Article by Janice Morley
You would have to have big dreams to buy into the transformation of Barking – but big dreams are what they thrive on in this colourful, multicultural, busy east London town, only 10 miles from the West End.
Cranes swing above the Thames-side community as a billion-pound regeneration programme busily replaces deprivation with innovation: ‘Barking, the new Barcelona,’ as Darren Rodwell, the locally born and bred, visionary leader of Barking & Dagenham borough council, affectionately likes to call it.
More than 137 ethnic groups have settled over the years in the town, once an industrial powerhouse. A walk in the centre reveals restaurants offering a menu from around the world, and a market crammed with vibrant variety. The architecture of gilded mosques, synagogues, Afro-Caribbean chapels and churches tells its own story. This is an area that embraces change, and along with its neighbours, welcomes its chance to be part of the new economy of the east.
WESTON HOMES RISES TO THE CHALLENGE
Weston Homes loves a big and challenging regeneration scheme. It is what the company excels at. In Barking, it has bagged a prime spot to build Abbey Quay, its new urban village, named for the ruins of an ancient monastery in the park opposite. The River Roding fronts the other side of the six-acre site which, as well as bringing 1,000 new homes, will feature a waterside plaza and walking routes, commercial space and leisure venues, an on-site community facility and a state-of-the-art gym.
Talented interior designer Felicity Stevens, 29, who is also creative director of Haus Interiors and was brought in to style the newly launched Abbey Quay show home. Her work on the scheme reflects the trends and tastes of her contemporaries. Aspiring local and young City professionals will identify with these luxurious apartments – and crucially, will be able to afford them. It’s tough finding a quality new home in London within budget. But Weston is passing on the value with these 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments, all with balconies, just a 10-minute walk from Barking station and a 20-minute Tube ride away from Canary Wharf and the City.
The open-plan homes, set in spacious blocks, are in tune with post-Covid needs. Home workers will enjoy fast broadband plus roomy, light living spaces, with landscaped communal gardens and, for moments when a change of scene is vital, those new walking routes beside the Roding will be just right. Of course, some workers will aim to put the office commute behind them for good as we emerge from lockdown. If this is how you see your future shaping up, Abbey Quay’s commercial space is prime for a start-up or an office on the doorstep, with the shops and cafes you’ll need close to hand.
PERFECTING THE LOOK OF YOUR NEW WESTON HOME
Work out your budget and stick to it. Felicity says of the show apartment: ‘I have used standardised furniture throughout. It will be expensive to have furniture customised. It is incredibly important to set a budget. Mix an expensive piece with cheaper accessories. Mirrors, well-placed where they catch and reflect the light, make an enormous impact and they are not expensive.’
London’s rivers and docklands offer wide horizons and big skies. To inspire buyers to decorate their homes with their environment in mind, Felicity wanted to create a timeless look that embraced all seasons. Cyan, a colour between green and blue, evokes light and she has used it cleverly with pops of coral, then grounded the look with deeper tones of the same colours.
Victorian Barking was home to the world’s biggest fishing fleet. Felicity has worked to reflect the town’s proud history and watery theme in the Abbey Quay show home, using fish art for the walls and even adding hints of the journey that people from many cultures may have made to reach Barking in times past, with oriental influences in her vases and pottery. Oversizing with accessories, especially lamps and lights, is key here. Felicity insists: ‘Less is more… as long as the less is stunning.’
As the living room and kitchen are open plan, Felicity has used the soft lines of a curved sofa, both to divide the space and as a contrast to the sharp lines of the sideboard.
Helped by a local carpenter, she has created workspaces with desks and bookshelves along walls to minimise unit space where possible. And she has followed her mantra of fixing units to walls, rather than standing them, to cut furniture clutter and free up floorspace.
Weston Homes offers a generous package of fitted wardrobes, all flooring throughout each property (carpets in all bedrooms, strip flooring to living areas and tiling to bathrooms) plus hi-tech bathroom fixtures and a fabulous choice of colours when it comes to tiles, kitchen doors and worktops. Bearing in mind this immediate and considerable saving, Felicity suggests: ‘It is worth spending a good chunk of your budget on window treatments as they give you much-needed privacy and frame the incredible full-length windows that Weston Homes puts into all of its properties.’
Weston Homes developments are a luxurious build, says Felicity. ‘I have created a lot of show homes in my life but I never cease to be impressed with the quality that Weston Homes offers. It gives me the inspiration to build on that creativity.’