Happy ghosts, black cabs and chickens: the Tufnell Park home with a story to tell
PUBLISHED: 19:05 22 December 2016 | UPDATED: 17:07 04 January 2017
Former filmmaker Niko von Glasow is selling his home - chickens not included - to fund his philanthropic exploits. We take the tour - and meet its resident flock
When you stumble upon a house for sale that includes chickens in the estate agent imagery you know there’s a story behind it.
German filmmaker turned philanthropic entrepreneur Niko von Glasow is selling his home in Tufnell Park to raise funds for his latest project.
He’s best known for his 2008 documentary NoBody’s Perfect, an award winning and darkly humorous feature documentary following Niko’s adventures in bringing together 11 other people affected by the Thalidomide scandal for a nude photo shoot.
But now he’s quit film making cold turkey in order to focus on his new mission: bringing education to the masses.
“Billions of people don’t have access to education, and this is what I want to change. Humble as I am! I just want to change the world,” he tells me over breakfast round the corner from his house on Croftdown Road.
He already has a school in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam that he supports, as well as his ‘University in the Park’, where he encourages travellers to take time out to share language skills in an informal setting.
His next plan is to launch Jaacoo, a digital educational resource that will match those in need of education, be it a language or training in a particular skill, with teachers and students connecting via Skype calls.
Niko envisages the teacher/student matching process to be something akin to the dating app Tinder, and hopes that along with knowledge users will find friendship – and perhaps even love – through cross cultural exchanges.
The money raised from the sale of his house will go towards the project. That’s the main motivation, although disillusionment after the Brexit vote is also a a factor. The family will relocate to Italy, where they have an 1800 sq mt villa set in 40 hectares of land called Villa Polozzo.
The chickens aren’t included with Croftdown Road, however. Niko’s son Mandel, 18, plans to take them with them when the family relocates, and the lucky flock are going to travel there in style. He wants to buy a London black cab to drive his hens all the way to Italy. Once there it will be a final reminder of lovely but rainy London out under in the Tuscan sun.
Mandel has kept chickens at the house since he was 10. His father told him he could have five or so, and he came back with 22 chicks.
Currently the flock comprises of 7 chickens, mainly bantams they get from a local breeder and one mysteriously large hen that hatched from what they thought was a bantam egg.
My personal favourite is a silkie with a voluminous feathered poof on its head named, fittingly, India. The family also has two cats, one of whom has mothered over 50 kittens.
Menagerie of adorable animals aside, the house itself is lovely. Set over five floors, the winter light streams in through high windows and sparkles on the polished wooden floors. A proper German Christmas tree decked out with real candles sits in the magnificent bay window.
Plus it’s just a stones throw from the Heath, making its £3.8 million price tag practically a bargain.
When Niko and his wife Kirstin, travel writer and author, were house hunting in they walked around every park in the area first to check them all out.
“We wanted to live near a park, and Hampstead Heath is the most beautiful park,” says Niko.
They settled on Tufnell Park with its primes access to the Heath and the family-orientated nature of the area (their daughter Juli, now 20, was only a few months old at the time).
“When we looked for our house I told the estate agent that I was much richer than I am, so we looked at a lot of houses that we could never afford – just to have a look round,” he laughs.
Despite nosing around all the most expensive properties in the area, the von Glasows knew the moment they walked through the door that they were home,
“There was no other house. This was the house for us,” he says.
I’ve always felt that some houses carry a certain energy with them, and in Niko I seem to have found another believer.
“I think the most important thing about the house is it’s a happy house,” he explains.
“I don’t know if I believe in ghosts, but there are happy houses and unhappy houses, and this is a happy house.”
The happy house clearly loves an eccentric. When they moved in the von Glasow’s heard from their local greengrocer that the previous resident, a peculiar elderly gentleman, had a penchant for going out to the garden, stripping naked and pretending to be a hedgehog.
Happy ghosts and naked hedeghoggery aside, the house wasn’t without its challenges at first.
“It was a complete wreck,” he says.
There was no central heating, no kitchen to speak of and the fireplaces had all been plastered up.
The couple lovingly restored the house and went on to raise their children there, but now they feel it is time to move on. Von Glasow is sanguine about the future sale.
“It’s a very nice house, but life goes on and children move out. So we are moving to Villa Pozzolo – with our chickens!”
The chickens won’t even be the major selling point for the villa. The family plan to rent it out to guests for a few weeks of the year, with Mandel taking on the role as manager (as soon as he finishes his A Levels).
The most boutique of hotels, guests will be invited to share dinners with the family in between enjoying the expansive estate. Along with the 18 bedrooms there’s an artists studio complete with materials, a well stocked larder, wine cellar and library, a saltwater swimming pool and 40 hectares of land with a lake and 412 olive trees. Mandel made the first batch of Villa Pozzolo olive oil this year.
“When you let go from a house that you love you should have a new, nice plan,” Niko advises. “That way it’s not downgrading to a smaller place and being depressed.”
Mandel moved away from home after his GCSE’s to work as a chef in Florence, whilst Juli is midway through her studies at Christie’s and will complete her course with the auction house at the University of Glasgow.
But the von Glasow’s certainly needn’t worry about empty nest syndrome. Villa Pozzolo is sure to keep them busy and on top of his educational programmes in Vietnam Niko has Jacoo to launch. Meanwhile Kirstin is writing her third book, 111 Gardens in London That You Must Not Miss.
As for the house, Niko is convinced it will find the right owner.
“I’m sure it will go to some nice people. I’m sure,” he tells me. “This kind of house will not be bought by some weapons dealer, they wouldn’t like it.”
He adds, “I do mind who it goes to, but I trust in God.
“God will be my final estate agent.”
Knight Frank, 020 3797 2906