This unique Chelsea home, once owned by a renowned Welsh portrait painter, has always remained in the hands of the same family. But they are finally letting it go, putting it onto the market for the first time ever. The Resident discovers which famous artists walked these hallways
Words: Mark Kebble
It’s a rarity for these pages to come across a property that has, until now, remained the hands of one family. Built between 1956-57, the property at 153 Old Church Street was built on the former site of the studio of the renowned Welsh portrait painter Augustus John (1878-1961).
Influenced by Rembrandt and likened to Gauguin and Matisse, John was a leading exponent of Post-Impressionism. By the 1920s, he had become a celebrated and established portrait artist, appearing on the cover of TIME magazine in 1923. John painted several eminent contemporaries of the time including Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, T.E Lawrence, James Joyce, Dylan Thomas and W.B. Yeats.
Throughout the late Victorian era, Old Church Street was home to a diverse range of artists and intellectuals, so it made perfect sense that this home was built on the site in which it stands today. At the time of writing, the family who owned it had decided to sell the home, bringing it to the market for the first time in 60 years, for a £5m guide price (it has since been snapped up).
Old Church Street was home to artists and intellectuals
Interest in it, rather unsurprisingly, was high. ‘The history of this property highlights the artistic and bohemian character of Chelsea, having had two significant painters based at this address [Robert Hannah, the Scottish portrait painter, is believed to have shared the studio with John],’ says Alan Russell, Director of Russell Simpson, who were charged along with Savills to be the selling agents. ‘This is a family house designed and created by an artistic lady, rich in style and character, located in this extraordinary position with huge potential.’
Sitting across three floors with 3,343sq ft of accommodation, the property will offer many opportunities to the lucky buyer. For a start, it is full of light, has large windows and generous ceiling heights, which really do stand out when inside the property.
Once you pass through the airy entrance hall, you come to the spacious drawing room, which has a stone fireplace, attractive cornicing and two sash windows overlooking the rear terrace and garden. The drawing room connects to the dining room with an adjoining wooden panelled kitchen, which can also be approached from the entrance hallway.
The master bedroom suite on the first floor overlooks the garden, which is complete with a south-facing roof terrace, and an en-suite bathroom that is also shared with a single bedroom/dressing room. A further double bedroom is located to the rear of the house with a 3.2m high vaulted ceiling and an en-suite bathroom.
The first floor also features a conservatory fitted with a kitchenette, opening onto the roof terrace shared with the master bedroom. Featuring an intricate, curved glass roof and stone tiled floor, the original owners used the conservatory – very in keeping with its history – as an artist studio.
The lower ground floor of the property is currently configured as a self-contained one bedroom apartment. However, we have seen architect-drawn plans (which are subject to planning permission) to convert the property into a single dwelling with the garden floor utilised as a spacious family/kitchen breakfast room and further bedroom. Subject to planning, a basement could potentially be built to provide a home cinema, gymnasium, additional bathroom or more.
Located three houses to the north of the Chelsea Arts Club, the property is unique with a double width garden with southerly and westerly views backing onto the communal gardens of the houses on the eastern side of Elm Park Gardens.
‘This is an utterly charming home full of character,’ adds Barbara Allen, Head of Savills Knightsbridge. ‘Tucked away discreetly off Old Church Street, it provides both flexible accommodation and huge scope for development. On the site of the former studio of Augustus John and located in the heart of Chelsea, you are reminded of the property’s artistic links throughout.’ You could say, in fact, it’s as pretty as a picture.