With its fin walls (a paean to Scandi minimalism) and polished concrete floors, it’s hard to imagine that this stylish, contemporary west London home in Rylett Studios was in the 1950s a large laundry serving West End hotels. Three decades later it was used for storage before being converted into three offices at the turn of the millennium. Unlike most offices found on busy main roads, this one was situated in leafy Askew Village, with its artisan bakery and Ginger Pig butcher, near Shepherd’s Bush and Westfield, and a stone’s throw from Wendell Park. Today the offices have been turned into three four-bedroom homes.
It’s where Isabel Spearman — who was Samantha Cameron’s adviser during her time in Downing Street — and her husband, Mark Crocker, the computer tycoon, bought in 2013. Spearman has now set up her own business, Spearman Consulting, a brand and image company.
Yet not even the couple’s extensive business knowledge made this conversion in any way straightforward. Despite taking advantage of the favourable changes made to planning regulations for converting commercial spaces, they were still required to acquire detailed reports from experts to assert that the house was, among other things, not a contaminated site, not situated in a flood risk area and wouldn’t affect local transport, before the council would agree to the application.
“It was a nerve-racking time,” says Spearman, “as you can never be certain of the outcome of any planning application. We had no back-up plan if the application failed.”
Fortunately, they were granted permission. The planning stress continued, however, because they also had to make an application to change the front door, windows and open up part of the roof to make a terrace with large bifold doors, which were key to the feel and use of the space.
“We got lucky and had a very helpful planning officer from Hammersmith and Fulham council who was really open and enthused about regenerating the area,” says Crocker. “He was very positive about the improvements we were making to the neighbourhood and came up with ideas that we ended up implementing.
“It would have made a big difference to the living space if we hadn’t received permission to build the terrace. It would have been a boxy room with a glass roof rather than somewhere that is so airy. The terrace is south-facing and there is an electric awning over it, so it feels like another room and adds another 150 sq ft of living space.”
They worked with Luke McLaren, of McLaren Excell, to ensure that every square foot of space was used, especially in the smaller rooms. “This was certainly a huge benefit of converting an open-plan office rather than doing up a terraced house with lots of internal, structural walls that would invariably have had some dead zones,” says Crocker.
To capitalise on the 5m-high glass rooflights, the decision was taken to put the living space on the top floor and the four bedrooms and three bathrooms on the ground floor. Other attractive features include a nifty mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, which removes any humidity from the three Carrara marble bathrooms and provides a continuous supply of filtered air to the four double bedrooms — a bonus for anyone with allergies or who prefers to sleep in a quiet bedroom with the window closed. The couple also ensured that every room had controlled underfloor heating and that the glass roof was covered with a special film to block out UV light.
Possibly the most arresting part of the house, on sale through Knight Frank for £2.4 million, is the open-plan kitchen and dining area, which is flooded with natural light and is the epitome of contemporary living. There is also a cleverly hidden fridge and pantry room with a second dishwasher, so dirty dishes can be whisked away when entertaining. The cosy TV den, which is located off the sitting area, can double as an occasional fifth bedroom.
There is also an off-street parking space. Public transport links are excellent, and Acton main line railway station and the Crossrail station (due to open next year) are a 15-minute cycle away.
The house was to be the family home for the couple and their two children, Frank and Jack, for the next 20 years, which explains the superb attention to detail and high-spec finish. However, a rare opportunity to buy a house that used to belong to Crocker’s family, in the same village where he grew up in Wiltshire, means they are leaving London.
Going from work to play
1 Television Centre, London W12
Tomorrow there is a new release of one, two and three-bedroom apartments at Television Centre in White City. The developer, Stanhope, is transforming the BBC’s former headquarters into 950 homes, a hotel and offices. Prices from £750,000.
2 Centre Point, London W1
The grade II listed office block at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street is being converted into 82 apartments by Almacantar. Prices from £1.825 million.
3 Hexagon Apartments, London WC2
This former 1960s office tower in Covent Garden is BNP Paribas Real Estate’s first residential development. The 59 apartments start at £1.65 million.
4 The Hoover Building, Perivale
The art deco Hoover factory in west London, is being converted into 66 apartments. The range of studio to three-bedroom flats by the developer IDM Properties comes to market in spring, prices from £275,000.
5 New Street Chambers, Birmingham
After the success of Birmingham’s first office to residential conversion near by, New Street Chambers is being converted into 19 one and two-bedroom apartments for rent, from £1,150 a month.
6 Wheatsheaf Works, Leicester
This development comprises the conversion of a shoe factory into 172 homes — a collection of studios, apartments and townhouses — south of the university by the developer Urban Rhythm. Prices from £87,000.
7 Customs House, Manchester
Fortis Developments has submitted plans for five blocks, housing 759 luxury apartments, in Salford Quays. The focal point will be the conversion of two former office buildings, Custom House and Furness House.
8 Ogdens Tobacco Factory, Liverpool
A joint venture between Countryside Properties and Liverpool Mutual Homes has permission to convert the grade II listed office block and clock tower into 19 apartments, with 133 homes to be built on the rest of the site.
9 The Keel, Liverpool
Moorfield Group has converted an office block built in 1993 for Her Majesty’s Customs & Revenue on the dockside in Liverpool into 240 apartments. Prices for the luxury rental homes start at about £500 a month for a studio flat.
10 The Chocolate Works, York
The grade II listed former Terry’s chocolate factory, which sits on a 14-acre site, was closed by Kraft Food in 2005 and is being converted by PJ Livesey Group into 173 apartments. Phase two of the five-storey conversion, known as The Residence, has been released, with two and three-bedroom penthouses available from £549,950.