Prices for designer homes in London are going through the roof thanks to creative use of space, quality materials and craftsmanship

25 April 2008, Star Appeal

By Richard Warren

Wealthy international buyers are paying the highest prices in the world for London’s designer homes.

Top developers, designers and architects carry as much cachet in the minds of luxury home buyers as top designer labels, and their creations have price tags to match. Brands are being created, not just homes. Sometimes, a home receives a stylish new lease on life; very often, an entirely new, branded residential scheme is built.

Designer homes are usually fully furnished with custom-made furniture. This ready-to-move-in aspect makes them particularly popular with overseas buyers.

An ambitious project in the pipeline is the Richard Rogers-designed One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge where Candy & Candy is development manager and interior designer. The Mandarin Oriental Group will provide residents with five-star hotel-style services when the project is completed in 2010.

Sales prices at the project are nudging close to £6,000 (HK$92,522) per sqft, one of the highest in the world. Half of its apartments have been sold for an average of £20million each since marketing started. Eighty per cent of buyers are from overseas.

“People have bought into Candy & Candy because there is comfort in the brand like there is for a Louis Vuitton handbag,” says Camilla Dell, partner of Central London property firm, Black Brick.

Little expense is spared on One Hyde Park’s construction. Its high-spec interiors will be finished with artwork by leading contemporary artists Sam Taylor-Wood, Nadav Kandar and James Turrell.

Other new projects are increasingly lavish and exotic.

At the Halcyon, where the former Holland Park Hotel has been turned into 12 apartments by designer-developer Tusk, an eight metre-long wall in the show flat’s master bedroom is covered entirely in silver leaf.

Until recently, designers Linley and Imagine Private Clients focused mainly on styling flats, such as those at Cheyne Apartments in Chelsea Wharf (SEHK: 0004 <http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/template.PAGE/page.company_profile/?companyId=0004.HK&s=business&ss=scmpIR> ). Now, a growing number of firms are refurbishing houses. At the top end of the market, Rigby & Rigby specialises in creating designer family houses, while mainstream developer Weston Homes is introducing more style, having turned a former chapel in Kent into a glamorous home at its Mayfield Grange development.

The cost of bringing these designers’ visions to reality is worth it for developers. Research from estate agency Knight Frank shows the designer touch can add 60 to 70 per cent to the value of a home.

Knight Frank head of residential research Liam Bailey says: “It is not so much the specifications in terms of fancy taps and other accessories that is important, but the designer’s use of space, use of good quality materials and craftsmanship.”

In Belgravia and Knightsbridge, a home can sell for £2,500 per sqft but this increases to £4,000 per sqft for a high-spec property in the same street, his research shows. Prices for apartments at the Richard Rogers-designed Montevetro building in Battersea – a new development – have outperformed the immediate market by 26 per cent since it was completed in 2000, he says.

Mr Bailey expects brand name developments to become even more luxurious.

“New projects in super-prime markets have seen an `arms race’ by developers to `up-spec’ their developments and keep ahead of the competition,” he says.

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