Article by Janice Morley
Laure Van Rensburg is embarking on the most exciting year of her life. Her debut novel, a psychological thriller titled Nobody But Us, will be published in April by Michael Joseph, under a six-figure publishing deal. It’s a staggering success for this 46 year-old French writer, who came to London as a graduate and stayed.
With the hard-earned proceeds of the book deal, this striking, platinum blonde divorcee is buying herself a two-bedroom apartment at Abbey Quay, the new contemporary village being created by Weston Homes on six acres overlooking the River Roding, in the London borough of Barking & Dagenham.
As you would expect from a methodical researcher, Laure, who works for Pearson Education, did her homework before buying from Weston Homes. She currently lives in a one-bedroom flat in Romford, Essex. “I wanted to move up the ladder and be closer to London where my social life is, and nearer our offices in Strand,” she says.
She thought long and hard about location. “I realised I had to be in east London – you get more for your money than in any other part of London. And being a single woman I think about security. Being able to walk along a well-lit road to the nearby station, and the incredible choice of fast transport links in and out of London, were big deciding factors for me, as well as having a supermarket very close by and a park across the road.”
ADDING UP ALL THE PLUS POINTS
Cranes swing above Barking and the Weston Homes waterfront development. This is all part of a radical new multimillion-pound place making scheme, with new homes and a new community breathing life back into this old, once-neglected part of east London. Laure says of her new apartment: “I am pretty sure it will go up in price with all this regeneration going on. There will be a whole new town centre with shops and restaurants and Weston Homes is redeveloping the waterside by our flats, too.” She is due to move in during spring 2023.
She pored over the floor plans in the Weston Homes marketing suite, as well as looking at offerings from other developers – but the Weston Homes scheme came out as a total favourite. “The homes looked good, modern and with attractive brickwork. I have seen many London blocks of flats just get tired and grubby too quickly.” And the all-inclusive price was very attractive to her. “They are the only company to include everything in the price. Everyone else made you pay for extras.
“I love the light, spacious open-plan design. The bathroom is a favourite. I like to put things away and there are lots of cupboards – the vanity unit with the big mirror cabinet is great. The temperature control taps are a bonus for heat and water savings. I’d never seen those before.
“I love the big run of kitchen cupboards and the hot tap in there, no need for the clutter of a kettle. And in the bedroom the large double-size wardrobe gives terrific storage. There is so much included.”
The list of advantages goes on: “Good insulation was important for me,” says Laure. “I don’t think I will ever need to put the heating on! Generally, I like new build best because insulation is so much more sophisticated than in older property, and it costs a fortune to try to make old homes sustainable.’
TAILOR-MAKING A HOME
There was plenty to consider as she studied the brochures and plans for this collection of one, two and three-bedroom flats. “I didn’t go for the biggest flat, though I wanted a spare bedroom for when my mother comes over from Toulon. But I needed the right position and the interior that worked for me. Wall space is important for me, for books. But outside space is important, too – the balcony, the natural light, and big windows for easy access.
“And, oh my God, there were so many choices for the interior finishes. The staff at Abbey Quay were so patient. I must have spent hours looking at surfaces, tiles, floors, handles, colour schemes. In the end, I’m quite a purist, so the colour scheme is soft and pale with teal, grey and granite figuring large.
“The floor is a pale oak look and I like the white walls. I will take my colour from throws and duvets in the bedrooms, and from cushions and paintings.” Laure is a fan of American abstract painter Jackson Pollock, with his swirling, lively colours. “I would love to buy a reproduction Jackson Pollock.”
With her first book due out in April and a second already written and accepted, it looks as though Laure will soon be heading for an original.