Accessorise with a designer home
Fashionable next-door neighbours Primrose Hill and Camden Town are so close yet so different. That is the story of London villages that remarkably retain a clear identity though they are rubbing shoulders geographically.
But now a new scheme of 46 loft-style flats right on the boundary blends the best of both areas — the village charm of Primrose Hill with the buzzy urban cool of Camden — a mix that will surely prove a hit with buyers who previously would have chosen one area or the other.
If you want to include a weekend stroll along the canal with a Bank Holiday browse these designer homes are being launched on Saturday. Spectacular penthouses top the scheme created within a handsome canalside Victorian warehouse in Oval Road.
Called The Henson, this rare development has a “front door” on to colourful Camden Lock and a “back door” on to leafy Primrose Hill.
‘It’s for well-connected Londoners who want the lifestyle look and all the interior trappings’
Primrose Hill, with its elegant avenues and park, has become one of the capital’s most exclusive enclaves. Delis, bistros and boutiques serve the wealthy locals, most of whom work in politics, media, movies, banking and rock ’n’ roll. Some of the more famous include David Miliband, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Gwyneth Paltrow, David Walliams, Jamie Oliver and Jude Law.
Camden, on the other hand, is more diverse, unpolished in parts and genuinely metropolitan — “everyone from rich lawyers to destitute writers and drop-outs with spikey pink hair”, according one local estate agent.
The Oval Road building is named after The Muppets’ creator Jim Henson, who had a production facility there in the Eighties.
Putting the cool into Camden
Londonewcastle, the developer, targets such locations and caters for discerning buyers who work in the creative sector — fashion, film, theatre, music, web design — or the City.
The firm’s Robert Soning describes them as “well-connected, knowledgeable Londoners”, who want the lifestyle look as well as all the interior trappings.
Apartments are bigger than average, with generously sized terraces. The two-bedroom show flat has a factory look with rugged and refined textures — exposed brickwork, bare concrete ceilings, cast-iron column radiators, stainless-steel kitchens, wide-plank oak flooring, glass wall panels, veneered or leather-clad fitted wardrobes and cork-print wallpaper. It is also quirkily furnished. Apartments are pre-wired for electronic blinds to all the windows and cabled for multi-room home entertainment.
The scene setting begins in the main entrance lobby, with raspberry-and-grey polished plaster walls and a polished-concrete floor. Alongside an LED “light installation” by artist Jason Bruges is a neon sign with a famous Sid Vicious quote — “You can’t arrest me, I’m a rockstar”.
Londonewcastle sponsors the yearly “100% Design” showcase at Earls Court and provides gallery space at its developments for interior designers such as Tom Dixon.
A 24-hour concierge sits behind a desk made of patinated zinc and coloured glass. Valet parking is one of the hotel-style services offered, plus there is a pool of 10 free bikes. Prices start at £450,000; two-bedroom flats cost from £650,000 and rise to £1.5 million for three-bedroom units.
Two 4,000sq ft penthouses with multiple terraces and spacious roof gardens are attracting attention from pop stars and media entrepreneurs.
Call estate agents Pilcher Hershman on 020 7399 8600 or Aston Chase on 020 7724 4724.
Keeping an eye on the markets
Camden’s six canalside markets are an international tourist attraction, with 25 million visitors a year.
A fire in 2008 devastated one of the markets, which has since been given a makeover, along with the historic Stables Market (in Victorian times a home for horses that pulled canal boats — there are listed tunnels below The Henson where horse-drawn wagons were unloaded).
Camden council has approved a wider development brief with property company Chelsfield for the creation of Canal Lock Village, which will include residential units. A new covered market with rooftop pavilions linked by walkways will have 130 homes.
And there are plans for new flats above a much-needed refurbishment of overcrowded Camden Town Tube station.
Resales at The Ice Works and The Lockhouse, newish blocks facing The Henson on the other side of Regent’s Canal, cost from about £400,000, rising to about £800,000 for three-bedroom apartments.
Part of the draw is that each development provides a little oasis among the mayhem of the markets.
A narrow lane provides a quick cut through to the villagey heart of Primrose Hill, with its gentrified terraces, quaint mews and independent shops. Best addresses here include Chalcot Square and Gloucester Crescent (where writer Alan Bennett lives). If you want to be his neighbour, Knight Frank is selling a splendid family house with roof terrace for £3.25 million. Call 020 7586 2777.
Another in Regent’s Park Road, once owned by Boris Johnson’s parents, is available for £6 million. “It’s one of a group of houses that are the most sought after in the area,” says Mark Pollack of Aston Chase.
“It’s in a pretty raw condition and has planning consent to extend at the rear so is ripe for a makeover.” Characterful period apartments cost from about £450,000.
The area’s celebrity status has come at a price. Security guards discreetly patrol some streets after a spate of burglaries and robberies.
And in an ironic twist to the thorny local issue of owners carrying out basement excavations to create extra living space (months of noise, disruption and neighbour disputes), some residents are protesting over the prospect of tunnelling for the proposed High Speed Two train link from London to Birmingham.
They fear the work will cause excessive noise and structural damage to houses.