Country houses for sale

Stamp Duty has put beautiful houses at the mercy of unsympathetic architects

When design historians look back at the history of interior design in the 21st century, they might do well to look at the effects of Stamp Duty. Although the upper reaches of the property market canter along quite happily, there’s no doubt that many homeowners are understandably reluctant to contribute yet more to the Exchequer than they do already – and that means they need a plan.

It doesn’t involve anything untoward: you either buy a wreck to restore, thus attracting less of a tax burden, or you try to add every square foot you can from your existing home in an effort not to move.

In either case, it’s great news for builders, but not such great news for the Treasury. But how good is it for the houses themselves?

Although listed properties are better protected from ham-fisted attempts to reconfigure them, less starry, but no less charming, period properties are often pierced from every direction by structural steel beams as architects strive to maximise the amount of space with an open-plan layout.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things when they’re done sympathetically. But all too often they aren’t.

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Decisions, decisions… please make them carefully!

There’s a rarely-questioned modern doctrine which dictates that the only way to maximise the space in a period property is to create an open-plan arrangement of rooms, each one seamlessly joined to the next.

It might all make perfect sense on an architect’s plan, but doesn’t necessarily translate well into reality when issues such as the noise of televisions and privacy raise their heads—not to mention the fact that open-plan spaces don’t contain heat as effectively as a room with four walls. None of these are issues in enclosed spaces, which also have the attraction of feeling cosy and intimate.

As every good interior designer knows, there are plenty of ways to maximise space without consigning internal walls to a skip — not least, well-planned rooms with carefully configured arrangements of furniture. And talking of skips, there’s no better way to maximise space than having a good chuck-out.

Giles Kime