Flat out in cen­tral Lon­don

The ins and outs of rent­ing a homely apart­ment

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - RE­BECCA WEISSER

THEEnglish up­per classes have a proud tra­di­tion of rent­ing out the fam­ily pile to earn a bit of cash. So when the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis left fi­nance lawyer GuyVan­der Westhuizen scrap­ing around for cash, it seemed only nat­u­ral to let his swanky Lon­don apart­ment on a short-term ba­sis — or mon­e­tise it, as fi­nance peo­ple say.

Heasked an agent to rent it out for a cou­ple of weeks and also put an ad on­line. ANewZealand fam­ily wanted it for a week and the agent found some­one to rent it for five weeks. Be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur­ial sort, Van der Westhuizen took on the five­week ten­ant and found a flat for the Kiwi fam­ily as well. Thus was Ivy Let­tings born.

‘‘There was no com­pany spe­cial­is­ing in short-term rentals of pri­vate apart­ments. I re­alised there were lots of peo­ple who­had flats in Lon­don they only used for one or two weeks a month and whowould be happy to rent them out the rest of the time if they could,’’ he says.

‘‘At the same time, there were peo­ple who­pre­ferred the larger liv­ing space of an apart­ment, and the fact that they could cook for them­selves, es­pe­cially if they were go­ing to stay longer than a night or two.’’ Most of the renters are Aus­tralians, NewZealan­ders and South Africans, plus a few Cana­di­ans and Amer­i­cans.

Ivy Let­tings nowhas more than 70 prop­er­ties on its books, all within 20 min­utes of the cen­tre of Lon­don on pub­lic trans­port. They range from Hamp­stead in the north to Not­ting Hill and Hol­land Park in the west, sprin­kled through the fash­ion­able sub­urbs of Kens­ing­ton, Chelsea, Knights­bridge, May­fair and Bel­gravia, Covent Gar­den, Blooms­bury, the City of Lon­don and Tower Bridge.

You choose the prop­erty by vis­it­ing the web­site and search­ing ac­cord­ing to the num­ber of beds you need, your pre­ferred lo­ca­tion and bud­get. Prop­er­ties start from £500 ($752) a week, with the most ex­pen­sive from a cool £5000 a week.

At that top-end price you get ac­cess to the homes of the rich and fa­mous. For ex­am­ple, a sixbed­room Chelsea town­house at Pe­tyt Place was once the home of DonFac­tor, the son of cos­met­ics king Max. It is nowowned by a renowned Amer­i­can au­thor and his artist wife, al­though the web­site, semi-dis­creetly, doesn’t tell us whothey are.

Judg­ing by the fur­nish­ings, the au­thor writes bodice-rip­ping ro­mances. The house is on the banks of the Thames and has river views and gar­dens. Decked out with Ge­or­gian fur­ni­ture and paint­ings, with blue-and-white porce­lain on the man­tel­pieces and fine car­pets, this place is all frills, flounces and chan­de­liers.

The great virtue of Ivy Let­tings is that ev­ery prop­erty is unique, if not idio­syn­cratic. Our stay is in a base­ment apart­ment at Covent Gar­den. The lo­ca­tion is fan­tas­tic; we are in the heart of the theatre district be­hind the Royal Bal­let School. We­could walk to the­atres, the Na­tional Gallery, Le­ices­ter Square, Pic­cadilly Cir­cus, Ox­ford Street and May­fair. The Mo­nop­oly board is at our feet.

But de­spite be­ing in a part of the city that stays up late, the base­ment apart­ment is very quiet. There is loads of light and space, in­clud­ing a small out­door ter­race, which would have been more use had the max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture not been a brac­ing 11C (yes, in mid­sum­mer).

This un­ex­pected cold snap leads to a sec­ond prob­lem. We can’t work out howto turn up the heat­ing. There is an ex­pla­na­tion in the in­for­ma­tion folder but we can’t find the heat­ing con­trol and as it is quite late, we feel bad about ring­ing for as­sis­tance.

We­bring back food to heat up only to dis­cover there is no mi­crowave. Weare also keen to wash ac­cu­mu­lated laun­dry but the flat has one of those ma­chines that claims to wash as well as dry your clothes, and does nei­ther sat­is­fac­to­rily.

At our first at­tempt, the clothes are still wet so we have an­other go. But de­spite leav­ing on the dry­ing cy­cle for a cou­ple of hours, the clothes are still a bit damp. We­have a third go and ac­ci­den­tally turn on the wash­ing ma­chine again, so we we’re back to square one.

Our last at­tempt more or less cooks our clothes, which come out smaller, harder and not quite the same colour.

Some peo­ple find ho­tels im­per­sonal and would much rather have a home away from home. For oth­ers, look­ing at a stranger’s fam­ily pho­tos and see­ing signs ask­ing you to lay off the wine or food is a bit like staying in an up-mar­ket group house. But, thanks to Ivy Let­tings, the choice is yours. Re­becca Weisser was a guest of Ivy Let­tings.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.