, do not blame me!”

“I wear the chain I forged in life!” 

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, the present and the future. And I will honour my friendship with you all my friends.” Thank you for the fun ....


There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour ....
 
I have had fun this year ... And I wish you all the best of Christmas ..... And a Happy New Year ....


BlogBadmintonCourt

posted by Natalie Paddick

Badminton Court Development
 
Some years ago we worked on a development in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. I don’t have many pictures but I thought I would give you some of the history of the property and an over view of the project. This was a money on money deal ...”Show Me The Money”!! ... Back in the day .... Which was fun ... Being hideously young and always being full of enthusiasm we were up for the challenge ....
 
Badminton Court was originally the Weller family Brewery in the mid 17th century. The beer was called  “Weller’s Entire”. At that time the company employed approximately half the men in the town of Amersham, Buckinghamshire. In 1929 it was sold for £360,000.00. The company then owned 132 licensed properties within 35 mile radius of Amersham. The purchasers Benskins of Watford, wanted the licensed pubs not the brewery, so they closed the brewery causing much distress to the locals and the area.

The building was then used for a variety of purposes, including boxing matches and for games of badminton ... And so launched it’s new name! Like a lot of large buildings troops were billeted there during the war.... However in 1949, Goya the cosmetics firm took over the building moving it forward, renovating the site and furthering historical development. Goya cosmetics were quintessentially British. The chief chemist was Ernie Joyner with head of sales being Douglas Collins. These two gentlemen were visionary; spear heading the popularity of Goya Cosmetics in the United Kingdom. Douglas Collins was an intuitive business man under his leadership Goya flourished; in latter years the company was taken over by Beauty International and subsequently they closed down in 1981. So Badminton Court was converted into apartments and offices.    

Circa 1984 a developer brought the premises, which initially raised great concern as to what his intentions were with the local landmark. He wanted to turn it into a premier Head Quarters Office Development with a Pent House Suite for himself. Over the following years there were many ‘over the top’ and expansive plans put forward by ‘this developer’ who had the sort of vision that was very acceptable at this time ‘more means more’. With wild budgets if there were any budgets at all! He disliked the correct work ethic style that came with architects, so employed us in the late 80’s to understand and interpret the developers artistic vision to quirk up the building and bring it up to the 1990’s hedonistic style. Basically interpreted into ..... anything goes as long as it is expensive, over the top and involved some sort special effect painting on the wall! ....   

We worked together redeveloping the site, drawing up new and exciting designs; which were eventually passed by the planners.... And so the work began ..... Italian tile panels were attached to the walls, tonnes of cobble stones were brought in from London to lay in exotic patterns in the courtyards. Heavily ornate arches were erected in brick and stone, not for any particular purpose? .... Fabricated steel staircase formers were installed in the building at vast cost, then clad with inlaid mahogany with hand carved handrails installed by specialist joiners. No expense was spared .... It would seem the more it cost the better the developer liked it.... Beautiful ceramic and polished stone and terracotta floors were laid though out the buildings and in fact outside on the terraces beside the River Am that flowed beside, and in part under the site. This developer was an eccentric man who it would seem money was no object!............  

I was brought onto the project to undertake some of the Interior Design, including the office furniture and the residential furnishings for the Penthouse suite and reception area’s. Sourcing the mirrors and paintings. I was given a brand new black sports car on loan to drive and a wodge of cash to spend..... I really excel in this department!!! I spent many happy days driving around London purchasing beautiful items. I was wined and dined by the companies eager to be part of the project. Employing a specialist art critic to help me locate the most exquisite paintings, prints and maps. The only problem with this otherwise fun project was the developer himself! Who was prone to extreme personality swings. He could go from ‘bon ami’ to volcanic hysterical temper tantrums of which we were all witness .... It was a bit like working with a shorter more rotund version of Basil Fawlty, with a bit of Beelzebub thrown in for luck!... Never a dull moment!! I am pleased to say that the worst extremes of his behaviour, were not aimed at us!


And so the project surged forward and was eventually finished, the offices were put on the market for sale and achieved higher per square foot prices than prime locations in the heart of London..... The sales went well and the properties were sold on.... The quality of the project was shown when on completion the Secretary of State determined it should have Listed Building Status.... Not Bad!!!! ... It was fun to have been such a large part of the design.... However ...  As to the developer .... One dark night he disappeared into the fog ... And according to the “History Of Amersham Area on line” he went bankrupt..... To quote Michael Douglas in the film Wall Street ... “Greed is Good!” .....  I’m not in agreement with that ... Just saying .... 


BlogWoodAcreWells2014

posted by Natalie Paddick

Thought I would update you on our WoodAcre development in Wells, Somerset. These new builds are now almost finished and ready for sale.  Two shiny new five bedroom properties in a stunning location waiting for someone to breathe their personal stamp on them and give them their own history .... Here is a quick look at the development!!




By the way, I have written two other blogs about this site, the first was in October 2013, when we used the old tatty bungalow that once stood on this plot for a photo shoot, called ... Welcome to Wonderland. Also in March 2014, I took another .. Fun Look at Our Building Site! Which was taken as you can see when the new buildings started to take shape and raise themselves out of the ground.

Change is never easy, but we must all except that it is necessary to move forward, the property was purchased, we undertook the planning and redesigning of this space. However one of the neighbours had very different ideas. He put in a request for the existing timber, falling down old derelict wreck of a bungalow to have a heritage listing!! PLEASE!!.... This of course was never going to happen, but it did succeed in delaying us starting on the project which, what he did not calculate meant it would all take longer ... And for him too!

 


It is of course understandable that people around any potential building site are going to panic about the pending new project. But progress must go forward. It is or can be frustrating living next to any noise and disruption. We are used to these concerns and are very understanding of neighbours feelings and worries.

The houses are of timber frame construction with stone and render cladding, contemporary with a twist of the historical Wells old stone masonry. In principal like all things they should go up like a dream!!! However when levelling the ground we found that we hit an unexpected layer of bedrock causing a bit of a headache to our structural surveyors, break through or build off was the question! Eventually we had to do both! Things in the building industry never go as smoothly as the high octane excitement of the initial ideas and planning and purchase... But on you must plough ... And keep smiling!!!  




We always try and build with the idea of bringing the outside in so these properties have vast walls of glass and large and beautiful roof glazing with associated lighting .. This works particularly well in the staircase areas, housed in the stone turrets The houses are light and airy, with large open spaces, achieved using massive double pocket doors which side and hide in the ground floor walls. Again it is critical to us to find and make as much storage as possible on any project we do .. To be frank there can never be enough!!




Although they are modern buildings we felt it important to bring in a hint of the local area to the buildings so incorporated the local stone in certain key area's. The kitchens have great working spaces .. Which to me is particularly important as I love to cook... The outside area's stretch all around the buildings and are opened with lawned gardens. Just ready for who ever buys them to give us a budget to landscape them to their taste and bring the outside area to life... exciting!!! Many ideas spring to mind! 




I will bring you the finished pictures in a future blog, as here I have provided the sales CGI images, we have had two offers to purchase so far, but I just wanted to share with you how we had got on so far ... And by the way the neighbours are now happy with the outcome so all is good and great progress has been made! 

To keep you in the loop, one of our next projects is a 14 century town house which was an Inn, back then and was called the Three Horse Loafs as apparently you could put anything into a loaf of bread!!! Horse included apparently!! I am sure we will find this has a few quirks to focus our minds!!! I'll keep you briefed!!  

 

BlogNordrachHouseHome

posted by Natalie Paddick

In February 2013 I wrote a blog and a number of magazine articles about the TB Hospital on top of the Mendips in Somerset, called Nordrach House, This is a short blog on how we refurbished it, lived it and loved it...


"Well I want to do it!!" "Really Natalie do you not think we have enough to do?" "No I think it will be fun and I think it will be easy!! You will enjoy it!!"( Famous last words! ) This is never a convincing argument with my husband and partner, but to be fair I sort of got my own way .... And so we bought the shambolick wreck! Upsticks from our previous home in Henley-on-Thames to rural Somerset. Trust me quite a cultural change!!

Nordrach House is a 6,000 sqft property with 6 bedrooms, a kitchen you can swing a number of cats in, (two Bengals spring to mind! Which we own.) Dining Room, Sitting Room, Double Office annex, games room with Pavilion and conservatory...  The garden was just shy of 7 acres of woodland and fields all in a general state of dilapidation and dereliction! But the property boasted fantastic Victorian features, such as an incredibly long entrance hall with white and black dot ceramic tile flooring, enormous rooms with 11 foot high ceilings, massive cast iron Gothic windows and the most over grown and never weeded central courtyard. Yes okay a challenge ... 


So began our new relationship with the Nordrach Sanatorium, which had initially been developed from Willoughby's Farm in 1899 by two Doctors, into a much needed TB Hospital; 700 feet above sea level where the air is pure and clean! The demand for this type of cure at the time was so needed that they opened the doors before they had even finished the decorations, at a hefty fee of £20 per week!

Patients were mostly to live in the timber pavilions erected in the gardens and grounds, where they were subjected to an open window, breathe the fresh air policy. One patient, (who I do not believe I am related too!) Sneaked out to the local Wellsway Inn for a drink or four! He was seen by one of the many doctors that worked at the hospital and reported. On his inebriated return to Nordrach he was to find his bags packed and a carriage ordered for him! I should point out at this stage that the Sanatorium had it's own liquor menu, which the guests were required to order from! At the hospitals uplifted prices!! 



Thankfully TB was successfully conquered in the UK, although I understand it is making a worrying come back! So the Nordrach Sanatorium metamorphosed into a refuge from the second world war bombing in Bristol for Hungarian refugees and later a home for orphaned children. Later it was turned into a private Country Club with golf course; which prompted the local butcher; to say to me, "nod, nod, wink, wink, you know what I mean!!" I didn't but I later found out, it was his way of alluding to the fact that the Country Club was a front for a house of ill repute, hosting wild parties, women of the night and excessive drug taking! ...Shocking ... Giggles!!  Eventually it found it's way into the hands the fruit and vegetable empire, the Stokes family of Bristol, who refurbished and upgraded it into a Laura Ashley style of decor circa 1980. When we bought it had not been redecorated since!


Well now I have told you the good sell!! We arrived there in April 2005 to the most evocative smell of wild garlic, growing in abundance in the woods, a plant that has both beauty in it's flowers and evokes very happy memories for me. Hell this was a exciting challenge! Some of my memories of us first moving there; are switching on the boiler in the house the pipes ran under the floor boards up the long halls, which made whooshing and clanking noises ... It reminded me of Dobby, the house elf and his cohorts from Harry Potter, scurrying up and down the house setting things right and making ready for the morning, however it terrified the children!! We would look out the windows on some mornings and see deer, foxes, rabbits on the lawns. The next door neighbours prize chickens, which our cats would on occasions kill and bring back through the cat flap! Making the neighbours rally against us, threatening the cats with certain death... To avoid further upset the cats had to be kept in the house with all the windows shut in the heat of that first summer, with an Aga running - that was not fun. (However, you should know that cats are the only legally free roaming animals in the UK!) On a lighter note we also had a local lesser known lizard that came to see us. It was idillic fun. If not utter madness!!



Once I was woken in the middle of the night by our son, saying "Mummy there is a bat sleeping on my pillow." "No, you are fine go back to bed!!" As my conscience awakened, I realised I had better go and comfort him from this bad dream. I went into his room switched on the bed side light only to be hit full in the face by a startled bat that was happily cuddled up on his bed. I freaked, ran for the door and shut it behind me with him still in there. Holding the door handle to make sure it would not escape. Shouting good words of advice and comfort through the door! "Keep your eye on it, I will get your father! Don't under any circumstances open this door!" "But mummy it’s dive bombing me!" "It's fine, it is just playing ... It likes you!" (You can rely on me in this type of crisis .. Leave small child in room with potential man eating bat!) On the plus side he shouted back through the door. "I will Mummy!" Fishing nets, buckets, blankets were all brought to the rescue in the hope of returning this poor tiny animal back to the wild!! Only to have our daughter complain the next morning, that we were bad parents for not waking her, so she could have been part of the rescue! And our other little boy, wondering what else this house was going to throw at him? "Do we have monsters too?" (You never get it quite right as a parent!) 


We undertook extensive re-wiring, plumbing, refurbishments, it was like the painting of the Severn Bridge; cranes were hired to remove the many massive heating oil tanks that had been put into the courtyard. The policy seems to have been as one item expired another was just added. JCB's were deployed to remove the landfill that was the wood! Seven water tanks the size of a Fiat 500 in the roof were cut out and dismantled, some with lovely messages, signed by the tradesman! One with a less than complimentary comment about the "Gaffa"! The kitchen was to die for, four oven Aga, double electric oven and induction hob all installed and upgraded. It was a mammoth task, but the end result was a beautiful family home, not to mention the 375 metres of material for the curtains, the downstairs windows had a two and a half metre drop!... And did I mention it had a large wine store!! Delicious ... We fought a lengthy battle with the local planners for a large sports complex with indoor pool, granny flat and garages. And a separate stable complex in one of the fields. And we won a unanimous victory .... We gave Nordrach back it's life as a house!    



One of the other stories of Nordrach is that it is plagued with Jack Daws nesting year after year in the enormous roof space. They return to roost every year, building nest after nest, one on top of the other, for years... And boy do they make a mess! But we had to live with them and they with us! Producing many chicks, which would fall out of their nests on a regular basis, meaning the children would have to protect them from the aforementioned Bengal cats, until their parents came and taught them how to fly.  But a big problem for us was we needed to get them out of the roof space for hygiene reasons. It took two men dressed in what looked like Nuclear fall-out suits, a week to get rid of all the debris, nests and deceased birds and rats  ... Disgusting!! 


A very touching story of living in that pile of history, was the occasional pilgrimages of friends and relatives of people who had lived or been associated with the house. They would turn up with pictures and stories about the house in a former life. My most heart breaking memory is of a very elderly slightly infirm gentleman coming to the house, in a rickety old car. His mother was a TB victim who had lived at Nordrach, she was unable to pay the fee's at the hospital, but somehow his father who was a Mason, had secured her a place. We sat and had tea and cake with him as he told us his story of his sisters and him, he showed us pictures of him outside Nordrach House, the tree we were having tea under was featured in his pictures. He was three years old at the time and was only allowed to view his mother through the window to her bedroom, which was my husbands office. Sadly she died, he never got to hold her, just heart breaking!! He was shown around the house, invited back if he ever wanted to come. I wrote to him on occasions and sent him Christmas cards up until his own death... A part of the houses rightful heritage ....

We lived there for just over five years, had the wildest parties, that is for another blog!! In latter years one of our children also had wild parties, just without telling us! Massive family Christmas's, wonderful and fun times. Nordrach was at such an altitude that in the summer, you could really burn when the sun was out and when it was cold, it was very cold, with waist high snow, effectively blocking us off from the world for days. It was a great fun moment in time ... Not an easy project .. But to be fair what is? The time came when splendid isolation had run it's course and we became bored of being taxi drivers to the children! And I had spied a new project to be had!!  So we sold and moved on with great memories leaving Nordarch to another family, a proud and stately home again and a happier place. And keeping our secrets and memories alive in it's old but solid walls ... 


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