They rose in popularity during the early Noughties. Everyone who watched Jodie Foster, in the 2002 movie Panic Room, fantasised about turning their spare bedroom into a secret hideaway.
Now the panic room, or safe room, as it is sometimes called, is making a comeback. One Florida firm of builders, Charlie Johnson (www.charliejohnson.com), offers them as an optional extra in their new-builds. It is an option which plenty exercise.
“People want safe rooms for a whole range of reasons,” says Kristin Beall Young, a senior manager with Charlie Johnson. “They might want them as a place of refuge from intruders, or a place to keep their valuables. They are particularly useful in hurricanes, when there is a danger of falling trees crashing through the roof of a property.”
Bog-standard panic rooms in the States, are typically around ten foot square, with steel doors and super-thick walls. The cube-shaped panic rooms tend to be located in the heart of a house, perhaps just next to the bathroom. Prices start at around (£13,853) $20,000.
And where America has led, Europe usually follows. According to one London agent (Marsh and Parsons), the panic room has now been added to the check-list of ‘optional extras’ favoured by the super-rich, alongside helipads, in-house cinemas and swimming-pools. Even high-end holiday homes are introducing them.
At the exclusive new Cap Vermell Estate in Mallorca, Spain (www.grupocapvermell.com), for example, some of the bespoke villas have panic rooms. The luxury houses are set in natural surroundings, with views over the nearby valley and include extras, such as wine cellars and private pools. But they also have state-of-the-art security. Prices for the properties range from around £3million (€2,200,000) upwards.
The great majority of homeowners may regard them as an extravagance, but in an increasingly security-conscious world, they seem to answer an important need. And what better way to settle your nerves, if you are holed up in one of those rooms when a hurricane is approaching. Let’s just hope the proud owners never have to use them.
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