Article by Barbara Chandler
LISTEN IN on property developer Bob Weston, founder, chairman and MD of the hugely successful Weston Group which delivers around 1,000 new homes a year. He’s chatting with his long-standing planning and design director, Steve Hatton. They’re on site in Cambridge, walking to the front door of one of the company’s new homes.
Bob looks down. “You know, Steve, we’ve been doing that concrete paving too long. Let’s find something better.”
And so, beautiful granite slabs are now just one of the high-quality details that set a Weston Home apart. “We are always looking to see if we can upgrade, improve,” explains Steve subsequently, “but not at the expense of a higher price.”
Weston Homes is on a mission to deliver high-design homes for all, at low prices, and recently spent £12million to make it happen, building a huge, state-of-the-art “logistics centre” in Braintree, Essex. This complex of hi-tech workshops, warehouses and offices – designed by architects and engineers and borrowing futuristic ideas from the car-making industry to meet a very specific set of needs – is run by Bob Weston’s son, Shaun, a man obsessed with technical innovation and possessing a super-keen eye for detail.
There is storage for many items needed to kit out a new home including flooring, wall tiles, kitchen and bathroom components, cladding, panelling, paving and more. Bulk deliveries can be unloaded, computer-coded and stored quickly and safely in as little as 15 minutes, compared to an average of three hours using a previous system. Waste from transit and storage damage to glass, marble and stone has been dramatically reduced.
EVERYTHING YOU SEE, YOU GET
This enables the economies of scale that can bring Weston Homes buyers luxurious materials to every home. “Everything in the home that you touch, that you feel – we want it to have that sense of quality,” says Shaun. “And we can do it, because what we cannot make, we source. Goods from all over the world, we buy in bulk, and hold them in our own warehouse.” He notes that a final Weston price for a complete home is always all-in: “Everything you see, you get – no dispiriting add-ons.”
Customer choices for what will be their fitted kitchen worktops, bathroom cabinets and bedroom wardrobes are checked for quality, including testing taps and showers. They are then delivered as complete units, needing minimal installation, which again reduces damage and speeds construction.
Bathrooms have carefully designed vanity units to squeeze storage out of every nook and cranny – “because small homes can have just as many beauty and cleaning products as large ones”. Bedrooms have built-in wardrobes with mirrored sliding doors, to make the most of space.
THE HOMEOWNER IS AT THE HEART OF WESTON
“Our owners are at the heart of the Weston design ethos. We always start with a blank sheet and a clear mindset,” Steve Hatton explains. He joined the company at 19 and has been with them for as many years, training on the job, achieving two degrees and now heading a multidisciplinary team of 22, including planners and architects.
“We’re creating a feeling of place. We’re making homes, not units. Places for partners, parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends and neighbours to mingle and be happy. And we start right at the beginning with every single project – though of course we benefit from experience.”
The way a home will be used is imagined in every detail. “How do you walk through the garden to your front door? Then you come in, so where do you put your keys, hang up your coat? What are the first things you see? What are the views from your window?” Important details, because halls and corridors are giving way to open plan, to make more space. This is made possible by new hi-tech sprinkler systems that Weston Homes install to take care of fire regulations and, more importantly, give you peace of mind.
SMALL DETAILS, BIG IDEAS
‘A digital clock keeps your life on time…’
The Weston Homes’ user experience is “souped-up” by top tech. There are sleek digital controls for taps and showers, and mist-free bathroom mirrors with digital clocks. “How people love that little clock,” says Steve. “It’s just a tiny touch but keeps your life on time.”
Kitchens are fitted with a boiling water tap that also delivers filtered drinking water: “Quick cuppa, cuts clutter.” Sink tops have a nicely weighted, built-in chopping board, plus an integrated soap dispenser.
OUTSIDE SPACE FOR ALL
The pandemic has moved outdoor space to the top of many buyers’ wish lists and most Weston homes have a private balcony or terrace – “it’s actually something we’ve been doing for years.” There are usually extensive communal landscaped areas, too.
WE BUILD WHAT WE WOULD LIKE TO LIVE IN OURSELVES
Steve Hatton’s design team is versatile and flexible. “We deliver a huge range of layouts and price points. We’ll take on challenges other people reject. We do high-rise schemes and low-rise schemes, conversions of listed buildings and makeovers for offices. But we won’t compromise on the product or the customer experience. The result has to be something we, or a family member, would like to live in ourselves. The company’s core values have been constant – providing affordable, expertly crafted homes that enrich their communities”
DESIGNED TO LAST
So let’s give Bob Weston the last word: “We’re proudly different from so many other new developers.
We’re building affordable, high-quality, personalised new homes for people, for individuals. Thoughtful homes. Homes designed to last. Homes for life.”