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November 30, 2010
The Lure of London Luxury Stucco-Fronted Homes
“Palazzo” is Italian for “palace”, and palaces they were. Imposing columns, crisp white facade, ornamental window pediments, grand entertaining spaces—these homes had it all. Their designs hark back to the styles invented by Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, explaining their “Italianesque” character. Some are clad entirely in immaculate white stucco. Others have stucco sheathing their ground floor walls, but London stock bricks exposed on the upper storeys, a cost saving method by their builders. Either way, the style of London’s stucco-fronted homes was intended to exude sophistication, radiate class, and surround owners with luxury.
In the original design, the grandest drawing room would have been on the first floor. When browsing for a palace of their own, most buyers prefer flats on this level. Today, those high ceilings and large windows grace first floor flats, contributing to their high desirability. In some cases, as the grand houses were carved into flats, a mezzanine level would have been added to the first floor, ruining the impressive volume but adding marketable floor area to the space. In other cases, such as with many of the houses along Collingham Road, entire storeys were added in the vast ceiling height between the first and second floors, a real bonus for the developer. Most flats, no matter what their floor, are between 700 and 1,500 square feet. Leaseholds are standard, with a few shares of freehold, all with service charges. Flats range between one and three bedrooms, generally with access to terraces or patios on the lower floors. Exceptions exist, but all share the class associated with a stuccoed front.
What to expect
Sadly, entire palazzos in their original, single-residence state are quite rare. When they do come to market, they fetch heart-stopping figures. An offer of £15,000,000 will buy a seven bedroom terraced stucco-fronted home on Cadogan Place in Knightsbridge (nearly £2,500 per square foot). A five bedroom place on Kensington Gate can be swooped up for £5,500,000 (around £1,800 per square foot). Prices per square foot can vary widely, a trend also true of flats within stucco-fronted buildings. Lower ground and ground floor duplexes typically achieve around £1,000 per square foot, though flats on the first and upper floors regularly see £1,500 per square foot. A 1,300 square foot place on Holland Park recently listed for upwards of £2,000 per square foot. This is a testament to the price effects of variables such as location and garden access. Lifts also add desirability.
Walking through your own set of white columns inevitably evokes regal feelings, even if you can’t have the whole block.