Property match: Belsize mews house with space for a collection
- Credit: Archant
Remodelled former stable in a historic Belsize Park mews WLTM a cool urban family for drinks on the terrace and a quiet retreat from city living.
Turning off Belsize Lane into the cobbled hush of Daleham Mews feels like stepping out of the 21st century and onto the set of a stylish 1960s spy series. I half expect Diana Rigg to slink round the corner in a catsuit. Instead a man in a business suit swings into the mews in his Porsche – such is the reality of life in Belsize Park in 2016.
Porsches aside, this peaceful enclave in the less grand part of NW3 has a long historical connection with vehicles, having been built in the 1880s as garages and stables for the large wealthy professionals’ houses in the surrounding streets (residents still have the right to keep donkeys and horses).
The first record of a residential use for the mews was in 1893, when a man named Albert Cooke, possibly a coachman, lived in rooms above the stables, and nowadays the mews buildings themselves house their fair share of wealthy professionals, along with the odd actor – Game of Thrones star Sean Bean recently moved out, having lived in the street for nearly 20 years.
While a few commercial garages remain, the others have been converted into plush residences including the contemporary four-bedroom home, which is currently on the market for £4.35million.
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The property is home to Phil, a writer who lives there with his two teenage children and girlfriend, Ellie, who works in an art gallery.
“We bought the house because we really wanted to live in Daleham Mews,” says Phil. “We love mewses generally but this is the most beautiful mews in Belsize Park.
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“It’s got a really nice balance between a mews where people live and a mews where people work, it’s really nice having that activity going on, harking back to the mews’ history before anybody lived there.
“And then the reason we bought this house in particular is that it’s the most interesting house in any mews that we’d seen. It’s not what you’d expect from a mews house.”
The family bought the house five years ago from developers, who converted two adjoining properties into one, completely stripping and redeveloping the interior.
Shahriar Nasser Founder Director of Belsize Architects, the practice behind the renovation explains: “There were two separate mews houses and we basically demolished and rebuilt them and added the basement.
“We started out with the idea that the darker areas of the development should be the bedrooms, so we put them on the lower levels, and the living areas should be in the lighter areas – that’s how we design all our projects.
“One of the best selling points for the house was the sunken Japanese courtyard. The developer had a lot of comments about how good it was to have all this light and air coming into the space right down to the bedrooms.
“Often you have these basements which you don’t really feel like being there because they’re dark and dingy but we believe that if you’re going to go to the expense of digging a basement, you have to make it feel like a comfortable space with natural ventilation and be able to open the window.”
Ellie and Phil agree that the Japanese courtyard was a major draw for them as well as the other surprising pockets of outside space that carve out the back of the house.
“I love that every single room in the house opens out into the same courtyard,” says Phil. “When you’re lying in bed you can’t see any of the other houses, just sky and greenery.”
It certainly feels miraculously peaceful, despite being surrounded by other houses, standing on the roof terrace on a still spring day, the only sound you can hear is birdsong.
“I love taking a drink out to the roof terrace at the end of the day,” says Ellie. “You can look over the roofs of the neighbouring houses and feel like you’re being catapulted into the sky.”
Ellie says that the fluidity of the internal layout was also a huge draw, with the open plan communal space perfect for family entertaining.
And judging by the eclectic array of art and objects on display throughout the house, it comes as no surprise that the couple are both great collectors, with paintings, photographs, sculpture and guitars all forming part of the décor.
“We collect lots of interesting and weird things, from guitars to pictures, and it’s a beautiful gallery,” says Phil. “The high walls and the lighting offer a great space to hang things.”
Although the pair say it has been an ideal family home, with the mews a friendly place for children to play ball games, Phil says they’re moving on to give the now teenagers space to pursue their own interests.
“At a certain age the mews is a really really nice place for kids but as they approach their teenage years they start to plough their own furrow. We’re moving on largely because they need space to play music. They’re in a band together called The Morphines.
“We’re also increasingly over run by pets so we need a slightly different layout and a bigger garden but we’re definitely staying in Belsize Park.”
So who might move in next?
“It’s really flexible. I think it would suit either a single celebrity buyer, someone really cool, or it would be great for another family upsizing from a flat,” says Lee Koffman of Aston Chase who is overseeing the sale.
“This is one of the coolest mews houses out there. To find this in the heart of Belsize Park, done to such a high standard and so well proportioned is very rare.”