venerdì, ottobre 05, 2007

From Victorian water tower to hot property

Buyers who hanker for the high life will love this Plumstead property. A converted Victorian water tower, it has amazing views over the capital - and quite a bit of style, says Ginetta Verdrickas
Just two miles from Blackheath, in less fashionable Plumstead, south-east London, a converted Victorian water tower has recently come onto the market, attracting potential buyers and passers-by who are curious to see inside this local landmark.Behind its red-brick façade, enclosed by high walls and a security gate, the tower's exterior gives few hints of what lies inside. A product of the late Victorian drive to bring clean water to the surrounding area, today the tower is being marketed as a super-smart four-bedroom home. With two doors to choose from, finding the entrance was a challenge but it's well worth coming in through the front to get the full effect. An unassuming door opens into an impressive double height hallway where you'll find a lift to take you directly to the rooms contained within the tower. The energetic might prefer to climb the original stone staircase where exposed brickwork produces a castle-like atmosphere but, be warned, the tower contains eight storeys, negating any need for a home gym.
Each floor holds one room only: the largest measures just over 12ft long by 10ft wide, and two of the property's bedrooms are housed within the tower. On the second floor is the study, with its hand-built furniture making the best use of the unusual space. An impressively vast bathroom, complete with Philippe Starck fittings, occupies the entire fourth floor. And, while it must feel disconcerting to anyone sitting in the stand-alone bath and imagining surprise guests disgorging from the lift, it's reassuring to find that the lift can be disabled from any of the rooms to ensure privacy.But if any aspect of the property could prompt agent hyperbole it is the tower's crowning glory, the glass observatory. Unsuitable for the vertiginous, the far-reaching views are best enjoyed from the balcony, which wraps around the tower. Indeed, if one feature alone could sell this unusual property, the views surely will. The British Telecom tower, the Swiss Re building ("The Gherkin") and Wembley Stadium are all clearly visible. You can look out over ancient woodland, Oxleas Wood, and another water tower, still in use, towards the distant horizon. The skyline is particularly impressive at night. City Airport is only eight miles away so keen plane-spotters will have great views of take-offs and landings. The observatory has been fashioned into a cosy living space complete with cocktail area, plasma screen TV and low sofas, making it the ultimate pulling pad to entice any damsel keen on letting her hair down à la Rapunzel. For owner Alan Rowell, who developed the tower as a commercial venture, this is his favourite spot: "It's just so relaxing and is a great chill-out room." Alan Rowell took on the tower conversion after being inspired by an architect's vision, but admits that it was not the most financially successful of projects."It has been challenging and difficult but it's also been a lot of fun and I'm really proud to have done it," he says. Tall thin towers don't necessarily make the best living spaces or the most viable conversions. But this one benefits from a two-storey building attached to the main tower by a glass walkway. "The idea was always to combine the very old with the new. I can imagine people living mainly in the additional structure and using the quirky rooms in the tower for entertaining and guests," says Rowell.The kitchen and main living space occupy the ground floor, with double height windows looking out onto a Japanese-style water feature which encircles the property. Two more bedrooms are also housed in this part of the property including the master suite with hand-built, walk-in, his-and-hers closets. The specifications are very up to the minute, with sleek, hi-tech features that include a Lutron lighting system and electrically operated curtains, blinds and shutters. But the tower also retains period detail such as exposed brickwork and wrought-iron railings in the stairwell. Initially put on the market for "a bullish £2 million", selling agents John Payne believe that the more realistic selling price of £1,395,000 will now lure a buyer: "To be honest it's a terribly difficult house to value, but if you look at the quality of the fixtures and fittings then it's enormously good value," says agent Richard O'Toole.Viewers so far include a "mixed bag of footballers and families". Keen to dissuade too many sightseers who, he accepts, simply want to see inside a building with a high curiosity factor, Richard O'Toole believes the property will appeal to a city boy from Canary Wharf - which is well within view from the tower's observatory."It will probably go to someone who can see it from their office window," he says. "I believe it could make the ultimate bachelor pad."

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