Highbury Place is Georgian splendour at its best, featuring one of Islington’s finest row of terraced houses. However, it’s not all about the history as we venture inside one of those homes currently up for sale
Considering we are looking at a building that is almost 250 years old, it’s very hard not to focus on the past when entering this stunning Georgian townhouse on Highbury Place, currently up for sale through Savills Islington. It must surely feel like you are living in a piece of history. ‘Absolutely,’ says the property’s owner, Mary Robey, ‘but not in the “time warp” or “museum” sense. These houses are unquestionably grand and imposing in that classically Georgian way, but they function organically as living, breathing homes.’
There’s certainly plenty of life in this six bedroom property. Purchased by the Robey family back in 1993, they were careful to respect the past. ‘We used an architectural conservationist when we refurbished the house,’ Mary explains, ‘so we were able to keep the best of the old and graft on the practicalities of the new.’
Hard graft, it appears. ‘We gave the house a complete overhaul and have maintained it accordingly to the same standard ever since,’ Mary says. ‘We have it a new roof, plumbing, wiring, new kitchens, bathrooms, storage and masses of specialist decorative work. For example, we couldn’t raise the ceiling in the basement kitchen, so we lowered the floor and made it possible to access the garden directly from the kitchen. It cost over £2m to bring this treasure into its current condition and that was 20 years ago, so I can only imagine the cost of such a project in 2014.’
It was money very well spent. Arranged over five floors, the accommodation is incredibly light and airy. ‘The house has sunshine from breakfast to bedtime,’ Mary aptly beams. ‘The garden and the courtyard have morning sun until the middle of the afternoon, when it gradually moves to the front of the house for the evening. Having such generous windows and full length glass doors in the dining room and kitchen is a real luxury.’
Each of the six bedrooms have their own unique feel, something that has evolved over the 20-plus years the Robey family have been living there. ‘They have had many style incarnations, from bunny rabbits to buddhas, as the family has grown up,’ Mary says. ‘I have three daughters, so storage is paramount and there is a mass of wardrobe and cupboard space.’
What does connect most of the rooms are stunning views over Highbury Place. ‘The two front bedrooms have super views,’ Mary smiles, ‘and at the back the aspect over the gardens, rooftops and landmarks of London is lovely too. It’s a great viewing spot on Bonfire Night! The master bedroom has wonderful views and visitors love this peaceful room, which has its own bathroom. The bedroom looks directly onto the park, which is sensational, particularly in the morning. The largest spare bedroom has the best garden view and visitors love this peaceful room.’
Does Mary have a favourite room? ‘The most useful room is the utility room,’ she replies without hesitation. ‘To have such a big space for all the unsightly “logistics” of laundry with heaps of cupboard space for those things you only use infrequently is fantastic. I could not live without it.
‘Picking a favourite room is tricky,’ she continues, ‘but the dining room at night is pretty wonderful. The chandeliers were deliberately left to be lit by candles and it is an incredibly atmospheric room for dinners and parties, and is beautiful at Christmas.’
There’s so much to talk about with regards to the home. From the wonderful courtyard space – ‘Early morning coffee on the courtyard outside the kitchen is a tranquil start to the day and a good spot for a glass of wine in the evening’ – from which you enter into the French chic-style kitchen – ‘The kitchen is the hub of the house and it is important that it connects with the garden and feels generous and welcoming’ – to the artefacts dotted throughout, there’s such a variety of little touches that add a real unique feel to this Highbury Place home.
But as this Georgian townhouse has stood in this very spot since circa 1775, we have to end by talking about the location. ‘I love how Islington has grown in stature,’ Mary says. ‘It has become very “cool” indeed in a way that was only just beginning in 1993. It is a great plus to be able to walk to whatever you need. Within two minutes of closing my front door I can visit a world class butcher, an award-winning cheese shop, a terrific fishmonger and a fantastic independent wine merchant. But on the same trip I can post a parcel, buy a lightbulb or pick up the dry cleaning. I couldn’t live in an area where all the shops were so exotic you can’t buy “real” things.’
And even when the world around us continues to evolve at such a rapid pace, it’s reassuring to hear that past comforts remain an important part of Highbury Place life. ‘It is quite quaint that the milkman and paperboy still deliver along Highbury Place!’ laughs Mary.
The property on Highbury Place is currently on the market with Savills Islington, with a guide price of £5.95m. For more information, call 020 7226 1313 or visit savills.co.uk