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Article by Janice Morley

“When we go away for the weekend, no matter how good it is to be away, we get in the car and I always say to Tom, ‘I just can’t wait to be home’ – we love it here so much,” says Federica Burei.
“Here” is their new two-bedroom sixth-floor apartment, complete with a balcony kitted out with black-and-white designer rug and patio furniture, overlooking fields beyond Edinburgh Way, the Weston Homes development in Harlow, Essex, that Federica, 25, and her partner Thomas Arnold, 26, now call home.
This handsome, confident young couple so evidently enjoy this space. They have created a glimmering interior using white, shades of warm blush and silver grey that work wonderfully well with stripped wood effect floors in pale oak, plus contemporary black metal and glass for the lights, hall and side tables.
Preparing to move in, they pored over websites to get their new home just to their taste – and loved every moment. As their families live in nearby Enfield, Federica and Tom were around while their apartment was being built. Their kitchen includes a sleek kitchen island, constructed to match their glossy, champagne-coloured kitchen cupboards, that provides a generous entertaining place with no need for a separate dining table, while in their luxurious bathroom tiles go up to the ceilings.
Federica admits that for her, “everything has to be perfect”. With a keen eye for finish, she has fallen for the Weston Homes lifestyle. “The high spec really pushed me towards our apartment,” she says. “I would say that, if you like these homes don’t hang around, as they will go. They are really good value. We had masses of choice for colours, tiles, floors, cupboards and carpets.” All the quality fixtures and fittings are included in the price, and Federica praises the plethora of hi-tech, the water-saving taps and money and energy-saving building methods.
Sophisticated their new home may be, but it’s also welcoming and the couple love entertaining – a Negroni is their latest cocktail of choice. “We love hosting,” says Tom. “This house is never empty. I have my mates round for cards, we have family round all the time. Federica’s sister and niece are coming over this evening, and we have formed a little community with our neighbours. It’s a really good vibe here.”
All of the flats in the couple’s block have sold and buyers have settled in. “So we all get together,” says Tom. “The other evening we did a tour of each other’s homes to see how they had decorated.” The fledgling community have group chats on WhatsApp and Facebook. When Federica and Tom needed a hacksaw to make blinds, they put out a request and 10 minutes later it was at the front door.
“One couple who live above us are in their forties and they are lovely. We met over a pub supper locally,” says Tom. “His wife doesn’t drive, so I take her shopping. Federica runs her own specialist beauty business from her home studio and word has got round. She now has clients from our group dropping in for treatments.” If ever there was a tale of successful new community friendships and fellowship, this Harlow group is surely it.
Federica, from Greek and Italian parents, grew up in Enfield, as did Tom. They met as 16 year-olds and have been together ever since. Federica points a perfectly manicured finger at her engagement ring finger and indicates “the lonely and empty space”. Tom is not intimidated. This is a bit of a running joke between these two.
Covid lockdown, a game changer in so many ways for so many people, at least had a positive side for Federica and Tom. “We thank Covid for our deposit,” says Tom. When the couple had to isolate they moved into the annexe at his parents’ house. Tom works with his father, running a commercial air-conditioning company, and was able to work from home. “We didn’t go out, we spent nothing, we were given nothing, we saved hard and we did it all ourselves,” he says. “We saved £16k and got a mortgage for 2.4 per cent. Do we save now? No – we don’t save a penny!”
Federica says her mother found the Edinburgh Way apartments. “She loved the show home. I loved the spec. She loved it so much that when we bought ours my mum reserved one for them in another of the five buildings.” Federica’s parents have a house in Puglia on the southern peninsular of Italy and want to downsize in the UK. “So it is perfect for them.” Italy is a shared love. “We all cook Italian recipes and we never cook without basil.”
Harlow is a busy enterprise zone with a lot going on and good communication links. Tom factored in easy travel routes and Edinburgh Way ticked all the boxes. There’s private parking under their apartment block but Tom and Federica prefer the train – the station is a short walk away, with 30-minute services to Liverpool Street or King’s Cross. And local shopping has “everything you could ask for – from cushions and candles from Primark to cupboard doors from Ikea – which we adapted for my work room.”
The couple moved in on December 3 last year with just a bed. It is, however, a beautiful bed with a quilted headboard and matching woven cream and black scatter cushions. True to form, that evening their new home was full of family and friends enjoying takeaway pizza and Prosecco. Federica says: “As first-time buyers, for us, this was such a big thing. We began the New Year together.”