HOUSE historian Sara Van Loock looks at how homes are built to reflect our lifestyles:

In my years of researching the social history of houses, I have accumulated many books about our lifestyles over the decades. One of my favourites is a 1911 tome on household management called The Woman’s Book – Everything a Woman Ought to Know. It devotes thirty pages just to Household Work. One suggestion is to sprinkle carpets with tealeaves or bran before sweeping with a broom and shovel. Another recommendation is to take up all the carpets if leaving the house unoccupied for three months, to avoid damp or mildew.

Almost a whole page is devoted to making a bed, including leaving the bedroom to air for at least an hour with the window open and stripping the bed completely every day, folding the sheets and leaving them on a chair. The labour, time and staff required is astounding.

Our lifestyles have changed dramatically since then of course, and most Victorian and Edwardian houses have been modernised, but it is a fact that homes are built and designed for their own era – for the way people live at the time. Those Edwardian houses are still all around us, with impressive grand entrance halls and high-ceilinged drawing rooms to present a graceful image of luxurious living supported by servants, but behind the scenes there are the flues, grates, coal cellars and a cast iron range to burn fossil fuels; dark basement kitchens and basic plumbing. An external wash house would have contained a boiling copper and mangle and washing would have been dried in the garden or on clothes horses. Indoor running hot water, indoor WCs and electric wiring were in their infancy.

Post-war homes and those built as late as the 1970s often have tiny garages, built for Morris Minors and Austins but useful today only for storage. The long gardens were designed not for leisure, but to dry washing and grow vegetables; and the narrow galley kitchens leave no room for today’s essentials: the freezer, dishwasher and tumble dryer. Even the space stealing chimneybreasts remind us of the era before central heating.

Of course, for many, living in a home with a history is a delight and researching its past and discovering how people lived brings a personal experience of local history. And for those with the youth, energy and money to spend, bringing an older property up to current design tastes is a fulfilling and joyful experience.

But for others, especially those buying at the luxury end of the market, DIY improvements and home maintenance is not a pleasure. With long work hours, tiring commutes and business entertaining, few have the energy, will or skill to tend a large garden and vegetable patch, or the patience to have the house re-wired when the electrician declares it Non-Compliant.

A new home is designed for modern living, to enhance and support the way we live today. So what are the really important advantages of a New Home in 2019, beyond the cosmetic appeal of an on-trend new kitchen, multiple bathrooms, luxury appliances and a high-performance, compliant heating and electrical system?

The layout of a new home has been revolutionary in recent years, with open-plan flexible living at its heart. A light-filled, elegant open-plan kitchen area is a design-led lifestyle feature, offering the tempting prospect of the sensuality of a Nigella or Rick Stein, rather than the labour-intensive, Cordon Bleu Fanny Craddock.

Households in 2019 are increasingly diverse, so the flexibility of a new homes’ layout is essential to accommodate multi-generational families, those working from home and those who spend part of the year elsewhere. In addition, a new home must comply to a host of building regulations which deliver safety, security and a Home for Life. You may not even notice the wider staircases and doorways or the level thresholds, just the feeling of flowing space.

The combination of green energies and modern construction methods protects the environment; while the building warranty and aftercare provide peace of mind. It’s the way we want to live today.

Sara Van Loock researches the history of buildings and their sites to private commission. For more information, email or call 07961378756.