Spectacular warehouses and factory spaces for London loft living

Developers keep finding fabulous ex-industrial spaces to turn into timelessly cool homes - and the demand is as strong as ever.
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Designer lofts and cool urban living go hand in hand, and as well as the fabulous ready-to-move-into lofts that crop up on the London market, these days shells are on offer — raw, double-height, dramatic spaces that a buyer can transform by creating a bespoke interior.

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.
External works, including new roofs, windows and doors, have been carried out, terraces created and all the key services — gas, electricity, water, cable connections — are in place. What the buyer gets is a blank canvas, framed by original industrial architecture.

“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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“Such trophy buildings are much, much harder to come by now,” says Serlin, who has returned to developing after a five-year break during which he acquired a masters degree in psychotherapy. His mews-style Piano Yard development, on the site of an old Kentish Town workshop, is new-build rather than a conversion, but Serlin brought his trademark panache to the project, creating a terrace of homes and offices with the full-height, steel Crittall windows and doors so beloved of architects.


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.
If anybody can bring residential glamour to fast-moving Stratford and cement its status as a desirable address, it is Handelsman, whose loft schemes helped catapult Clerkenwell, Bankside and King’s Cross. The tower, yet to be built, will be a shimmering, cantilevered 42-storey block with 248 apartments and open-air sky gardens. Handelsman describes it as a “thing of beauty” and insists the homes will be the finest high-rise pads in London.
New York-on-Thames
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.
He spotted an opportunity to establish a new residential and commercial hub, “a village in one building”, attracting creatives from Soho and Shoreditch. Capstick-Dale, 50, is an old-school property developer who has built up a multimillion-pound portfolio without massive bank finance, which frees him up to cherry-pick the buildings he loves. He aims for an affinity with his developments, to be “emotionally involved” and take all the gains or losses, rather than gambling with other people’s money.

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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