Tag Archives: Property

 In praise of church conversions

 

Church conversions offer heavenly architectural features, soaring heights and quirky contemporary living spaces – usually at the heart of a community

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It’s not just buyers that love a church conversion, for developers they are a dream project, the chance to create a landmark residence, with unique living spaces. But taking on the double-height windows, crumbling spires, and leaking lead roofs is not a job for the feint-hearted, and it takes an experienced architect to sensitively configure the space. There is little more depressing than a badly converted church. Get it right though, and the results are remarkable.

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The 19th-century Saint Paul’s Church in Battersea was in a sorry state when developer Nick Laurence spotted it in 2013, but given the how rarely they come to market he jumped at the chance to buy it. “I was captivated by its potential and I could see that we could retain the church’s originality and ecclesiastical architecture, yet make intelligent adaptations to the existing structure and layout,” explains Laurence.

Today, the outside of the church looks much the same, although there’s a new roof that Laurence’s team travelled the country to source and completely reconditioned stained glass windows – but inside it has been divided in to four completely bespoke apartments across three new floors, the Apse, the Cloister, the Spire and the Tower.

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Throughout, the renovation has been as sympathetic as possible. “The church brought with it an innate sense of calm and a sanctuary away from London’s fast pace, so we sought to perpetuate that with the most natural materials that would complement rather than juxtapose the original edifice,” says Laurence. “We worked closely with our interior designer, Sarah Reed, to identify and retain as much of the church’s identity as possible.”

The three-bedroom Apse apartment is framed by double-height stained glass windows, while open plan living, dining and kitchen areas offer contemporary counterpoint. Any additions that have been made are based on century’s old stonework and hues, with tactile surfaces finished in oak, limestone, marble, linen and velvet to reflect the church’s timeless feel.

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“The Apse is a great example of how we’ve expanded on the existing structure with a new staircase, conceived to resemble a pulpit, with a thick rope bannister to evoke the ropes that ring church bells. We even handmade Gothic style arched doors.”

A mezzanine floor, complete with a library built into a huge arch that was the former altar, overlooks the living area and also harbours a hidden door in the library wall that leads to the jewel in the crown of the apartment: a 550-square-foot master bedroom suite.

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But it’s the Spire apartment, that includes the church bell tower, where the renovation of this project really comes to life. Laurence has turned it into a folly within the apartment – it is breathtaking, and offers its lucky owner panoramic views of the city. While some would have dismissed it as an unworkable space, Laurence has installed a viewing platform, which is wired for sound and illuminated by a five-metre-long, hand blown glass chandelier.

“We had a team of 12 joiners on site constructing a specially made wooden spiral staircase to provide access to this stunning space,” he explains.

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“Even after being on site for 18 months – at times with a team of 40 experts, overcoming obstacles and working with the challenges of a 160 year old church – I still find the building utterly compelling,” says Laurence. “Every visitor is awestruck.”

It’s rare to find such a well-restored and sensitively converted church, especially one that was formerly in such a state of disrepair – perhaps of this derelict building it was a case of divine intervention.

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The apartments at The Sanctuary are on the market from £1,650,000. Douglas & Gordon’s Battersea office on 020 7924 2000 or Winkworth’s Battersea office on 020 7228 9265.

Divine inspiration, three more ecclesiastical conversions:

St Joseph’s Gate, Mill Hill

Throughout the design and transformation of this Grade II-listed seminary, set in seven acres of grounds, the developer Berkeley has retained a host of original features, including the ornate Victorian staircases, imposing, feature windows and ornamental ironwork, all meticulously restored to its former grandeur. There are 59 luxury apartments in the gated development, starting from £899,995, and the showhome launched last week, contact 020 7718 5202, www.knightfrank.co.uk

 

The Lourdes Collection, Fulham

This historic Victorian Fulham church newly converted into nine luxury apartments, with a very modern feel, is moments from West Brompton underground. There are still three, two-bedroom apartments available, from £975, 000, 020 7368 4830, www.marshandparsons.co.uk

 

Oakfield Court, Bristol

Further afield, this new development launches in September and comprises 16 one- and two-bed apartments over four floors set within a beautifully converted church in Bristol’s highly desirable Clifton area. Expect kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows, high-vaulted ceilings, and even the church’s original arches – all have been retained and restored as part of the sympathetic conversion.

Prices from £225,000, 0117 317 1999, www.knightfrank.co.uk

 

ALISON TYLER

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A home fit for an architect

A micro-development of just three townhouses in a quiet, leafy Clapham street just off the Common by world-renowned architects Squire and Partners, famed for their flagship projects such as Chelsea Barracks and One Tower Bridge – it’s an intriguing combination.

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So when I met Henry Squire at one of the contemporary interpretations of a Victorian villa one sunny morning last week I wanted to find out more. It turned out that he hadn’t had far to come; his father and business partner, architect Michael Squire lives just two doors down.

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“This is the street I grew up on, and Dad moved here 30 years ago, so when we saw this old Eighties office block was up for sale – which never made sense on this very residential street – we just had to buy it,” explains Henry.

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Who better then, to take on the project of creating three new family homes than someone who already knows all the neighbours, and knows what people in the area are looking for.

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While they are undoubtedly “wow” homes they don’t look out of place and don’t overshadow or bully any of the neighbouring properties. There’s a modesty and simplicity about them from the outside – the huge picture windows still feel discreet somehow, while the bespoke metalwork on the balcony have been designed to mirror detailing that can be seen elsewhere in the road.

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Inside it is huge, with clean lines, and confident oversized parquet floors to match the spacious hallway, cloakroom, living room and library spaces on the upper ground floor. But there is still a sense of the Victorian villa here – in the drawing room there’s a real stone, marble-plinth fireplace; rich American black walnut timber has been used for all of the windows; the staircase curves up through the entire building and you can look up through all of the three floors to the top of the house.

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“We could have put in a lift, but I was just against it morally,” explains Henry. “I know we might lose a couple of buyers because of it but a family house like this shouldn’t have a lift – and you’d rarely climb all six floors at once. The same goes for comfort cooling, I just don’t believe a house like this needs it, you can just open the windows.” Although Henry does admit that they have installed comfort cooling in the bedrooms – these are the kinds of demands that international buyers want, and it is changing the shape of development in London, but Henry is confident about who will want this house and why.

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At the top of the building, three storeys up, a top floor media room have balconies on either side of the building, below it are six bedrooms, three of which have balconies. The master suite is luxuriously generous in size with a large, dressing area and a vast en-suite bathroom where Filetto marble combines with large porcelain tiles by Domus to create a serene, contemporary-but-not-too-cool finish.

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“We’ve deliberately kept it feeling neutral with room to personalise the space,” says Henry.

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“If we’d tiled it wall-to-wall there’s no opportunity for a buyer to make it there’s, so as the architect you have to hold back and restrain yourself a little.”

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The real selling point of this home, beyond its fantastic proportions and high quality finish, can be found on the lower ground floor.

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A separate, glass-sided staircase leads downstairs and is a taste of what to expect. Once downstairs you arrive at an entirely open-plan super-room that houses the kitchen, dining room, family snug, and a light-filled garden living room, separated by the rest of the room by a glass “sock” as Henry calls it. Sliding floor-to-ceiling glass doors span the entire back of the house, opening up the garden and living space seamlessly, while the walnut floor running the length of the inside gives a feeling of continuity. It is incredibly impressive without feeling brash, or smug, or over-the-top.

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“We could have put in a £250,000 kitchen, but again I just don’t think the house it needs it,” says Henry. “There’s not that much difference between a £50,000 kitchen and a £250,000 kitchen and it was important to us that it blends with the space well and functions well – this one is from SieMatic.”

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The Ceaserstone Osprey worktops and Filetto marble splashback feel as expensive as they look, while the copper pendant lights by Tom Dixon add a dash of contemporary colour into the mix. But you can see it would make a hard-working family kitchen in what is the ultimate family space. It’s a 21st-century version of knocking through the walls of a Victorian home that so many families have done up and down the capital, “our interpretation of the bourgeois break-through,” says Henry.

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Is it every architect’s dream to build their own home, I wonder? The answer, if this project is anything to go by, is “yes”. Henry’s father Michael Squire has actually moved into one of the three houses, leaving just two left for sale. And if it’s good enough for one of the world’s leading architects…

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The houses at Macaulay Road, Clapham are priced at £6.75 million, contact Savills on 020 3430 6900, www.savills.com.

ALISON TYLER

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