When couples of a certain age watch their children leave home, they typically downsize, declutter or maybe just repaint. Not so for South African couple Chris and Melinda Bird. When their daughter flew the nest last year, they called in the builders to turn their £2m family home in Fulham’s Radipole Road into an all-singing, all-dancing party pad.
Out went a spare bedroom to make way for a balcony overlooking a vastly-extended party kitchen. In came ensuite bathrooms so guests could comfortably stay over, a high tech wireless music system with hidden ceiling speakers in every room, and the basement floor was lowered to build a fully-waterproofed wine cellar with tasting area and feature “spitting” sink. They also added some top notch soundproofing.
“They absolutely didn’t want a family home any more – they wanted an adult folly where great entertainment space was key,” says Billy Heyman, MD of BTL Property, who carried out the £800,000 refurbishment.
Leisure spaces in luxury London homes are becoming less about “me time” and more about me, you and 100 of our closest friends in sumptuously designed surroundings that render going out pointless. Swimming pools turn into dance floors, walls retract to reveal hidden bars and in one St John’s Wood house, a gym floor opens up to expose a 1,000-bottle wine cellar with adjoining wine room and “contemplation area”.
The best party houses combine space, privacy and views. “They should provide exceptional free-flowing spaces with a wow factor – ideally integrating seamlessly with the external landscaping so you can expand the guest list significantly,” says Mark Pollack, director of Aston Chase. Add a bit of drama in the form of a Lalique chandelier or a recognisable art collection and you’ll be fighting to keep them away.
Penthouses lend themselves perfectly to the job – and with the average London penthouse costing £13.3m, according to new figures from Lonres, developers are throwing in the firepits, hot tubs and other Miami-style accoutrements to make buyers feel they really have something worth showing off to their friends.
One penthouse with views to spark any party conversion sits on the 37th floor of Strata in Elephant & Castle, on sale for £1.75m, its 43-foot wide living room with sloping windows providing a prime frame over every central London landmark.
The Penthouse 127 in Shoreditch, on sale for £4.75m, is a similar conversation piece, with 360 degree views from its 1,372 sq ft wraparound terrace that includes an outdoor lounge, kitchen, dining area and even an al fresco TV.
Also in Shoreditch but more discreet in its party particulars is the penthouse at Avant-Garde – a two-bed duplex, £3.5m which features a gold wall in the reception room that opens up to reveal a moodily-lit bar.
You don’t need a new-build to be the ultimate socialite, however. You could follow in the footsteps of practised partiers The Astors in a converted listed farm building built by Lord Astor on land that was once part of the Cliveden Estate. The property £3.95m, pays a nod to the partying days of the young Astors, with its theatrically huge space and features such as a galleried music room, a concealed spiral wine cellar and a cinema. What’s more, its master bedroom looks across to Spring Cottage, where Christine Keeler stayed when she indulged in a different kind of partying with John Profumo.
“The Astor is a show-stopper, a property with a rich and scandalous history that has been turned into the ultimate party pad. It’s designed with a sense of fun in mind,” says Nick Hole-Jones, Hamptons’ country house director.
Another show-stopper in its time is Bethany Hall, a four-bedroom house in Ladbroke Grove which – to give an idea of its lofty proportions – once hosted a party where trapeze artists were hired to swing from the beams in its vast hall. Now the 1920s former dance hall is on sale for £5.5m and includes a “total immersion baptistery” currently used as a wine cellar.
If dinner parties are more your style, then you’ll be wanting a show kitchen, the latest feature in some central London mansions where guests sit around a counter in the kitchen to watch the chef perform. Camilla Dell from Black Brick buying agency describes one exquisite 12,000 sq ft townhouse in Belgravia’s Eaton Place, soon to come on the market. It includes a professional kitchen with “chef’s table” on the excavated basement level. “It’s ideal for families with their own private chef,” says Dell.
If this all sounds like taking partying to another level, there’s a Hampstead developer who is quite literally doing that. He has built a private high-speed lift to whizz guests to a 2,000 sq ft dedicated party space two floors below ground. As Aston Chase’s Mark Pollack comments: “It means that other residents of the building will be blissfully ignorant of the fun going on below their very feet.”
It just shows how London’s luxury developers are taking partying to dizzying heights – and depths.