From Warehouse to Townhouse, to Country House…
When a property sale attracts multiple bidders, inevitably there is something rather special about it. A rare find? Unique features? Special provenance? A coveted location?
In the case of 23 Mercer Street, it’s all of these and we’re proud to have been instrumental in the recent sale of such an historic and culturally significant building.
This imposing former pineapple warehouse in Seven Dials was once the home of Blur bassist Alex James, until in 2004 life imitated art when he swapped the buzz of the West End for a more genteel existence and a very big house in the country.
We can’t be certain the proximity to Seven Dials institution Neal’s Yard Dairy inspired Mr. James to make his later switch from rock star to cheesemaker, but there’s little doubt the stumbling distance from Soho’s high profile 90’s hangout The Groucho Club may have been a key factor in the decision to acquire this unique home in the first place.
The West End has witnessed a great deal of change since the late 1990’s, but thankfully this cobbled enclave on the fringes of both Covent Garden & Soho has never lost its charm, remaining one of the most unique and desirable neighbourhoods in town.
Mercer Street itself is rather quiet, despite its exceptionally central location and being one of the seven streets immediately off the main crossroads, where the landmark sundial is situated. The north end of the street is an exclusive terrace of charming houses with a mix of architectural styles, bookended by a post-modernist office building on the northern corner and modern apartments to the south.
Being one of only a handful of freehold houses in the Covent Garden area, 23 Mercer Street is something of a rarity. Spanning four voluminous light-filled upper floors plus a sizeable basement level, the building retains many original features giving it oodles of character, combined with large open living spaces not normally associated with a central London townhouse.
Originally converted in the early-mid 1980’a as part of the Comyn Ching Triangle regeneration project, this one of a kind home was awarded Grade II listed status due to its architectural merit and degree of survival including the retaining and restoring original facades, fixtures & fittings.
The original project was spearheaded by high profile post-modernist architect and urban regeneration specialist Sir Terry Farrell, who’s other notable projects during the 80’s & 90’s included the TV-am studios at Camden Lock (latterly home to MTV and now Channel 5), Embankment Place above Charing Cross Station and the offices of a certain Mr. James Bond, MI6’s Vauxhall Cross headquarters.
Since then, Sir Terry and his architecture practice Farrells have spread across the globe with offices in London, Hong Kong & Shanghai, creating major regeneration masterplans including Paddington Basin, Newcastle Quayside and Greenwich Peninsula as well as architecture projects including Incheon Airport in Seoul, China’s Beijing & Guangzhou railway stations (the latter being the largest in the world) and both the Peak Tower and British Consulate in Hong Kong.
The Comyn Ching Triangle project was hailed at the time as a brilliant example of urban regeneration where historic buildings slotted into new development, with the period buildings of Mercer Street, Shelton Street and Monmouth Street joined at the corners by modernist office and apartment blocks all flanking the tranquil public space of Ching Court at the centre. Each building (including 23 Mercer Street) looked inward over the quiet triangular public courtyard with its pretty planters and cherry trees that blossom in the spring.
This slice of early 80’s urban regeneration has stood the test of time, illustrating how conservation and new development can work seamlessly together. Regarded as radical at the time, Farrell’s vision to blend 17th & 19th Century period architecture with his trademark postmodernism proved instrumental in paving the way for the more sympathetic style of urban development we see today. Sir Terry is a high profile champion of urban planning and in 2013 he was voted as having made the greatest contribution to London planning and development over the previous decade.
It’s easy to understand why multiple prospective buyers enthused over the unique aesthetic and were excited about the opportunities afforded by the wonderful light, open plan accommodation and geographical advantages this home had to offer, but the fact it’s a slice of history and a home with a genuine story that provides the real X-Factor and why this is truly one of the West End’s most unique homes.
We’re proper nerds when it comes to interesting buildings with a genuine story and how they fit into London life, so if you own a unique property in the West End, City Fringes or the South Bank, we’d love to hear from you, whether you need some advice or just for a casual chat.