October 2009

Street News

The Future of Homes

It's not that they're actually going to get smaller, it's just they're going to be more cluttered with people. Most of whom we'll be related to.grand design.jpg

That's the conclusion of a somewhat unnerving report, The Future of the Home, commissioned by DIY giant B&Q to celebrate its 40th birthday. Which, according to B&Q's predictions, is about the age most children will finally be leaving home, although they'll be popping back now and again, each time they get divorced.

Obviously, it's in the interests of a business selling lots of gloss paint and picture hooks to predict a future in which parents are constantly having to do up children's bedrooms: teddy bear wallpaper when they're toddlers, doomy black emulsion when they're teenagers, then increasingly mellow shades of beige for their twenties and thirties.

At the same time, it's difficult to fight the figures, which show that with the British population set to rise from 61 to 71 million in the next 20 years, and the number of new homes built each year (185,000) not keeping pace with the new households (223,000), we are all going to be a bit pushed for space.

Add to this that the first rung of the housing ladder continues to be out of reach of anyone not earning at least £40,000 a year, and it is clear we are all going to have to budge up a bit to make room for each other.

Already, we're starting to feel the pinch. According to a report by Cabe (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), rabbit-hutch Britain is already a reality, particularly for people moving into newly built homes. When 2,500 individuals were questioned, 37 per cent said there wasn't enough room for entertaining, while 47 per cent said there was insufficient space for furniture, and 57 per cent said storage was completely inadequate.

So how are we all going to cope with these cramped conditions, other than going off into a corner and nibbling a lettuce leaf and piece of carrot? The answer, says the B&Q report, is to make our homes work harder for us.

Brandishing terms such as "dwellbeing" and "simplexity", the report's authors, The Future Foundation, call for more "fluid" homes, in which a room – sorry, space – can be divided, subdivided then opened up again at will.

"Homes need to contract and expand as we need them to," the Foundation urges, before listing the ways this can be achieved.

Movable walls will be big, for instance. Partitions, we used to call them, except that modern room-dividers bear little resemblance to the wobbly, foldaway screens with which schools vainly tried to separate classes 4A and 4B (if you sat at the back, you could take part in both lessons).

"These days, you can have solid panels 100mm (4in) thick that are airtight and soundproof," says Keith Way, of movable wall firm Style Partitions. "They come in melamine or a real wood finish; you can even have them glazed if you want." For even greater space-saving, home owners of the future can choose Skyfold, where the partition is stored discreetly in the ceiling, and only descends when required, at the touch of a button.

The need for everyone to have their own Skyfolded-off personal space is going to become more acute, too, as children leave home later, or keep coming back once they've finished university (or given flat-sharing a go and not liked it). The B&Q report predicts that, by 2020, about 65 per cent of men aged 20-24 will still be living at home, and 40 per cent of young women. return, too.

"Parents are likely to feel there should be space for their children to return to, perhaps at any time," says Malcolm Brynin, principal research officer with the Institute for Social and Economic Research, at the University of Essex. "Even 30 or 40-year-old divorcees with nowhere to go need to come back to the parental home," he adds. And you can just imagine the arguments over television once the whole family's back living together.

Naturally, though, the home of the future will have television and internet connections in every room, so everyone can watch what they want in their own private space, and the living room is going to become redundant for practically every occasion except the Queen's Speech. Instead, the prime congregating area will be the kitchen, and to cope with this new role its fittings will have to become as versatile as a Swiss Army knife.

Table tops, for example, will double as computer screens, with built-in, interactive displays. Fridges will have digital readouts on the front, listing what is inside and its best-by date. And when we are not using our cookers, hobs, sinks, or even kitchen stools, we will be able to fold them away into wall cabinets.

Meanwhile, for increasing numbers of garden-less home owners, "green growing shelves" will be the answer. These are window boxes full of herbs and vegetables that can be pushed outside through the kitchen wall for growing and then pulled back inside for picking and cooking.

Speaking of green, the B&Q crystal ball foresees a growing element of one-upmanship when it comes to comparing carbon footprints. We are likely to be more envirojudgmental about neighbours' greenhouse gas emissions, and, while stopping short of dumping manure outside their door (as happened to Jeremy Clarkson), we may start to frown upon fossil fuel excesses in the same way as we now do on drinking and driving.

And with the Government wanting all newly built homes to be carbon-neutral by 2016, it seems that better use of existing resources is going to become a requirement. Which means we are bound to see the growth of schemes such as Wandsworth Council's Hidden Homes Initiative.

What this involves is taking old store cupboards, boiler rooms and wheelie bin cages, and turning them into little apartments. Wandsworth has created 168 new homes from these unpromising urban armpits, and says potential exists to create another 10,000 across London (Southwark and Harrow Councils have heeded the call).

It looks like Britain's pensioners are going to do their bit of flat-creation, too. Not by donning overalls and knocking walls down, but indirectly, by moving out of their old homes. More and more people aged more than 65 are choosing not to live out their days in large and increasingly unmanageable old family houses, but to move instead into more attractive tailor-made alternatives, such as retirement apartments and assisted-living developments.

So it seems that the eventual home waiting for us at the top of the property ladder is no longer going to be the isolated mansion of our dreams, but an altogether more humble, more hugger-mugger living unit.

To find out more about movable walls, visit www.style-partitions.co.uk

Some socio-domestic phrases of the future:

Dwellbeing - The feeling that a property meets all your many needs

Simplexity - Complex technology that's easy for the average person to use

GIY - The green version of DIY; home improvements with a planet-saving twist, for example, solar panels, insulation and rainwater recycling

STAGs - Stay at Home Grown-Ups. Children who never leave, or at least keep coming back

Bulbniks - Men and women who refuse to be bullied into low-energy light bulbs, and who stock up on the old kind Just as we're coming to terms with the fact that our savings can go down as well as up, now it turns out that our homes are going to shrink, too.

Bad Inventions of the 60s

The 20th century saw many astounding technological innovations. The automobile revolutionized the way people live and work, the internet changed the way people think about information, and the U.S. of A put a man on the moon.

But some technological advances that came in the earlier part of the 20th centry weren't exactly meant for the history books... because they were stupid.

Anti-Bandit Bag, 1963

bag.jpgInventor John H T Rinfret demonstrates his anti-bandit bag.

To foil thieves the chain is pulled and the bottom of the case falls out so the contents are scattered over the floor.

That'll stop those thieves from getting at the contents of your bag...

No, wait. It won't!

Baby Cage, 1937

baby.jpgA nanny supervising a baby suspended in a wire cage attached to the outside of a high tenement block window.

The cages were distributed to members of the Chelsea Baby Club in London who have no gardens, or qualms about putting a child in a box dangling over a busy street.

Illuminated Tires, 1961

lit car.jpgA woman adjusts her stocking by the light of the Goodyear's illuminated tires.

The tire is made from a single piece of synthetic rubber and is brightly lit by bulbs mounted inside the wheel rim.

Shower Hood, 1970

For the woman who likes to put makeup on her dirty face.


Fast-Draw Robot, 1960

Robot equipped with fast-draw invention shoots it out with live gunner.

It's always easy to question the wisdom of giving a robot a gun, but also making him quick on the draw is just irresponsible.


Venetian Blind Sunglasses, 1950

It was a bad idea then, it's a bad idea now.

Phone-Answering Robot, 1964

A robot designed by Claus Scholz of Vienna answers the phone, though it cannot speak.

Halfway there, Claus...

robot phone.jpg

Baby Holder, 1937

ice ice baby.jpg

Jack Milford, player with the Wembley Monarchs ice hockey team, has invented a carrying device so that his baby can join his wife and himself on the ice. Because who wouldn't want to take something as fragile as a baby onto a rock-hard surface with very little friction?

Your Own Olive Grove

The romance of owning a vineyard is enduring, and thousands of Britons have scuttled off to Provence in search of their own good life with perks. But we’re also acquiring a taste for another staple Mediterranean ingredient: olives. During the harvest in the next couple of months, enthusiastic expats will be climbing trees, huddling over nets and struggling to fathom the workings of an olive press — all in an effort to produce their own bottles of liquid gold.

Among the converts are Rachel Dobson, a writer, and her boyfriend, Michael Jones, a keen foodie who owns a cheese shop, a fishmonger’s and a butcher’s in Greenwich, southeast London. The couple go to their holiday home in Liguria, northern Italy, every November to celebrate the olive harvest. This time their baby son, Ted, will be there too.

“It is the event of the year,” says Dobson, 36, who bought the one-bedroom flat in the medieval village of Colletta di Castelbianco for £145,000 four years ago. “The osteria lays on a big lunch and the restaurants arrange evening meals where we sit together on big tables. It’s a fantastic atmosphere and really makes us feel part of the community.”

The dozen nationalities of holiday-home owners and the 12 permanent residents of Colletta all pick the olives. “Some of us hike for two miles up the valley to the press, where the olives are turned into oil,” Dobson says. “Then we proudly stick labels on the bottles.” Like all novice growers, she agrees that the hard toil is behind you as soon as you dip that first chunk of bread into your own freshly pressed home-made oil.

Although it doesn’t produce as much oil as Spain, Italy is the country many of us think of first when conjuring up images of old stone farmhouses surrounded by sun-dappled groves. “Every Italian you speak to, from north to south, will claim to have the best oil,” says Rupert Fawcett, head of Knight Frank estate agency’s Italian department. “Buyers may not intend to barrel their own oil, but they will soon realise that they need help from a local farmer in looking after the trees. It’s the whole lifestyle they are buying into.”

Charles Weston-Baker, head of the residential department at Savills International, has a range of European farms and estates on his books that produce olive oil. Prices typically start at about £1m for a farmhouse in Umbria or Andalusia. In the south of France, large Provençal farmhouses surrounded by olive trees are likely to cost at least £3m. “Alternatively, in most Mediterranean countries, you can buy mature olive trees to plant on your property, ready to harvest,” he adds.

Statement olive properties don’t come much grander than Les Oliviers, an Italianate mansion near Grasse, in Provence, on sale for £8.6m with Knight Frank. It has 1,000 olive trees, some up to 1,000 years old, on historic terraces that surround the swimming pool, line the driveway and run down the hillside.

“It’s unusual to find properties with olive groves in this area, and this one takes its olives seriously,” says Paul Humphreys, head of Knight Frank’s French desk. He adds that the owner used to export the oil to his celebrated Los Angeles restaurant, L’Orangerie, before he sold the business to Robert De Niro’s restaurant chain. Now the income from the oil pays for the property’s running costs.

“Having an olive grove is part of the Provençal dream, along with the vines, lavender and boules pitch,” Humphreys says. “And it needn’t be a hassle it you delegate the running of it.”

Those looking for the Mediterranean climate and a picturesque farmhouse on a tighter budget should try Portugal. Even on the Algarve, if you don’t mind undertaking a building project as well as tending the groves, you can buy a ruin for less than £150,000. Algarve Property Group is selling a tumbledown pile near Tavira, with five hectares including carob and olive trees, for £135,000.

Or head inland, to the centre of the country. Two hours’ drive from Lisbon is Salgueiro da Lomba, a mountain village with a permanent population of five. One of them is Robert Conway, a retired interior designer, who is selling nine houses that he is in the process of restoring. Prices range from £135,000 to £235,000. Each property has blue window frames, valley views — and olive trees in the garden (see panel, right).

“We all help each other in the village, which includes getting together for the olive harvest,” says Conway, 72, who left London nine years ago and also grows figs, pomegranates, chestnuts, prickly pears, melons and passion fruit. “We lay down the nets, beat the trees, then combine the results to take to the press.”

For olive aficionados, the choice of where to buy a home may even be dictated by the taste of the oil, whether it is the almondy manaki, from Greece, which has the highest number of grove-owning expats; the peppery picual from Andalusia; the fruity cailletier, from the Alpes-Maritimes, France; northern Portugal’s earthy arbequina variety; or any of Italy’s vast range of artisan oils, from robust Ligurian strains to delicate Sicilian flavours.

Yet Michael North, who runs the website Oliveoilclubs.com and advises people who have bought properties with olive groves and want to know where to start, warns that the process can be tough. “It’s hard, especially if you’re learning the ropes in local co-operatives,” he says. “Your oil is only as good as another person’s worst olives.”

North insists that the quality of oil depends more on how much love and care you put into it than on the region from which it comes. And one tree will produce up to seven litres of oil — more than the average person’s annual consumption — so you don’t need a vast grove to become an amateur oil baron.

Kirsty Robson, 39, and her husband, Shaun, 40, from Stamford, Lincolnshire, have just eight trees in the grounds of their home in Afrata, western Crete, but harvest 350kg of olives each year. The couple bought the three-bedroom house, which was built by Snobby Homes, for £215,000 three years ago, and now live there permanently with their children, Hannah, 15, and Saul, 7.

While their Greek neighbours use strimmers to flail their olive trees during the harvest, the Robsons doggedly stick to the traditional method. “We lay nets on the ground, then use plastic tridents to beat the living daylights out of the tree, bringing the olives down in a hailstorm,” Kirsty says. “Shaun does the top, I do the lower branches and the kids sit on the ground, picking out twigs and leaves before scooping up the olives into a sack.

“Picking our olives is fun for the first hour. Then the kids moan about being pelted by a perpetual barrage of olives, backache sets in and by the end of the day the whole family is grumpy.”

They soon cheer up, though. The harvest is taken to a press in nearby Kolimbari to make about 50 litres of fresh, peppery extra-virgin olive oil. The factory takes 10% of the yield or pays £2.60 per litre.

“We are left with more than enough oil for two years, until the next good harvest,” Kirsty says. “It’s a wonderful experience, being completely accepted in this community. It brings home the important things in life.”

Expressions of Youth

Phrases and words which are now forming part of our language.


A completely worthless conversation, wherein nothing is illuminated, explained or otherwise elaborated upon. Typically occurs at parties, bars or other events where meaningful conversation is nearly impossible.

Smith: What a waste of time it is talking to that guy.
Jones: I know, every time I do, it's like a complete nonversation.


A more politically correct word commonly used to mean "fat" or "chubby". Ironically, the person in question is generally not healthy in the classic sense, although well-fed.

Ethel: "So doc, what's the news?"
Doctor: "To be honest with you, your health isn't good at all. In fact, you're extremely healthy."

"Thirst Person"

The grammatical person, commonly used in status messages on social networking sites, that starts off in the third person (he, she, it) but ends in the first person (I) because ultimately I am writing about myself.

"So, my friend hooked up with this girl, and he didn't use protection, and now he says it hurts when he pees. Anyway, do you think I should go to the doctor?"

"Maybe Later"

A slightly better way of saying "no ****** way"

Bloke 1: "Hey man wanna come over later and catch Dancing With the Stars?"

Bloke 2: "Maybe later."


1. A promotion without a raise or bonus.

2. During the recession of 2009, employers have embarked on a new trend of giving promotions to employees (e.g. by adding more responsibility to their current position or new job title) but not giving the employee any monetary compensation for it (e.g. no raise, no bonus).

"My boss gave me a no-motion as I was promoted to VP but still receiving the same pay!"

"The Book Off"

The act of getting a book out on the train, tube bus or plane in order to avoid talking to the person next to you. Substitutes include a newspaper, phone or iPod.

Person one: "Blablabla isn't the weather terrible blablabla"
Person two: (gets book out thus giving Person one "The book off")
Person one stops talking.

"Dish Envy"

Sudden, intense longing and regret derived from watching a particularly appetizing dish being delivered to a nearby table, and realizing that one has made an inferior menu selection.

"The Nerd-person"

The voice someone uses when explaining something technical or generally nerdy.
I always switch to the nerd-person when discussing the finer points of ewok economics


The male version of a cougar; an older man who preys on younger women.
"Mr. Smith is such a manther, did you see his new girlfriend? She's got to be less than a quarter of his age. Awesome."

"That Smith geezer was hitting on my granddaughter at the banquet. What a hideous manther."

"Friendly Review"

A positive review you give to a movie, book, TV series or CD that you don't like but which a friend has recommended to you, usually because you don't want to hurt their feelings.

Rod: I watched that movie The Departed last night which John lent me.
Tom: What did you think?
Rod: I hated it.
Tom: Oh boy, he loves that movie. What did you tell him?
Rod: I told him it was great.
Tom: You gave it a friendly review, huh?
Rod: Yeah, you know what he’s like.

"Sloth Cloth"

An old tee-shirt you wear while hanging around the house.


One of those slap your forehead moments when you realise that you've just done something incredibly stupid.


Pronounced like the spanish "por favor", bro favor is an act of goodwill asked of one's "bro" or "homey".

(adv.) Still pronounced like the spanish "por favor", but used in place of the word please.
(n.)"Dude, I could really use $7 to buy this limited edition copy of Spawn. Do me a bro favor and spot me $7?"

"Writer's Crap"

Derived from 'writer's cramp', writer's crap refers to a stage when one is only capable of writing utter crap

"Involuntary You Too"

When out of habit you reply to a comment with "You too". This happens to the best of us. A common situation of the Involuntary "You Too"

Girl: Well happy birthday man. Have fun at Sea World tomorrow.
Guy: Thanks, you too.
**uncomfortable silence**

 Streetwise - printed 1:1250 plans now available

Streetwise have just launched a print option for their site location plans.sw log.jpg

For just £10+vat more than the online verisons you can get 6 copies at A4 or A3 size posted to you the same day. These can be full colour or black and white and can even include boundaries where marked.

Printed scales of 1:200, 1:500, 1:1250 and 1:2500 are supplied for MS Word and PDF formats.

Prints can be ordered online using the normal www.streetwise-maps.com service or by telephone on 0118 977 3313.


The Future of Homes

It's not that they're actually going to get smaller, it's just they're going to be more cluttered with people. Most of whom we'll be related to.


Bad Inventions of the 60s

The 20th century saw many astounding technological innovations. The automobile revolutionized the way people live and work, the internet changed the way people think about information, and the U.S.


Your Own Olive Grove

The romance of owning a vineyard is enduring, and thousands of Britons have scuttled off to Provence in search of their own good life with perks. But we’re also acquiring a taste for another staple Mediterranean ingredient: olives.


Expressions of Youth

Phrases and words which are now forming part of our language.



Streetwise have just launched a print option for their site location plans.


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