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Article by Janice Morley

Watford Cross – the perfect post-pandemic WFH base 

Nicolla Farry is one switched-on girl – in more ways than one. She works for the super hi-tech homes lighting company, Lutron. Both single and single-minded, the 30 year-old was absolutely adamant that she would never rent again after splitting up with her partner and leaving north London. “Renting was such a waste of money,” she says. “I wasn’t going to do it again.”

She went home to live with her parents during lockdown and, like so many of us, had plenty of time to think about her next move. “I thought about all the money I had spent during the year on shoes and handbags, and I thought, ‘What was that all about?’ I gave myself a good kick in the pants and started to save hard. “I went to a Help to Buy mortgage adviser, and I talked to my parents, who gave me some help. Then I started looking.” Like so many employees, Nicolla realised the working world had changed irrevocably and commuting five days a week was probably not going to happen again. But she still wanted to be within easy reach of London.

Location, location…

Nicolla grew up in Edgware, so Hertfordshire was a good location, no more than 30 minutes between north London, all her friends, and her parents in Bedfordshire. The Watford Cross development by Weston Homes, in the newly crowned Hertfordshire hotspot of Watford – just 16 minutes by train from London Euston – came up on her search for a new-build home within her budget. She liked the pictures of the architecture of this small complex of pale-brick apartments in buildings of varying heights with neatly inset balconies. And the location was perfect, just a five-minute walk from Watford Junction station and close to the town centre. “Because it is my job to understand plans I was confident about buying off-plan.” She scrutinised the spaces with the help of her father, who is a builder. “I considered a two-bedroom flat for £400,000 sized at 70 metres but I bought a third-floor one-bedroom home for £300,000 in Conway Court at 61 metres because it was not much smaller, but essentially it was filled with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows in the kitchen and living area, where my balcony is, and in the bedroom. I loved the space and views from my bedroom and the exterior brickwork.” One of Nicolla’s friends has since bought a two-bedroom apartment for £400,000 higher up – so she has a pal nearby.

A keen eye for quality

If ever there were new-home buyers with high standards, it would be Nicolla and her family – her sharp-eyed builder father, and Nicolla herself, a business studies graduate who is highly trained in property quality and build specifications. “The flat has very superior styling,” she says. “I knew it was the largest purchase I was ever going to make, so it had to be right. I had friends who bought from other housebuilders and didn’t get a dishwasher, a bedroom wardrobe or even  a mirror in their bathrooms, and certainly not fitted bedroom carpet. “I work in smart technology, and like other millennials, I wanted a home that thought about the future. Weston has the right idea. The kitchen had all the cupboard space I could want, plus carefully integrated appliances – and clever little things like the integrated stainless-steel soap dispenser, and chopping board, the clipped hose-spray extension tap, a boiling hot tap, real quartz stone worktops, under-cupboard LED lighting and much more.” She then installed a wine fridge.

Time to customise

“I like to get things done,” says Nicolla, so she’s working to a deadline on her new home interiors. She’s chosen natural light oak for the hardwood engineered flooring in the kitchen, “a shade that won’t swallow up the natural light”, but she is going for cosy bronze and mink in the bedroom, with a velvet headboard “and very swish, motorised mink shade curtains. I know a lot of people in the industry and I wanted to do justice to my gorgeous big windows. The curtains are programmed to draw open to wake me up in the morning. I don’t want an iPhone going off in my ear.” She has chosen to have her home office area in her spacious bedroom, where large, built-in cupboards will keep everything tidy. Her printer is hidden away and her desk is on order. “Though if I want a change of work area, I can go to my breakfast bar in the kitchen.” The drawing room is work in progress – but not for much longer. There is monochrome artwork with splashes of 24 carat gold leaf, and the customised black sofa with two footstools is soon to arrive, as are the curtains. The flat’s energy savings impress Nicolla. “Because of the temperature-controlled taps in the bathroom I’ll have a nice, low water bill. And good insulation is a priority. The industry has to prioritise energy saving; every little helps.”

Meet the neighbours

On her floor there is a “fairly young bunch” of first-time buyers like herself. “The location is good value as it is on St Albans Road and St Albans is much more expensive – being a bit further away means I benefit from property price drop.” She adds: “I like the  landscaping around me and the safety of exterior lighting and sensors. These are all things people should consider when buying. My Mum loves it, and she has already booked herself in for a few away nights.” And soon there is to be the great unveiling of Nicolla’s new home for her friends.