A rare chance to buy a luxury London pad on a private garden square for €1.2m
For just a few minutes, London’s private squares felt like public property as William Thacker (Hugh Grant) and Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) climbed over a wrought-iron gate into Rosmead Garden, W11, in Richard Curtis’s Notting Hill.
There are more than 200 private garden squares in London, owned by the residents who live around them – the most notable, Cadogan, Pembroke and Wellington – and very few of us will ever get to enter one. However, if you’re in the market for a converted apartment in a period block, and have a budget of £995,000 (€1.2m), then you might be in luck.
The newly renovated Kensington Gardens complex, in the heart of Bayswater and a four-minute walk from Hyde Park, overlooks a two acre plot. Private space like this is almost an unknown in Greater London’s residential areas, let alone in Zone One, and the new Garden House apartment block has direct access.
This 58-apartment development, with a 24-hour concierge service, is made up of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. All are encased in a stucco-fronted Victorian mansion building and go on sale today.
“Normally properties on garden squares open on to a street, then you have a railing, and then the garden,” says Emma Whitby-Smith, head of investments at Residential Land, the developer of the Garden House. “We don’t think there is another like this, where you can come straight from your flat into the garden.”
86-92 Kensington Gardens Square was built in 1860, originally as seven grand mansions. Over time, the building became run down and, at one point, was used as a boarding house.
In the Seventies, it was converted into a block of flats, and a fifth floor added. The whole project is described by Whitby-Smith as “affordable luxury”. “Affordable” is relative: units start from £995,000 (€1.2m) for a one-bedroom apartment and £1.5 million (€1.9m) for a two-bedroom. Nevertheless, Whitby-Smith believes that the strategy is unique. “Anything of this quality in a similar location is likely to be north of £3 million (€3.8m),” she says.
Unlike other new developments such as nearby One Kensington Gardens, Garden House does not have a penthouse. This, Whitby-Smith says, was done to keep capital values down. The goal was to have all apartments under £2.5 million (€3.1m), and the one-bedroom units under £1.5 million (€1.9m).
This is a critical figure for stamp duty: properties valued at £925,000 (€1.2m) to £1.5 million (11.9m) are subject to a rate of 10 per cent, rather than the 12 per cent charged on properties valued at £1.5 million or more. Whitby-Smith defends the suggestion that Garden House will be yet more bait for the international super-rich. “A lot of the products on the market at the moment are over £2 million (€2.5m), but Kensington Gardens is cheaper than that. These units should therefore appeal to the domestic market,” she says. “We think there will be lots of people who will live here during the week and go to the country at the weekend.”
It is hard to see why anyone would choose to live in Garden House part time. Each apartment has deep, fluffy carpets, a south-facing patios and large, original sash windows. The signature apartments are on the corners. One has triple floor-to-ceiling sash windows that looks out on to the two-acre garden, while the bedroom has a different view, this time of a smaller, railed square at the front of the building.
This functions as a “front garden” for Garden House. Access to both outside spaces is via the lobby, where the 24-hour concierge is located. The entrance room gives a sense of the age of the building. The ceilings are high, and the team has preserved and restored the original cornicing
“Here, you know that the plasterwork hasn’t just been constructed, and the windows are wood – there’s no UPVC,” Whitby-Smith says. “That was important to us – buyers like authenticity.” Older buildings offer tangible advantages over their modern counterparts.
“Basic things like soundproofing are much better in a period building,” she adds. “It’s built to last, whereas the modern blocks age quickly. They’re very much of their time.” The purchase of a Garden House apartment buys “into a lifestyle”, says Carsten Swift from Knight Frank. “You’re getting a 24-hour concierge, parking by permit, and a two-acre garden.
You can’t get that anywhere else in W2 – or in central London.” Even at One Hyde Park, the Candy Brothers’ 86-apartment complex in Knightsbridge, the park is over the road, he adds. Swift expects the development will attract a wide range of people. “Young couples with a baby, older couples and single people. You’re going to get a mix of all sorts” he says.
The area facilitates this variety. “The people that will be attracted to this will be buyers that have a connection with this area – it’s an area you need to understand,” he adds. The shops and restaurants are representative of this variety, from Chinese chicken shops to the upmarket bowling alley, All Star Lanes, are on the doorstep.
Well-connected Bayswater is in the middle of its own transformation. With Circle and District line access, it is a short ride to the centre of town, and is within walking distance of both Notting Hill and Paddington. Whiteleys, the neighbourhood department store, is undergoing renovation as part of a £1 billion redevelopment project. This stretch of Queensway was once described as soon-to-be “Covent Garden of the west”, with a new eating “village” and shopping area.
Several other new residential developments have sprung up. Westbourne House, on Westbourne Grove, with its 24-hour concierge and underground parking; Leinster Square, a collection of town houses and apartments overlooking a private garden square; and the Hempel Collection, on the site of the Hempel Hotel in Craven Hill Gardens. “It’s very much a residential area,” Swift says. “It’s the sort of place where you can walk to and from dinner.” And when Crossrail completes in 2018, with a station at Paddington, W2 will be just 17 minutes from Canary Wharf, and 10 from Liverpool Street.
But despite the construction bustle, for €1.2m you can buy some peace and quiet in Kensington Gardens Square.
For details contact JLL Residential.