Want a Roman bath, a cinema or a state of the art gymnasium but do not want to upset the planners with a massive eyesore of an extension, well if you have the money, dig down.
Leonard Blavatnik, a Russian-born oil tycoon bought 15 Kensington Palace Gardens, probably the most exclusive house ever to have changed hands in London at a snip for £41 million, beating both Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea FC boss, and Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel tycoon to the deal.
Yet this Russian billionaire still wants to add his own personal touch to the property. Plans have been submitted to Kensington and Chelsea council for permission to excavate under the garden to the front and rear of the house to make space for a swimming pool, gymnasium, a home cinema and would you believe a three storey garage with automatic car stacker. At 4000 sq ft this is about 3 times the size of most homes. However today this kind of planning application hardly raises the eyebrows of the planners in this part of London.
It appears that the residents of the plushest parts of London are trying to out do each other with bigger and better extensions.
Some of the unbelievable upgrades include underground squash courts, which there are several under the streets of London, climbing walls and one multimillionaire is believed to be considering building an underground tennis court.
Then there’s the height adjustable swimming pool. Hydraulics raises and lowers the bottom of the pool so that you can have a paddling pool for the kids or a deep swimming pool for the adults. There is a race on at the moment to have the deepest pool in the capital at around 4 meters, twice the depth of other pools. One gentleman has a bespoke chute covered in a special slippery paint, which enables the owner, who loves swimming first thing in the morning, but hates the fuss of dressing, to step out of bed and slide straight into the water a couple of storeys below. If you think that’s a little over the top what about the lady who has had a bespoke vanity unit made to hold her 2100 lipsticks.
All this is happening, as London appears to be awash with money from foreign wealth as well as home grown riches from city bonuses and property developers.
A few years ago an extension of 8000 sq ft would be have been a massive addition but now 10000 sq ft is commonplace and the average cost of such an extension – £4-6 million.
Some of London’s poshest builders have more than 14 projects on the go and there is a waiting list to see them.
Technology is playing a big part in all this with such things as a swimming pool that has a concertina style cover that converts the pool into a 100 seat concert hall, shower glass that turns opaque at the touch of a button, audio systems costing as much as £250,000. and private gyms that rival any top health club.
As mentioned many of this is actually happening underground and builders are now digging as deep as 50 feet, holding the main house up on steel platforms. Then when the build is complete they re-landscape the garden with lawns and mature trees so no one is any the wiser.
This kind of building work in areas such as Mayfair, Notting Hill and Belgravia requires huge planning. First the scaffolding goes up surrounding the whole house, which is then cover from top to bottom with tarpaulin. Rubbish is removed by chutes and conveyor belts. For some of the big stuff to be bought in such as huge glass sheets, cranes arrive at the site and then roads are closed off and even trees and lampposts are removed.
This kind of investment as push the property prices up in prime central London by as much as 34.5% making it one of the most expensive places in the world. In fact there is a new development, One Hyde Park, where apartments will cost as much as £84 million a piece.
The super-rich are no longer demanding just luxury goods; they’re demanding a luxury lifestyle experience. It appears the people who already have the trophy address now want the trophy home.