The general consensus of property development is that increasing square footage the most important selling factor. However, at Landmass we think differently.
Let me tell you how I went from a small flat in Elephant & Castle to where we are today – developing and designing £30million bespoke Prime Central London properties.
At Landmass we firmly believe in increasing the sense of 3D space; our trademark is what I call ‘Volumetric Design’. For us, a dream project is a dark and dingy property that we can open up, give it the Landmass magic, and take it from one world into another.
I got into property development by default. I began by looking for some properties to rent out then realised it was more profitable to renovate and sell them.
My first memorable project was above an off-licence on a busy road in Fulham. I realised we had to do something about the outside, so I gave the off-licence a lick of paint and I invested in a solid oak door, with beautiful portholes; creating a sense of arrival. I even moved the kitchen around three times at great expense, but it was worth it in the end as I ended up selling it for a record price to a Hong Kong investor.
With this profit I bought a couple of two-bedroom flats in Notting Hill. Unlike most developers, I changed these into one-bedroom flats because the space worked much better, and the actress Sienna Miller brought one.
I never intended to get into design, that happened further down the line. In 2009 we had a property in Belgravia that was a truly special project, the challenge was that it was surrounded by buildings on every side, so we had to figure out how to get the light all the way through.
What we did was cut the corner and add a retractable roof with a waterfall flowing down to the zen garden, so the light literally flowed through. Sunken seating in the basement was another tactic to enhance the sense of space, creating the illusion of higher ceilings. We changed the negative to a positive which is why it was awarded best interior design in the country and best development in London.
From a business perspective, successful property development is defined by generating profit.
With our design we wow buyers by really utilising the space, rather than focusing on fancy finishes. Steve Jobs outlined our ethos when he told the story of creating the first iPod, he said they tried 32 different shades of white before finding the right one.
Likewise, we might look at lots of shades of white to get optimum light distribution, enhancing the sense of space. It has been proven time and time again that light improves people’s wellbeing, not just mentally but physically too.
I think it is safe to say the property market is a very challenging place for newcomers. My main advice would be, start small so you have less to lose. My first property was a two bedroom flat in a then grotty Elephant & Castle for about £55K; that may not be a possibility today but still you need to understand your patch and get a speciality within it.
There are so many facets within property, everyone should have their niche.
Alan Waxman is the Managing Director and Founder of Landmass – a London based multi-award winning design and development company, delivering private luxury and commercial properties worldwide.
He has developed numerous high end, residential properties, including the award-winning Grosvenor Crescent Mews in Belgravia, London