Boutique homes for buyers who love the West End buzz

Niche developers are creating chic W1 homes for City workers, media types and downsizers craving the bright lights.
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New homes are appearing in some unlikely pockets of London, including Soho back streets that were, not so very long ago, less than salubrious. Depending on the exact location, West End properties can be cheaper than homes in central London’s more established neighbourhoods such as Chelsea or Belgravia, with prices starting below £700,000.

Buyers of homes in these areas often work in the City or in the creative industries of media, film, theatre and web design. They are not generally first-time buyers — usually they are third- or fourth-timers, and among them are downsizers moving from outside London who want to be able effortlessly to enjoy the central London lifestyle.

They like special homes that are bespoke, created by designer architects. The “boutique house” market has long been neglected, while mass house builders took over the show. However, with the onward march of design and technology, in this heyday of innovative domestic architecture, the demand for something clever, space-creative and unique is being satisfied by boutique builders.

Former advertising executive Simon Green was eager to find an alternative outlet for his creative side after selling his share of the  ad agency he helped set up 20 years ago. After a stint as a film-maker, he turned to the world of property, believing he could bring something fresh to residential development. 


£3.5 million: Simon Green and his chic and minimalist Marylebone mews house, with its glassed-in-staircase

His design-led approach incorporates a forensic attention to detail — honed over years while working with demanding clients such as Mercedes-Benz. His aim is to create homes that are truly individual and inspiring. Homes that are, in themselves, works of art.

Green’s development company, Moho London, is one of a growing number of niche property companies creating boutique housing. Working with David Archer — the architect behind the ultra-trendy Chiltern Firehouse restaurant in Marylebone — and Pat Carter, shopfitter for Bond Street fashion stores, Green’s debut project is the transformation of a dingy, unloved Marylebone mews house into a modern urban home.

“Mews houses are challenging as they are small with little light at the back, and linking floors which are a real space-eater,” he explains. “To overcome this at 7 Harley Place, we used a lightwell, skylights and glass floors, while the centrepiece is an open-tread cantilevered marble staircase, presented almost like an artwork behind glass. “Overall, the design gives you internal glamour and a real sense of luxury.”

Bespoke walnut joinery creates a seamless link between the open-plan kitchen and living area. Even the minimalist, matt black-painted façade is a cool alternative to traditional pastel-coloured mews cottages. Once through the front door, the two-bedroom house extends to just over 1,500sq ft, while it also has two terraces and a garage. The asking price is £3.5 million. Call Druce on 020 7935 6535.


It’s about Zone 1 living
Planners in the West End have approved a crop of small office-to-residential conversions. Within tightly packed Soho alone there are at least 20 small-scale development projects, among them the conversion of British Pathé’s historic Art Deco Wardour Street headquarters into 15 lofts and a pair of duplex penthouses. Prices from £1.85 million. Through property consultant CBRE — call 020 7182 2000.

“A demographic shift is going on and there’s a much greater appetite for Zone 1 living,” says Jamie Gunning, director of CBRE. “As in Paris, Barcelona and downtown Manhattan, buyers want the buzz of a busy district around them — they want to be in the thick of it.

“The buyers we get are very aware of the benefit of good design, so we are bringing them together with developers at a much earlier stage to discuss floorplans and finishes. They are people who would rather be one of 10 than one of 100.”

Other Soho projects include Royalty Mews, four lateral apartments in a converted recording studio, and 81 Dean Street, comprising 18 apartments, two with  lavish rooftop terraces, and concierge services provided by The Soho Hotel. Gunning says boutique developments are spreading from Mayfair through Covent Garden and Holborn to the Square Mile.

Few parts of London have such a fascinating history as the City-fringe districts of Lincoln’s Inn, Hatton Garden, Chancery Lane, Old Bailey, Smithfield, Temple and Fleet Street. The rich mix of architectural styles and periods found in these neighbourhoods — from medieval to modern — has given them a distinctive flavour and charm. Traditionally, they have been business zones, where old professions, guilds and trades have flourished, from law to journalism to jewellery-making. But these areas have always moved with the times.

Adelphi conservation area, between Strand and Victoria Embankment, is one of London’s most charming locales. The Royal Society of Arts is a marker of the area’s academic heritage and surrounding it are some delightful listed Georgian townhouses, later converted into offices, some of which are reverting to residential.

One of these is 19 Buckingham Street, a hidden-away address, and the first complete interior design project undertaken by furniture maker and entrepreneur David Linley, the Queen’s nephew. Eleven spacious and exquisitely finished apartments have been created in the five-storey mansion. Rather than making one-off items of furniture, Linley has designed the interiors from top to bottom, from the walnut-and-nickel mail boxes in the entrance hall to the drawing room’s richly lacquered cabinetry and leatherwork, to the handmade kitchens. Prices from £3.35 million. Call Jackson-Stops & Staff on 020 7644 6649.

Parts of central London have improved immensely in recent times, often benefiting from enlightened estate management by landlords such as Grosvenor and Howard de Walden. Motcomb Street in Belgravia, Mount Street in Mayfair and Marylebone High Street are among the best examples — village-like hubs where streetscaping and cherry-picking of retail premises have driven up residential values.

Amazon Property is a niche developer specialising in these top postcodes. At Park Crescent, a listed Georgian terrace designed by John Nash, newly created apartments have access to Regent’s Park via a secret passage, known as the nursemaids’ tunnel, under Marylebone Road. Prices from £3 million. Call 020 7298 8700.

Another Amazon project with five apartments is under way at Maddox Street, Mayfair, with prices from £1.3 million, while coming soon are flats above a new art gallery on Pall Mall, St James’s. Call 020 7298 8700.

Marylebone is expanding at the edges as its residential renaissance gathers pace. Buyers are pushing west past Baker Street and east of Great Portland Street, blurring the border with Fitzrovia. Tucked away in Clay Street are five modern townhouses, thoughtfully designed by young architectural firm Piercy & Co, whose priority was to bring natural light into the homes and provide flexible space. Set over four storeys, each home has an internal glass-walled lightwell and an integral garage. Prices from £4.15 million. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5499.

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