This spectacular Victorian water tower in Kennington has been transformed into an amazing Grand Designs home with 360-degree views of London, and now it’s for sale…
Words: Georgina Blaskey
Lead image courtesy of Sotheby’s
Described by Grand Designs’ presenter Kevin McCloud as ‘a jaw-dropping showstopper’, this Victorian water tower in Kennington boasts 360-degree views of London and a stunning two-storey glass cube extension featuring the largest set of sliding doors in Europe. You could say, it’s making a bit of a statement in the neighbourhood.
Built in 1877, the 150-year-old tower once supplied the workhouse where Charlie Chaplin lived as a child with 30,000-gallons of water. In 2011 it was derelict and decaying – ripe for development by someone with the right vision. When Leigh Osborne and his partner Graham Voce spotted it from the flat they were renting in the nearby Strata building, they were intrigued.
‘I was attracted to the derelict water tower as I knew I could make it into a unique and wonderful home,’ explains Osborne, who has a property background. The steady guidance of architect Mike Collier persuaded the pair that they could convert the seven-storey relic into a functional home.
Removal of hundreds of dead pigeons (not to mention their waste) and tenacious trees that were growing inside the building was the first step in what was a true labour of love. Osborne cites ‘building on a small plot of land’ as the biggest challenge the project faced. Luckily, vacant land owned and leased by the freeholder meant trucks, cranes and builders could get on site.
The tower itself comprises seven floor levels leading off the retained original stone staircase, starting with its own self-contained plant room in the basement, followed by a gymnasium and then five bedrooms on top of each other with the third-floor master bedroom being a mezzanine floor within a double-height space with the dressing below. Despite its heritage, when it comes to tech the house is anything but old-fashioned with a Crestron home automation system and underfloor heating throughout, keeping things warm and cosy under all that glass.
But this unique property has saved the best for last. The ninth floor has been converted from what used to be the original water tank to a spacious and bright reception room with 360-degree views over London. Most of the city’s iconic landmarks can be seen from this room including the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, The Shard and even as far as Canary Wharf, making it perfect for evening entertaining. ‘My favourite time to be here is at night when the city’s lights are all on,’ says Osborne.
The tall, narrow space needed the additions to make it a successful home, and the modern features have opened up the space and made it habitable. The main extension is the four-storey ‘cube’ housing the kitchen-dining-living spaces and the other is the ‘link’, a new tower for the lift and all the bathrooms, with a glazed link connecting it to the original building.
Many original features of the Grade II-listed building have been maintained, such as the stunning York-stone staircase and brick exposed walls. The juxtaposing modern glass structure for the large, bright, open-plan kitchen and living area features five-metre-high sliding glass doors. This further houses an airy sitting room with projection TV and a sensational roof terrace with yet more breath-taking views of the London skyline.
Decorating an unconventional 100-foot tall property such as this is not without its challenges and the couple asked Sue Timney Design to help them with their task. Tones of blues with accents of reds – relating to water and fire – became the over-riding colour story around which the design of each floor developed. Finally, the team designed the original tank room at the very top of the building with simple cream on white finishes to complement the panoramic cityscape.
What started as an industrial building within a historical institution has become a cutting-edge landmark with striking features both inside and out – the lift, gym, garage and off-street parking are all big ticks. This vertical mansion oozes history and a story, making it an architectural gem in the London property scene, combining a character building with a modern aspect. A visionary home for a visionary buyer.
The Water Tower is on the market with UK Sotheby’s International Realty for £3.6million