Luxury living: London’s residential towers

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If I were a professional burglar targeting the homes of the super-rich, I’d want to be the character played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the film Entrapment. But I’d also consider a new career, as taking your loot down 50 floors doesn’t seem very practical.

Throughout London, super-duper residential towers have been planned for London’s skyline. Over 250 buildings higher than 20 storeys are either being built or going through planning – and this trend looks set to continue. The penthouses of these towers, with their commanding views, have been reserved for the super-rich.

Currently, the tallest residential buildings are The Tower, St George Wharf in Vauxhall where a triplex penthouse was, according to a well known London agent, sold for ‘north of £40 million’; One Blackfriars, currently under construction, where the penthouse is priced at £23 million (both by St George); and CIT’s South Bank Tower where the penthouse is priced at circa £20 million. And close to our office at Chelsea Harbour, Hong Kong based Hutchison Whampoa are developing two towers as part of their Chelsea Waterfront development which have just come on sale. They will also be converting Lots Road Power Station into large lateral apartments, well worth waiting for.

Nearby, St George has just launched the Chelsea penthouse – The Tower Penthouse at Chelsea Creek, which is available through Knight Frank for just under £17 million. They are leading the way when it comes to towers. The developer received planning earlier this year for South Quay Plaza in Canary Wharf, which at 721 foot means they are set to break the record for London’s tallest residential tower yet again.

Tony Reddy, Chairman of Reddy Architecture says globally residential towers are becoming a defining feature of the modern metropolis but they should not be built in isolation. “Towers should be an integral part of the urban places in which they are located,” says Tony. “Issues such as views from adjoining streets, heritage sites and the fabric of the urban network all need to be considered as part of the design process.

“Addressing these issues requires creative architectural and urban design professionals to ensure that new towers are well designed and located in the right places.

“New York has applied strict rules to the building of its skyscrapers for almost a century during which time it became the world’s most dynamic city. These guidelines did not hamper business, instead they actually enhanced the development of the city.

“Perhaps now is the time for London to consider implementing similar guidelines for its new tall buildings.”

Because of the difficulty in getting planning permission, towers may not always be in the golden postcodes but they offer so much more in lateral spaces and can be better suited to displaying contemporary art and furniture. However, the design and branding must be exact, to convince buyers to step out of London’s traditional super-prime locations.

Rhian Barker, Associate Director at the luxury interior design studio Accouter Design, says developers need to offer something more bespoke and tailored to attract the discerning high-end buyer.

“Every penthouse should look different,” she says. “If you were spending £20 million, would you want it to look like other ones on the market? Developers should be braver and design them all differently.”

As most penthouses are bought off-plan, she says that developers could offer the buyer an opportunity to work with a recommended designer from the beginning and have something tailored bespokely to them. “It will save money in the long run as the buyer will be getting exactly what they want,” she says.

“It doesn’t have to be too over the top, just a range of wallpapers, joinery finishes and lighting features to choose from so they feel individual. Detailed CGIs will show a buyer exactly what they are getting. Our CGIs show everything down to the final pipe on the final cushion on the sofa.”

According to Rhian, the main things with big penthouses are to “consider the finish on the stairs, avoid too much stone in spaces with huge windows as it feels very cold, and never dress the windows – the vista is the selling point and mustn’t be hidden.”

She says layouts are also key. “Sometimes they are so badly planned. Buyers at that price level deserve beautifully laid out bedrooms and entertainment spaces,” says Rhian.

In terms of furnishing, I think it takes a lot to beat Linley. They have the ability to add extra refinement, elegance and sophistication to the interiors of home, office or hotel. Their clever interior design team, using the skills of the furniture and cabinetmakers at Linley, has designed the suites and library at Claridges. You can’t get any classier than that. Their modern British style looks amazing in the large spaces of a penthouse apartment.

You can really feel like a conquering hero when you view our marvellous capital city from one of these towers. Safe, secure and the reassurance of knowing that a burglar is not going to scale the walls or enter by the back door, are good enough reasons why the super-rich are attracted to the high life. But they will want interiors to be tailored to their personal tastes. If it were my penthouse, I’d ask my interior designer to copy the living room in the film Fifty Shares of Grey (pictured below). For me, it was the best part of the film. No grotty greige sofas, just a wonderful use space and a grand piano for lead character Christian Grey to play.