City makeover: the luxury boutique homes breathing new life into historic London

Unloved corners of London's heart are undergoing a renaissance, even getting new names, as handsome old buildings become stunning homes.
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Reborn and renamed areas of the capital, given the stamp of approval by house builders who have got the makeover game down to a fine art, are blossoming into sought-after postcodes with the ability to lure buyers away from overpriced central London. 

Victoria and Euston were among the first areas to be targeted, “Midtown” — the once solidly commercial zone between the West End and City — is another area being transformed, with apartment schemes in Holborn, Hatton Garden and Smithfield. And now the rising tide of polished concrete and glass has crossed the river to Vauxhall and Waterloo.

Handsome Victorian Dover House, a former hotel and restaurant in Waterloo, has been split into nine sumptuous lateral apartments

Dover House, a former hotel and restaurant in Waterloo, is its latest project, and Palos and Alberti are determined to buy neighbouring properties along Lower Marsh, a lively, down-to-earth street market with some original Victorian shopfronts.

This patch, five minutes’ walk from Westminster Bridge, had suffered property blight due to uncertainty over the future of the disused Eurostar terminal, but has been given a facelift, including a newly cobblestoned pedestrian strip, and is attracting smarter shops and boutiques.

“It’s quirky and individual, with an organic food shop, a vintage clothes store and even a moped retailer that sells coffee,” says local resident Tina Evans. “Everyone talks to each other and there is a sense of community you don’t often find in central London any more.”

Beyond the station, Waterloo appears workaday but has a charming urban residential mix — pretty early Victorian terraces, such as Roupell Street, charitable and church housing, cared-for council estates and small pockets of new apartments, rather than sweeping waterfront developments. “At Dover House we are bringing a Chelsea specification to Waterloo,” says Alberti.”

The handsome Victorian building was originally designed by the architects of Trocadero and Scott’s restaurants in the West End. The façade has been restored and the interior split into nine lateral apartments with tall windows, coffered ceilings, bespoke joinery, stone floors, marble fireplaces, comfort cooling and mood lighting — a sumptuous classic-contemporary look, overseen by Argent Design, whose clients include Madonna and Guy Ritchie.

The entrance foyer makes a statement, too, while the residents’ lift opens to a tasteful lobby area on each floor. Two-bedroom apartments cost from £895,000. Call estate agent Jackson Stops & Staff on 020 7664 6649.

From £500,000: Chancery Quarter has 14 flats with full-height windows and contemporary lines. Call 020 7420 3050

Other luxury developers are targeting the district lying east of Kingsway, from Lincoln’s Inn to Old Bailey, postcode EC4. Few parts of London have such a fascinating history. Urban since the Middle Ages, it is a place where old professions, guilds and crafts flourished — from law to journalism to jewellery making — and has a rich mix of architectural styles and periods.

In recent years, global law and accountancy firms have moved in, which has triggered demand for homes, including main residences as well as crash pads. At the same time, old-style office buildings and factories, inappropriate for modern businesses, are coming up for redevelopment and spawning more residential space. Many are small schemes of boutique flats, in keeping with the area’s individuality.

“It is becoming one of London’s main development zones,” says Jamie  Gunning of property consultant CBRE, which predicts a closing of the value gap between this part of the City fringe and prime postcodes further west. Prices have jumped more than 50 per cent during the last three years and a typical apartment costs about £800,000.

Chancery Quarter, opposite historic Gray’s Inn law chambers, has 14 apartments with full-height windows and clean-lined, contemporary interiors. Prices from £685,000. Flats in a converted warehouse in Fleet Street start at £500,000. Call CBRE on 020 7420 3050.

From £1.06 million: St Dunstan’s Court, on Fetter Lane, has apartments, a residents’ club and access to private gardens. Call 020 7355 8150

St Dunstan’s Court, in Fetter Lane, has apartments, a residents’ club and access to private gardens. Homes also have a rare view of listed Maughan Library, part of Kings College, and its cloistered courtyard. Prices from £1,060,000. Call 020 7355 8150.

The Lincolns, in Gray’s Inn Road, is a new-build scheme of 16 apartments above traditional shopfronts — a “green” building with solar panels and a biodiversity roof backing on to one of four esteemed Inns of Court. Prices from £855,000. Call estate agent  Robert Irving Burns on 020 7637 0821 for details.

A listed former Lyons tea house in West Smithfield is another small-scale project under way — 17 homes, including a duplex penthouse, above Michelin-starred restaurant Club Gascon. Call estate agent Hamilton Brooks on 020 7606 8000. 

From £750,000: The relocation of St Bartholomew's Hospital has made way for the new Barts Square neighbourhood, with 235 homes, offices, restaurants, cafés, and a church garden for green space. Call 020 7409 8756

The redevelopment of ancient St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Barts Square could well be the game-changer for this district by establishing a new price threshold. The entire estate, a complex of 19 buildings, is being turned into a new residential and commercial quarter that keeps the medieval street plan intact.

“We are designing apartments for people with imagination,” says architect Fiona Naylor. “Volume, light and space are the key.”

The mix of 235 homes ranges from one-bedroom flats to penthouses with roof terraces, with the first phase due for completion by mid-2017. Prices from £770,000. Call 020 7726 8995.

Thackeray Estates, run by Brett Palos, stepson of billionaire retailer Philip Green, has left behind its Kensington roots to focus on London's born-again districts. Having deep pockets, its strategy is to buy up clusters of properties — such as shopping parades with upper parts that can be refurbished into smart flats — with the aim of improving a neighbourhood by building a  “village”.

“We believe there is untapped demand for homes in the £750,000 to £1.5 million price bracket in these areas,” says Antony Alberti, Palos’s partner.

“One thing that grates on us is the inability of successful people, career professionals, to buy a flat in central London. They go to university, become a lawyer or accountant, but still can’t afford it.” 

The solution, he adds, is to open up these lower-priced locations and deliver the sort of flats people want to live in. “We want to put together micro areas and that’s why we have the word ‘estate’ in our name,” taking a leaf out of the book of traditional landed estates such as Grosvenor and pointing admiringly to newly gentrified hubs such as Chiltern Street in Marylebone and Connaught Village near Marble Arch.

Thackeray has acquired a string of properties in King Street, Hammersmith, and has also set its sights on Putney, Shepherd’s Bush and Chiswick.

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