Variety is the spice of our cities – and of our homes

Property has been in the news a tremendous amount recently. Fortunes have been made.

Property has been in the news a tremendous amount recently. Fortunes have been made. And we're constantly reading about upgraders, downgraders, emptynesters, investors, relocators and people who have simply moved.

And if they haven't moved, they've extended.

So it was with all this spinning in my head that we realised in the spring sunshine that, rather like Mole in The Wind in the Willows, our burrow just wouldn't do at all.

So for weeks I invested all my waking hours in the hunt for the perfect new address - and persuading recalcitrant members of the family that the current abode was a thing of the past.

Then the inevitable moods - aspiration, anticipation, resignation and, finally, frustration.

This "moving" business gets more of an emotional upheaval as one advances in years. Years ago I thought nothing of selling up everything and moving to the States.

With the passing years, all sorts of creature comforts and life support structures need to be worked into the equation. In effect, putting your life on hold until you step into your new habitat is possibly one of the most stressful times we put ourselves through.

Once committed to the upheaval, we start to realise how many "fellow sufferers" are putting themselves through the wringer at the same time.

Late one Saturday afternoon I visited what must have once been a lovely house. I was shown round by the charming owner, who had recently been widowed. It was clear within moments that bereavement was still painful and that the "evening of life" they had shared, was now a lonely place for one. The owner had had an offer accepted on a small cottage and was anxious to part with his splendid and spacious house.

In the grip of this anguish associated with "the big move", he did a remarkable thing. His eye fixed upon defect after defect. He not only apologised for them, but explained how they had come about.

At the end of our tour, moved by his honesty, we not only wanted to buy the house, but would have willingly contributed to his removal costs!

Wouldn't it be interesting if this undersell technique started to influence estate agents' particulars. Instead of the usual glowing terms, we would read a critical commentary on the house with footnotes as to how it came to be that way, followed by suggestions as to how it could be improved.

I also noticed that as well as long-term owners trying to sell their property, there are quite a number of houses and apartments being offered by people who have only recently purchased the property, but have "prepared the property for re-sale".

These individuals are motivated by TV programmes, so the houses are offered with just the right blend of off-whites and coffee colours. The fabrics are skillfully chosen to sit within that international hotel reception ethos. Our attention is diverted from the commonplace mediocrity by plasma screen TVs and impressive kitchen units.

When you ask leading questions that householders normally might want to have answered, such as what are the neighbours like, or can the kids walk to school, you witness blank stares and a strategic change in conversation.

And there are the increasing number of houses designed by celebrity fashion designers and style gurus.

Surely it would be more interesting to prepare our next housing range in collaboration with someone like Jeremy Clarkson, clearly a person who values engineering and imagination!

Needless to say, we haven't found our "dream home" and we're still living in Jesmond, Newcastle.

But we've got the "bug" now and can see the problems of our home and neighbourhood.

In 10 years we have seen this self-contained suburb become almost as popular as Newcastle's Quayside.

The hotels and bars of Osborne Road which look so beguiling in the early evening sun, with sun-kissed youths sitting out under umbrellas drinking their tequila slammers, is somewhat transformed by the early hours. "Old fart," I hear you declare! "The city is cyclic, and neighbourhoods change along with the demographics of the people living within them."

That is certainly true. However, the vitality of Newcastle is rated by having a wide range of different neighbourhoods each with its own specific quality.

And when all areas have become like the Bigg Market or the Quayside, what will happen to range and variety?

* Jane Massey is a partner with idPartnership Architects in Newcastle.

She can be contacted on (0191) 261-4442, email

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