Step in­side your own se­cret gar­den

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Lon­don Life -

A new Lon­don scheme gives own­ers ac­cess to a pri­vate plot of green­ery right in the heart of the cap­i­tal, writes Eleanor Doughty

PFor 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 clock, and have a bud­get of £995,000 mil­lion, 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 three­bed­room 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 for a one-bed­room apart­ment and £1.5 mil­lion 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,” 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, and the onebed­room units un­der £1.5 mil­lion.

This is a crit­i­cal fig­ure for stamp duty: prop­er­ties val­ued at £925,000 to £1.5 mil­lion 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, 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,” Whit­bySmith 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

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