Buying a shell to fit out to your own design tastes was once the preserve of only the boldest and best-informed buyers, but the Grand Designs culture has inspired a new generation of eager renovators who are ready to embrace such projects.
Former magistrates’ courts in up-and- coming Acton provide a rare opportunity to make a mark. Court House comprises nine splendid open-plan, double-height, white-walled spaces ranging from 1,000sq ft to 2,450sq ft. External works (new roofs, windows and doors) have been carried out and all the key services are in place, ready for buyers to create a dramatic interior.
'Shells can work for low-budget buyers, too, and offer a chance to make a leap up the property ladder'
Exposed roof trusses, vaulted ceilings and reclaimed flooring from a school gym are fabulous features of several units, and one even has an original basement cell. The shells come with a “temporary” kitchen and sanitary ware - merely to make the homes mortgageable. All homes are freehold and come with good-size terraces and a parking space each.
The Edwardian complex of red-brick courthouses sits alongside handsome Acton Town Hall and is, surprisingly, unlisted. Ashley Nicholson of developer Verve Properties has an eye for architectural detail and is an old hand at these refurbishments. In the Eighties and Nineties he steered the early wave of Victorian school conversions, creating some of the best loft spaces in the capital.
Often buyers are prepared to pay a premium to get a wow-factor shell, and they then spend a fortune on a fabulous transformation. But shells can work for low-budget buyers, too, and offer a chance to make a leap up the property ladder.
“Somebody could spend £25,000 on a basic fit-out and then sit back and wait for their financial situation to improve and property prices to rise before undertaking a more expensive design,” he says.
About £50 per sq ft is a realistic minimum fit-out cost; £150 per sq ft is more typical, though a high-quality design could cost £400 per sq ft or more.
The Acton shells are priced from £375,000. Visit courthousesw3.com or call Hamptons International on 020 8987 8444.
Another shell project - former Loud and Western laundry at Broughton Road, Fulham - is in the pipeline. This will bring seven shells, one a mega 10,000 sq ft space. Call 020 7408 0016 or visit verveproperties.co.uk.