Article by Janice Morley
The title of the book that rests on the big, deep-blue velvet ottoman in Emily Lyle’s new two-bedroom apartment in Feltham, west London, is Good Vibe. Good Life. Right now Emily, 24, who is on a graduate scheme with oil giant BP, has both the good vibe and the good life in abundance.
She has a clear vision of what she wants and how to get there – studying and saving hard, and with the added blessing of supportive parents. Emily moved into her third floor Weston Homes apartment in March, at Manor Lane, a small site of fewer than 100 flats in a side road off Feltham town, a dense outer-city suburb just minutes from Heathrow airport. She tells me of the heart-stopping scenario that led up to her securing her new home.
The finish date for the build had been pushed back for all sorts of reasons far beyond Weston Homes’ ability to control – but that led to some hair-raising deadlines. Within days her mortgage offer was due to expire, her Help to Buy scheme offer closed, her rented flat contract ended and a new job offer was withdrawn. With persistence and prayers she got everything signed off and moved in… with just a day to spare. But then, Emily – the eldest of three, with twin brothers of 21 – and their mother, Caroline 60, a chartered surveyor, make a formidable team. With their backs to the wall, you wouldn’t bet against them finding a way through.
When I meet them, Caroline is visiting, staying overnight in Emily’s spacious, en suite second bedroom. Mum lives in a village near Birmingham, just an hour and 40 mins from Emily’s new home. When choosing a location, Emily, who did her Geography degree at Manchester University, knew she did not want to be in the centre of London. She visits her grandmother – “a trendy Vivienne Westwood” type – in Hackney, but didn’t want to be in east London herself. “Dad helped me and we drove around London,” but it soon became clear there was a lot she could not afford.
MONEY MATTERS: LOVING THE LOWER BILLS
Along with hundreds of other graduates, Emily applied for a job with BP that involves health, safety, environmental responsibility and sustainability. They all went through eight gruelling days of aptitude tests and interviews before Emily learned that she and three others had won places on the graduate scheme. The BP campus is a 10-minute drive from Manor Lane. “I do a three-day week in the office. If I get up at 7.20am I can be in my office by 8.20.” And if she goes out at night? “This is London, so you have to be careful coming home at night but Weston Homes are great on security. I drive my car from BP through the safety gates, into our car park and take the lift up to my flat.
“If BP was to move me somewhere else, my home would be perfect to rent out, I could get £1,500 a month. And it is also the last stop on the train line, for which you can use contactless and an Oyster card.”
Typically for this mother and daughter, they thought through the money side of the purchase thoroughly. They used the then still-available Help to Buy and they had a good mortgage offer. After years of carefully saving cash gifts from family, Emily almost had a deposit, and her parents topped it up. She now pays £600 a month plus bills and service charge, adding up to £1,000 a month in all. She’d previously rented for £1,500 a month. And the low-energy running costs of this highly efficient, hi-tech, well-designed and well-built apartment mean there have been no scary bills.
FAB FIXTURES MAKE STYLING A DELIGHT
Emily was the first tenant of Block B at Manor Lane. Although she is a good saver, she admits: “I truly have a shopping addiction.” She had been buying furniture for a new home and stashing it at her mother’s house. During Covid lockdown, Emily completed an online interior design course and knew the importance of scaling down furniture to suit the space available. Caroline was recruited into the project and the two of them were down on their knees on the floor of Emily’s rented flat, a large piece of paper carefully marked with the new flat’s room sizes. With the dimensions of all the pieces that Emily had bought, the two of them marked places on the floor map for the two creamy sofas and side tables. In the kitchen area, which she’d chosen to be painted a rich, midnight blue, Emily placed a slim, black-legged dining table with grey-veined marble-top, plus luxuriously soft, white boucle dining chairs.
In her two large en suite bedrooms with fabulous, mirrored bathrooms boasting fitted cupboards, she marked in storage beds and slim, bevelled furniture. It’s a masterclass in design planning that has paid off in what is now a delightful, space-controlled and totally harmonious home.
On moving-in day, Emily and Caroline were so keen to get in that nothing was going to stop them. They knew the lifts wouldn’t be working yet and the flat’s on the 3rd floor. But 10 Weston Homes guys from the building site dropped everything and carried Emily’s entire household belongings, “every pot and pan, too”, up the stairs. A grateful Emily plied them with boxes of doughnuts – and did so every Friday for quite a while afterwards.
MUM’S GOT APARTMENT ENVY
Caroline has also fallen for the flat. “I want to buy a pad like this but Emily has told all her mates here to let her know if her mother talks to them about moving in.” Emily’s friends love to visit. “They say even my bath is run on an iPad. It is pretty cool having so much easy-running technology.”
It is still a novelty waking up in the morning and padding across her deeply carpeted bedroom floor to her super-deluxe bathroom. With a large number of interior design accessories included in the price, Emily advises: “All the designs are different so it is worth really considering your lifestyle. Consider carefully what you want. I visited the show house for ideas.
“I love my navy kitchen with the gold handles. I specifically wanted the kitchen, and drawing room with the large balcony, in the middle to create a division between the two sleeping areas. It makes it seem so much bigger and if friends stay they have their own area. Weston Homes helped us a lot, we can’t thank them enough.”
Emily’s life is running on well-oiled wheels now. “I drive to work, go to the gym and I order my food from Gusto.” At the weekend her boyfriend, Kidd, visits from Birmingham and is seriously impressed, laughs Emily. “He says, ‘Haven’t we got a fabulous flat?’ I say, ‘What you mean is, haven’t I got a fabulous flat?’ Life is excellent.”
Photography by Juliet Murphy