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How to become a property guardian in Britain

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Two years ago, Elliott Hines had a problem -he could not afford to live in London

‘The most basic flat cost £1,200 a month to rent, which meant I’d have to share,’ says Elliott, 35, a visitor from Chicago who had found a post as a religious education teacher.

‘And sharing meant one small bedroom and no living room.’

Property guardianship is an arrangement whereby individuals are granted accommodation at about a third of the market rate in return for keeping the place in good condition

Property guardianship is an arrangement whereby individuals are granted accommodation at about a third of the market rate in return for keeping the place in good condition

Luckily for Elliott he came across an advertisement in the small ads of a paper. 

It spoke about becoming a ‘guardian’ with four others, of the recently decommissioned National Westminster Bank in London’s Edgware Road at a far more affordable £575 a month, including bills.

‘At first I thought this was a crazy idea,’ says Elliott. ‘But I gave it a go and pretty soon I found it was a great way to live.

‘Being a guardian helped me get my finances sorted while living near the heart of London and meeting new people.’

The scheme Elliott had signed up to was run by Tim Lowe, of Lowe Guardians, who started his company after a six-month investigation for his last employers, estate agency Knight Frank. 

‘I discovered that there was this enormous problem with young people being unable to find affordable housing,’ says Tim, 33.

 ‘And at the same time, there were hundreds of empty buildings that needed someone responsible to look after them.

‘I put the two together and came up with the guardianship idea.’

Tim’s property guardianship is a contractual arrangement whereby individuals are granted temporary accommodation at about a third of the market rate.

They agree to keep the place in good condition and, in return, Tim’s maintenance team makes the premises habitable, installing kitchens and bathrooms and meeting all building regulations.

The guardians are legally ‘licensees’ not tenants, which means they have limited legal protection. 

They can be required to move out at short notice and the agreement between licensee and Lowe is based, to an extent, on mutual trust and goodwill.

Some stay in a property for four years, but more typical are stays of one to 18 months. Licensees, most of whom are key workers, young professionals or freelancers from the arts world, know the terms before they enter an agreement.

Being young, they usually travel light and are not looking for long-term security. However, the company also runs a re-housing policy to ensure a licensee isn’t suddenly rendered homeless.

It is worth noting that not all property guardianship companies are similarly scrupulous in their dealings.

Last month, Camelot Europe, which has now gone into administration, was found guilty of failing to licence a House of Multiple Occupation and 14 breaches of HMO management regulations relating to a former rectory in Colchester.

The residents shared one kitchen, bathrooms with no hot water and a clogged toilet. There was a faulty fire alarm, blocked fire escapes and sealed doors.

Around the same time, this paper reported on how Global Guardians were advertising derelict properties in London for the same extortionate rates as standard private rents. 

One was a ‘horrible disused factory’ in Rainham, another, a single room in a prefab hut with a grubby floor and dated wallpaper peeling off the walls.

Tim advises anyone new to guardianships to take care.

‘Research the company and question someone in a responsible position,’ he says. ‘Make sure you understand the terms of your contract. 

Speak to a few guardians and always ask how quickly the company responds to maintenance issues.’

Lowe Guardians, which Tim established four years ago, now has scores of properties and about 700 young people on its books, mainly in London and the South of England. 

Tim could hardly have chosen a better time to set up the scheme: more town centre shops close every day and over a third of UK bank branches have shut since 2015.

London’s Ovalhouse theatre is perhaps the company’s most ambitious project. Located at Kennington Oval in Lambeth, the former theatre is home to ten young singers, actors, writers and musicians.

The lovely old theatre has been turned into a recording studio and rehearsal space; there are seven bedrooms in what used to be the backstage changing rooms and it has a new kitchen and showers.

‘I’m sure this is an idea that would work countrywide,’ says Tim, who launched a charitable foundation linked to the company last year. 

‘Licensees have been able to save for a deposit on their own place having lived cheaply with us. 

‘There’s also a social side to the scheme; some have met as guardians and later got married. It’s more than a business.’  

On the market… at a cut price 

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Disenchanted? Surely not, as Enniskerry gets a magical Disney makeover

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The village of Enniskerry in Co Wicklow was en fete on Sunday afternoon with locals, tourists and film crew all mingling among flower-festooned buildings and pubs serving food in the open air.

The normally flowery-but-sedate village seemed to lose all sense of sedateness and go all-out-twee, as plastic garlands of wisteria flowers almost smothered real-life wisteria-clad houses facing the town’s iconic clock tower.

The clock tower itself, built by the 6th Viscount Powerscourt to commemorate the centenary of the 1743 creation of the first viscount, is already an ornate affair, built on a shamrock-shaped base. But for Disney which is filming Disenchanted, it was not enough. The clock tower was clothed in artificial shrubbery, more purple wisteria, bunting and its flower beds brimming with multi-coloured, plastic, daisies.

The entire looked across the square at a grand imperial building where, last week, no grand imperial building was located. Visitors posed for photographs in front of its granite-looking steps, just a blue line around the roof giving the game away.

Yellow roses were trailed through the iron railings of homes on the streets approaching the clock tower, while The Reluctant Dragon Tavern, a Tudor-looking structure, leaned perilously into the – suddenly cobbled – roadway. A small sign to one side announced: “Enniskerry Inn, business as usual”.

Ever more garlands

Indeed, with tables set out on the road in the sunshine and visitors eating and drinking as workers added ever more garlands seemingly to any structure that stood still, it was hard to know what was real and what had changed.

The local chemist was there, renamed The Village Cauldron, Potions, Notions and Lotions. Next door was Prince Ali’s Magic Carpet Shoppe, while across the road was Beauty and the Book. A house had been renamed “Ratatoothie”, and declared it was a dentist’s practice.

People work during the week on transforming Enniskerry village in Co Wicklow into part of the Disenchanted film set, where Disney are filming. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
People work during the week on transforming Enniskerry village in Co Wicklow into part of the Disenchanted film set, where Disney are filming. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

All afternoon, visitors and locals alike trailed through the centre of the village, cameras aloft or staring from cars as gardaí from the Roads Policing Unit tried to keep things moving.

Disney did not respond to requests for commentary on what was happening over several days. A local retailer said she could not say anything because “Disney have told us not to”.

“I can say Enniskerry will be closed next week from Monday, but I can’t say anything more than that – I don’t know anything more then that anyway,” she said. Two further businesses in the village declined the opportunity to comment.

Disenchanted is a sequel to the Disney movie Enchanted, featuring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey as princess Giselle and divorce lawyer Robert Phillip. It follows on from Enchanted, which ended with the baddies destroyed, Giselle (Adams) married to Robert, and running a fashion business. But what happens then is seemingly the tightly guarded secret.

The village will be closed from June 14th to 18th, from 7am to 10pm, with other dates in July, and even “night shoots” towards the end of next month.

At another location, Erskine Avenue, in Greystones, a modest Arts and Crafts Edwardian home has also been given the Disney treatment, complete with turrets and masses of blossoms, and of course onlookers and a closed road. A local told The Irish Times “it was fun at first, but now I’m browned off”.

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Madison International Realty invests in London Salesforce Tower (GB)

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Madison International Realty has acquired a minority stake in the Salesforce Tower, London EC2, through a Jersey Property Unit Trust (JPUT), joining other investors including Heron International.

 

The 230-metre tower, completed in 2011 at 110 Bishopsgate, is an island site in the City of London and provides 441,000ft² of office space over 37 floors. The property is over 93% let to a range of tenants, the largest of which is Salesforce. The Salesforce Tower also has an outstanding food and beverage offering with Duck and Waffle and Sushi Samba at the very top and the Drift on the ground floor. The building has a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for design.

 

The asset’s central location in the core of the City of London means it benefits from excellent transport connectivity, with Liverpool Street and Bank within a short walking distance. Similarly, there are a large number of new world-class food, drink and entertainment options nearby including the new Pan Pacific hotel adjacent at Heron Plaza and Eataly in Broadgate. In January 2021, an ING-led syndicate of lenders completed a €465.2m (£400m), five-year refinancing of the Tower.

 

Alex Lukesch, Managing Director at Madison International Realty commented on the investment: “This acquisition has allowed us to secure a stake in a prominent London office building, which we believe delivers space that meets the demands of modern occupiers looking for world-class offices in one of the world’s leading financial centres. The investment reflects our conviction in the ongoing resilience of the office sector and the role we believe it will play post-pandemic. We have observed that demand for quality, well-located space remains robust, while companies are increasingly looking for properties that also have strong ESG credentials to help meet their own sustainability targets. In Heron, we believe we have an experienced and highly regarded partner and we look forward to working with them on this venture.”

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Britain’s blossoming love for Japanese design in the home

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The design has a red lid and a narrow neck which widens to form a base of sturdy hips. When poured, the contents flow in a singular, uninterrupted stream.

The Kikkoman bottle hasn’t changed since it was designed in 1961 by Kenji Ekuan for the world’s largest soy sauce producer.

Simplicity has made it ubiquitous. And crucially, it works — think of wrestling with glass Heinz ketchup bottles or constantly wiping lids on plastic iterations. Likely, Kikkoman’s bottle is the reason we’re so familiar with soy sauce.

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country's influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country’s influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

In the introduction to her book Japanese Design Since 1945 (£35, Thames & Hudson), Naomi Pollock writes: ‘In Japan, good design is everywhere. But most of all, it’s in the home.’

The trend for Japanese-inspired, UK-based brands, such as Wagamama, Superdry and Yo! Sushi, is well worn, but the country’s influence is likely seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes.

Inspired idea 

The Japanese approach to design is summed up well by a single product – Muji’s right angle sock (from £3.50, muji.eu). 

As the foot is perpendicular to the leg, the sock should follow the shape of the body: design centres on the user rather than the designer.

The word ‘Muji’ translates as ‘without brand’ and the company invites (often renowned) designers to create reasonably priced products anonymously. 

Design guru Naoto Fukasawa is an adviser to Muji, and his wall-mounted CD player for the company (£149) is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Naoto Fukasawa's butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

Naoto Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

In the UK, Chaplins stocks a large selection of products from Japan, including some from the designer.

‘The idea is to create designs that appear to have been sculpted by the elements,’ says Ludovic Aublanc, creative director at Chaplins. ‘It’s the kind of minimalism that brims with emotion, that makes you grateful and happy to come home.’

The company stocks Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Papilio range – chairs and sofas sporting headset ‘wings’ to protect the user’s head (Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair, £2,869, chaplins.co.uk).

Simple seating

Japanese designers have described the chair as the centre of design and an extension of the human form. It follows that these things should be easy on both the body and the eye.

Habitat’s Mori charcoal two-seater sofa (£716, habitat.co.uk) certainly fits the bill. It is compact, unfussy and elegant with its plush curved armrests and contrasting thin, wooden legs.

Simple unfinished woodwork is a key part of design in Japan, like the solid oak dining chairs from Oak Furnitureland (£140, oakfurnitureland.com) which would pair well with the Japanese oak Castor Table by Karimoku New Standard (£1,169, nest.co.uk).

Clutter free

Last year, decluttering guru Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her hit Netflix show. The programme has been talked of plenty, but we’re perhaps unaware of how key these principles are to Japanese design.

A large part of the focus on user-friendly products comes down to space. As ever, it’s important for Muji, with its storage bed (from £299) which has spacious drawers to banish clutter. Loaf has the Woody storage bed (from £995, loaf.com).

Simple boxy shelving units such as the Ikea Kallax range (from £15, ikea.com) are practical, but can also be used for displaying plants, books and records.

Or, for a modern twist, try the John Lewis Dice shelving unit bookcase (£450, johnlewis.com). The company also stocks Japanese brand Like-it’s clear storage products (from £8).

Crockery that rocks 

Japanese pottery has long been a feature of our homes, and a collection by John Lewis is a nod to this. Inspired by woodblock prints, the range includes glassware, plates, mugs and even Christmas decorations. 

It’s all delicate, bright patterns and the infuser mugs by Tokyo Design Studio (from £25) are a highlight.

But elegant motifs are only part of the story. The earthy charcoals, whites and beiges of Hasami Porcelain (hasami-porcelain.com) are a calming, elegant addition to any kitchen.

Hasami teapots start from £65 and mugs from £22 (la-gent.com) – also pick up a copy of Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book Of Tea, written in 1906, an insight into the Japanese ritual of tea-making. Elsewhere, an Oriental Hobnail tea set costs from £22.98 (wayfair.co.uk).

For eating, Denby Pottery has Japanese-inspired bowls from £58 for four in grey and white (denbypottery.com).

Finally, being able to serve Japan’s other favourite drink – the highball – is a must. Try LSA’s Mia Highball glasses (£27 for four, lsa-international.com) or, for something cheaper, a set of six Duralex Prisme highballs is £11.99 at rinkit.com.

Then grab a bottle of Akashi whisky (£28.50, waitrosecellar.com), add ice, stir clockwise 13 times, add soda water, stir again and appreciate another example of elegance and simplicity in Japanese design.

What your home really needs is… a Christmas throw

At this time of year, people fall into two groups: those who believe more is more, with bright lights and decorations aplenty; and others who keep things simple, with a few holly sprigs and a carefully adorned tree.

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

But whether you’re a maximalist or a minimalist, your home will need a Christmas throw because someone in your festive bubble is bound to complain about being cold.

If glitter is your thing, you’ll like the fleece star throw from Marks & Spencer (£25, marksand spencer.com). 

Or snuggle up under Dunelm’s red cable-knit design with a fleecey inside (£60, dunelm.com).

For something more fun, Redbubble has one that reads: ‘This is my Hallmark Christmas movie watching blanket’ (£34.73, redbubble.com).

Going low-key? How about a white and grey reindeer pattern with red pompoms (£40, barkerand stonehouse.com)? 

Or this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw , £99.50, notonthe highstreet.com), which you could use all year round.

Anne Ashworth 

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