What is unique enough?

Posted by Paul Travers on April 17, 2019

Despite the creep of phrases like “quite unique” “very unique” into property descriptions, there is no scale of uniqueness. Something is either one of a kind, or it isn’t. It can’t be sort of one of a kind. Resist all you want, but it can’t.

Somebody recently told us they thought their home “wasn’t unique enough” for us to take it on, which left us wondering whether people were unsure of what constitutes unique when it comes to property.
So I thought we should take the opportunity to set the record straight.

Imagine you own a limited edition car of which only 10 have been made. Your car is part of a unique collection, but is not unique in itself. Now imagine the other 9 are destroyed at the showroom. Hurrah! Your car is now unique, despite zero modifications on your part.

If a pair of bespoke-designed identical houses are built, they will form a unique couple, but neither on its own would be unique, unless one fell down or was subsequently altered. And a building of 200 identical apartments by Norman Foster using only gold and mushrooms as building materials would certainly make the development unique, but not each unit within it. However, both these examples, because of the unique nature of the projects, would be “unique enough”.

But what about regular properties? What sort of changes might take one into the realm of unique? Painting wouldn’t; a new kitchen wouldn’t (no matter how fancy); and knocking two living rooms into one still wouldn’t cut it. What we look for are unique qualities or features.

Let’s take a 1930s semi in Surbiton. How do we make it unique? A through lounge or a new conservatory aren’t taking us anywhere new, but a total reimagining with double height voids and a rearranged floorplan might well get us there. And while it might not have as many unique qualities as a bespoke designed modernist structure worked around a series of trees in a forest half way up a mountain in Norway, both houses would nonetheless be unique.

The thing is, we see plenty of regular properties that have been turned into unique living spaces by creative individuals, and we’ve seen plenty of converted factories that have been turned into regular flats by unremarkable developers. There is no rule on original use, merely on current design. It doesn’t have to be ancient, contemporary, minimalist or maximalist – character comes in all shapes and sizes.

So if you’re still unsure whether your home is unique enough for us, the best thing to do is ask.

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