Today is something of a Battersea bonanza. I am visiting four loft apartments in three buildings, each owned by a different person, yet all for the rental market.
Better known for its nappy-valley families, Battersea was actually the forerunner in bringing New York-style “loft living” to London, by converting former redundant Victorian civic buildings into oversized residential spaces.
Today I’m seeing three places in converted schoolhouses and one in a former library. Not a nappy in sight.
Today’s extraordinary space occupies an unusual site in the international and bustling metropolis that is Faversham, Kent. I drive down a rough track — my Land Rover feeling its purchase finally vindicated — and at the end, opposite the creek and next to a boat yard, is… a converted warehouse.
The building was constructed in the 1800s to store crops and send them to London by barge, but now it’s 6,000sq ft of downright dramatic living space with, of course, its own private one-acre paddock. It is an unlikely combination of elements, but if you ever found yourself looking to combine loft living with Country Life, you couldn’t do much better than this.
Less and less in London’s East End, but still, every so often, we get to see a classic and authentic warehouse conversion where someone has kept the building as one property. There are not many left now. Most have been sold on and either chopped into smaller and slicker apartments, or knocked down to make way for a new block.
Anyway, today’s charmer was a button and belt factory for more than 60 years and is now a freehold house. Much original character remains intact and, more unusual than even the space I’m standing in, is the mature garden out back.
Momentarily, I find myself expecting a straw-bearing horse and cart to clop on by, but carriages in Hackney are of a different sort these days. Still, I’m certain we’ll be making someone very pleased indeed to own this particular needle in a haystack.
Some 20 new enquiries alone today for live/work property. I can’t help thinking that developers are missing a trick as demand is way outstripping supply and the amount of new live/work space being created is minimal.
A little plea to property developers; please, please, pretty please give these more consideration. You could save thousands of pounds on plasterboard partitions and create some truly wonderful and exciting spaces to boot. It may come as a surprise but there are plenty of people out there who’d love to live and work in such a thing. And they’ll pay you good money.
At 9am I receive a phone call with a request to arrange a viewing in Camberwell, where we’re marketing a beautiful converted ceramics factory — 5,000sq ft of proper rugged space. The caller insists on the owners not being at the property at the time of the viewing, that they must be able to “drive straight in” (which they can, as the house and parking area sit behind large gates) and that the person wanting to view is “very private”.
A couple of hours later, a cavalcade of three blacked-out Range Rovers sweeps in — this mode of travel is de rigueur for people not wanting to be noticed — and just as I’m about to raise my eyes and mutter to the heavens, “Here we go again”, out of one of the cars steps a rock god idol of mine.
Thirty minutes later, after a thoroughly good look around, this particular private person was happy to chat, have a coffee and even promise some free tickets to their next gig. You never can tell.
* Solly Strickland is the London residential manager of Unique Property Company (uniquepropertycompany.co.uk; 0870 900 4050)