Dining rooms are out of fashion, orangeries old hat and en suite bathrooms expected as standard. The discerning buyer now wants a designated room for every activity under the sun — even a bespoke place to bath the dog.
“Traditional ‘extras’, such as swimming pools, tennis courts or equestrian facilities, are considered par for the course in today’s prime country market,” says Rupert Sturgis at Knight Frank in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. “Buyers are now impressed with 21st-century facilities such as media rooms, spas, gyms or state-of-the-art wine cellars. They offer a lifestyle choice within the home and designers can push the boundaries; often these rooms are the most spectacular in the house.”
So what are the top ten must-have rooms that really impress in town and country?
Pantry or larder
The pantry or larder is back on the shopping list, says Phil Spencer, presenter of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location. “People are creating one wherever they can. To be able to open a concealed door and disappear and have all your kitchen supplies and condiments in one space is really attractive,” he says.
What’s the difference, though? “Essentially a pantry and a larder are the same thing, and people use either phrase when referring to a small room or cupboard in which to store food,” says Michelle Hather, deputy editor of Good Housekeeping magazine. “However, it’s likely that a larder will be cooler and therefore used to store fresh food, whereas a pantry is unlikely to be temperature-controlled.”
If you have a game larder, you pick up extra country kudos — there’s one at the Old Rectory in Milstead, Kent (£2.4 million, Strutt & Parker).
The domestic doyenne Martha Stewart apparently created a room in her summerhouse in Maine dedicated entirely to flower arranging. However, the flower room is not an American invention, but a practical feature found in the grandest English country houses. “Vases are always best kept in the flower room, as otherwise they get muddled with jugs,” says Edward Church, Strutt & Parker’s head of agency in Kent. “You don’t want to pour a drink from a jug that has been used for flower arranging.”
A rural prerequisite for generations, today’s boot room is a practical part of family life. “Boot rooms are essential for country houses as muddy outdoor gear can be removed prior to entering,” says Luke Morgan, of Strutt & Parker’s country department. “Never underestimate the size needed for a decent boot room, though. You need enough hooks for hanging up coats, welly boot racks, benches, drawers for hats, gloves and scarves and so on. The boot room is also a useful place to have the boiler, as it can operate as a drying facility. Traditional stone flooring is best, as it is easy to brush down and wash.”
No longer just a musty old cellar, it’s now necessary to have a bespoke room to show off your precious collection. However, says the buying agent Mark Parkinson, director at Middleton Advisors, new-build developers can be wary because a proper wine room with a tasting area takes up a lot of space — at least 70 sq ft.
“Also, in a very international market not every culture drinks wine and therefore some buyers would simply not see the value in the same way that they would value a walk-in dressing room or cinema,” he explains. “However, the ‘wine wall’, usually a glass-fronted shallow room set against a basement or interior wall, has become a lot more popular; the beauty is that it can take a multitude of shapes and use up a dark basement corner that would otherwise be difficult to find a use for. The best ones make a feature of the wine and are skilfully lit.”
You could find a home gym in the most modest suburban semi, but at the top end it’s your own spa that’s uber-desirable. “Over the last couple of years in the more substantial and prime central London homes, we have seen an increasing number of properties with both hair and treatment rooms,” says Noel de Keyzer, director of Savills in Sloane Street. “These rooms have become an expectation over the last ten years as the desire to have all life’s luxuries under your own roof continues to grow.”
Walk-in wardrobe cum dressing room
On the subject of glamour, ever since Carrie Bradshaw opened her closet in Sex and the City, the walk-in wardrobe has been the dream of many a girl about town. At Rathbone Square in Fitzrovia (rathbonesquare.com), where the penthouse dressing rooms have specially created “cosmetic fridges” to keep make-up at the optimum temperature, even the one-bedroom apartments have walk-in dressing rooms, said the developer, Great Portland Estates. “I think this is really interesting. Why should you forgo this luxury even if you just have a one-bed? Is it a case of a dressing room replacing the second bedroom?”
It’s not enough these days just to stick a television on the wall and bring in a couple of sofas. “The typical ‘media room’ is undergoing a revamp,” says Lisa-Marie Mosca, interior designer at Newcourt Residential. “It is moving away from just being a space to sit and watch a movie, to be looked at as a room where friends and families can informally recreate any form of group entertainment. Today’s media rooms deliver a more multifunctional experience; areas include space for live music, film projections and virtual gaming, as well as built-in bars.”
The man of the house traditionally retired to his shed, but the “man-cave” retreat packed with boys’ toys is gaining ground. Knight Frank is marketing Park Lodge, a £14.95 million Knightsbridge property that has the ultimate man-cave: a study with a picture window into the garage, so the owner can admire his favourite supercar. “If you need to settle down and work at the desk, a flip of a switch will turn on the electronic privacy glass so the beautiful view won’t be a distraction,” says agent Alexander Millett, of Knight Frank. “It is the definitive getaway from a busy London life.”
The smartest properties have two kitchens, one for show and one for “prep”, but three kitchens? Don’t forget the one on the terrace, says Joe Burns, the managing director of the property and design practice Oliver Burns. “More and more roof terraces are now incorporating state-of-the-art outdoor kitchens, luxurious seating and dining areas, as well as outdoor fireplaces and televisions. Buyers are also making the most of this precious space by creating a room that can be used all year round, with outdoor fireplaces meaning it can even be enjoyed on a cold winter’s evening.”
No one wants muddy paw prints everywhere, so it makes sense to give your canine companion boundaries. But a dedicated dog room? It’s catching on, says Jo Aldridge, the regional director of Stacks Property Search in the Cotswolds. “More and more people are designing their downstairs accommodation around their dogs, with back doors leading directly into a specially designed dog area, where they can be washed and dried and have their bed. And walk-in dog showers are the new must-have for house-proud dog owners.”