Article by Janice Morley
Eliza Rweikiza, rarely misses a sunset from the spacious balcony of her pristine one-bedroom apartment at 1023 West, a Weston Homes development in the affluent country town of Brentwood in Essex. It is her first home, and Eliza is thrilled with it.
She has lived at 1023 West – a small and attractive pale-brick building 20 miles east of Charing Cross – for eight months. “I saw my first sunset from here in April and I knew this was for me,” she says. These days, stargazing out there with a glass of red wine at the end of the day, often with new friends from her building, is “an evening ritual”.
This 45 year old engineer and chartered procurement professional at an international City company, applies the same high standards to her home as she does to her work.
Eliza put a great deal of thought into her choice of apartment. “I researched it all. The location ticked all the boxes”. 20 minutes from her sister and family in Redbridge, tick; small and well-stocked high street, tick; plenty of local country walks, tick; nearby transport links – with the new Elizabeth line, offering a seat on the train and a fast trip to London, being a game changer – tick. And finally, a smart new home in a development with a welcoming feeling, tick.
Although buying your first home can be daunting, Eliza was prepared for it by a nurturing family who encouraged independence. Her adored father was an accountant in the Tanzanian diplomatic service. Her mother still lives in Tanzania, in East Africa, while much of the rest of the family is scattered around the world, and so Eliza came to the UK alone to complete a math and physics degree at university in Brighton – the first of many qualifications that have gained her promotions at work in the UK. She has now made Britain her home.
Eliza smiles her broad and captivating smile as she recalls the life lessons that are such an important part of her father’s legacy. “Because he was an accountant he told me how to save and consider how I spent money,” she says.
“Buying off-plan was a first. It scared me at the beginning but the advantages of buying a Weston Homes flat were enormous.” As an engineer she was well qualified and keen to scrutinise the energy efficient kitchen appliances, hi-tech taps, heating and insulation – and plenty more features besides. Having been impressed by the build she settled down to the joy of owning and creating the her first ever home with the Weston Homes large choice of colour schemes and fittings, floorcovering and – her favourite – the creamy-white Shaker-style kitchen with its generous array of quality branded white good included in the price. The inclusive price, too, was far superior to deals offered by other developers, says Eliza: “To have fitted bathroom and bedroom cupboards is marvellous when so much has to be bought all at once.”
Being prepared is another of her mantras. Buying off plan meant she had time to prepare her finances. “I had a good broker and a very good mortgage offer. I had all my documents in place and I was able to take advantage of the Weston Homes incentive contribution to my deposit.”
Eight months later, she has created an airy “show house”, of oyster and pale pink furnishings and tactile surfaces, benefiting from the tall floor-to-ceiling windows opening to the balcony – which itself extends the thoughtful, open-plan interior design that avoids corridors and clutter.
A natural homemaker, Eliza invested in a luxurious faux suede, minky-cream sofa with flexible additions, which sits opposite the TV. She smiles again: “It wasn’t the first thing I bought though. That was my dining table. I love feeding people with a good spread of food.”
She plays a waiting game when buying homeware… and it’s a game she remarkably always seems to win. She fell for the oval, marble table but it was expensive. “I budget down to the last penny. So I went to the website and put a tick in the box, left it there and waited, and when I went back it was discounted and £300 cheaper.”
She also bagged a bargain when it came to curtains. Eliza is a big John Lewis fan, so she called in their curtains expert, who gave her valuable information about taking curtains right up to the ceiling to create height, where to hang them and how to pleat the soft and silky, geometric fabric she’d chosen. John Lewis made and hung the curtains within three weeks. Of course, when Eliza came to pay for them, the fabric was available at half price.
She sought out expert tips on space saving too, buying a storage bed for her striking navy, cream and gold bedroom, plus a wardrobe that’s fitted out within an inch of its life with shelving for specific items. But nothing beats the balcony chairs and table that store into a woven egg which forms a design feature in her living room. As it unfolds, it’s a surprise to all.
And speaking of surprises, Eliza’s energy bill has been a nice one. “I can heat my home for a whole day for 90p, and hot water is 60p. It is so warm in here that some days I forget it is winter.”
Working from home for part of the week, Eliza sits at her neat office desk that’s tucked away in a corner with a tilting work chair and massage foot platform, and appreciates the high level of sound insulation that makes her flat perfect for the concentration she requires.
So……….. Eliza’s home is more than bricks and mortar. It is a satisfying result after the journey so far for this strong and resourceful woman and she loves it. And its stunning sunsets.
PHOTOGRAPHY By Juliet Murphy