Despite the apparent scarcity of suitable buildings, ever-resourceful property developers still discover warehouses and factories on pockets of industrial land ripe for conversion.
From £2 million: loft shells at Sands End, Fulham. Call 020 7731 9400
Ashley Nicholson, founder of Verve Properties, cut his teeth more than 20 years ago on inner-city Victorian school conversions, and the spaces he created are still among the best lofts in London. His latest project is the former Sunlight Laundry in the Loud & Western Building in Sands End, Fulham.
This handsome Edwardian former factory has been turned into enormous shells — from 2,323sq ft to 6,525sq ft, with ceiling heights of up to 16½ft. “Space of this size and character is unlikely to be found again in a generation, certainly in such a prime central area,” he says.
“It’s an opportunity to sculpt the ultimate interior, and it will be fascinating to see who the buyers are and what they create,” adds Nicholson.
Often buyers are prepared to pay a premium for a shell space, and then spend a fortune on a really fabulous, creative finish. About £150 per square foot is a realistic minimum fit-out cost for materials and labour, while £250 is more typical, and a high-quality design could cost £400 or more per square foot. The freehold Sands End shells are like lateral houses, each with its own front door. They also come with a garage, and prices start at £2 million. Call Savills on 020 7731 9400. More shells will be released in a new phase next year.
Potential fitouts at Sands End in Fulham - which buyers can order - include this piano-keys theme
Loft lifestyle pioneers
Seizing on the collapse of commercial property values in the early Nineties, loft “legends” Harry Handelsman, founder of Manhattan Loft Corporation and the man behind the magnificent St Pancras station restoration, and Colin Serlin, managing director of London Buildings, popularised an urban lifestyle that broke with the country cottage vernacular of traditional house builders. Arguably, loft living has done most to turn our enthusiasm for the city into a lifestyle-led property boom.
These pioneering developers unashamedly sought out buildings with a hard, urban edge, and sparked conversion fever with projects including Bow Quarter, the former Bryant & May match factory in east London, The Alaska, an Art Deco gem in Bermondsey where seal furs were once processed, and Summers Street Lofts, a former printworks in Clerkenwell.
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From £775,000: Piano Yard mews homes, around a New Orleans-style courtyard in Kentish Town
Internally, the emphasis is on light, volume and simple retro finishes, while outside a garden courtyard inspired by the French Quarter in New Orleans is quirky and playful, with decorative metalwork balustrades and an elevated walkway linking the two sides of the mews. Prices from £775,000.
More niche projects are in the pipeline, including The Brownstones, an office conversion in Camden, and The Villas, nine contemporary-design, Scandinavian-style houses in Maida Vale. While driven by aesthetics, Serlin says it is equally important to him to create homes in areas still within the budget of rooted Londoners. So where’s next for buyers and developers searching for value? “Very east, and very south,” he reflects.
From £999,000: designer apartments at Manhatthan Loft Gardens in Stratford. Call 020 7535 2222
East, to Stratford, is where Handelsman has gone. His Manhattan Loft Gardens skyscraper alongside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the first new high-rise in the capital, perhaps the world, to incorporate designer lofts, in the shape of 80 double-height, volumetric spaces priced from £999,000. Call 020 7535 2222.
Historic Metropolitan Wharf is one of Wapping’s finest. The listed former tea warehouse had lain empty and decaying for decades when it was audaciously snapped up during the depths of the banking crisis five years ago by niche developer Nick Capstick-Dale.
Metropolitan Wharf is a genuine classic worthy of a Kate Moss fashion shoot, with its magnificent, stripped-back fabric of exposed brick, dozens and dozens of cast-iron columns and pine flooring.
The lofts line the top of the eight- storey building and have up to 4,000 square feet of space, 30ft ceiling heights, original rafters and a roof terrace with river views. They are for rent from £1,800 to £3,500 a week. Call Cluttons on 020 7647 7280.
Capstick-Dale’s next project is Lighthouse, a listed V-shaped structure in Pentonville Road, King’s Cross — reminiscent of the famous Flatiron Building in his beloved New York.
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