Boutique apartment schemes are a Clerkenwell staple and almost always pack a design punch. Standards have to be high — the area has more creative-sector businesses per square mile than anywhere else on the planet, with more than 200 architect firms, 60 furniture showrooms and homeware stores, a horde of advertising companies, new media agencies, graphic and interactive design studios.
Clerkenwell Design Week, from May 20-22, celebrates design and opens up this surprisingly quiet and discreet area, giving visitors the chance to experience an astonishing regeneration of a neighbourhood that 30 years ago was crumbling as the old print firms, watchmakers, bookbinders and brewers closed.
Those warehouses were the currency of the future. Many were converted and other industrial buildings went under the bulldozer. On the site of an electricity substation, 63 Compton is a new-build scheme of four two-bedroom apartments, each one occupying an entire floor, in a block clad in imported German Janinhoff glazed bricks.
From £1.75 million: apartments at 63 Compton, in Clerkenwell. Each one of four two-bedroom homes occupies an entire floor. Call 020 7250 4950
Ranging from 1,000 to 1,300sq ft, the flats have high, exposed-concrete ceilings and 39ft-long main kitchen and living spaces framed at either end by windows. The large, open-plan layout is made possible because an embedded sprinkler system avoids the need for an internal corridor and the customary fire regulation doors.
Sliding walls allow for flexible space, and the homes each have a private, south-facing terrace. The flats come with a 999-year lease and a 25 per cent share of the freehold, allowing for cost-efficient management of the block. Prices from £1.75 million. Call estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7250 4950.
At nearby 62-68 Rosebery Avenue, duplex flats are being created in a rooftop extension to a classic red-brick Victorian warehouse moments from fashionable Exmouth Market. Spread over two levels, the homes combine heritage architecture and contemporary design, with dramatic, double-height spaces and roof terraces with clear views of the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral. Call 020 7250 4950.
Fashionable location: apartments are being created above a Victorian warehouse at 62-68 Rosebery Avenue. Call 020 7250 4950
Buy to work
With such a large catchment of creative companies, there is always a pool of locals looking to buy a show-off apartment. Being City-fringe, Clerkenwell pulls in young bachelor bankers and lawyers desperate to prove that men in suits can be cool.
Clerkenwell is a unique neighbourhood partly because it is a live-work village, with all the youthful energy and networking opportunities that brings. Many creatives have a home over the shop or close to their workplace. “Buy-to-work”, a new way of owning rather than renting commercial space, has made its UK debut in the Clerkenwell heartland, and is proving a big hit with local entrepreneurs. The deal involves purchasing a unit at a courtyard complex of buildings that has become a new “quarter”, by Peartree Street.
Units range in size from 1,400sq ft to 5,700sq ft and are bought on 250-year leases. You can buy a shell, ready for transformation into a studio or office, or a finished unit. Prices start at £650,000, approximately half the price of same-size residential space. Call 020 7336 1313. JP Ledwidge, managing director of developer Silvertown, calls the accommodation a “commercial pied-à-terre”, though he stresses planning regulations currently prevent full-scale residential use.
Units can be purchased tax-efficiently through a Sipp specialist pension vehicle, and sold on, just like a flat. Already more than two dozens units have been bought by a mix of businesses that includes an agency for opera singers, the charity Catch 22, a Montessori nursery school and the Contemporary Art Society. The scheme revives the spirit of Clerkenwell’s 19th-century industrial heyday when it was stuffed full of small craftworking businesses.
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Homes at 62-68 Rosebery Avenue will have views of St Paul's and the Shard
Clerkenwell is tipped to be a big Crossrail winner because of its close proximity to Farringdon station. Currently one of London’s quieter mainline stations, by 2018 it will be Britain’s busiest, with a sevenfold increase in commuters and 140 trains per hour passing through.
Farringdon will be the single London terminus with integrated north-south (of the river) and east-west routes, and the only one allowing passengers to board Crossrail, Thameslink and Tube trains. It will provide direct links to Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and London City airports as well as Eurostar services at St Pancras, and to Brighton on the south coast.
The coming transport bonus is triggering corporate relocations to Farringdon — among them financial giant Merrill Lynch — and spurring on the redevelopment of Smithfield Market, where new station entrances are planned. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has yet to make a decision on developer Henderson’s plans for a spectacular makeover of the market that will bring a new artisan food quarter, boutiques and offices.
At least eight big mixed-use schemes are in the pipeline, including one above Farringdon station. An influx of office workers is likely to trigger demand for homes in an area that has been starved of new-build properties. So is that about to change? The jury is out.