Ian Scott International


Why super flats are the new mansion in London’s luxury quarter

A new generation of wealthy house hunters are ditching the traditional London townhouse for the ultra modern, multi-million pound, luxury apartment. Max Davidson examines the rise of lateral living

To fans of Downton Abbey, and other period dramas set in stately piles, the idea of ‘lateral living’ is anathema. What is the point of having pots of money if you cannot live in a manor house, and lose yourself in the east wing from time to time?

For centuries, sweeping staircases have been as synonymous with conspicuous wealth as caviar and champagne. Until now that is. A new London elite is rejecting the traditional mansion in favour of the trophy flat, with not a solitary stair in sight.

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They are snapping up penthouses that overlook the capital, or vast, first‑floor apartments with high ceilings and five bedrooms.

The penchant for such properties, which often cost more per square foot than the finest Georgian terraces, is a true sign of the times, says James Forbes of Knight Frank Knightsbridge. A house in Belgravia with six floors and no lift might fetch between £2,000 and £2,400 per square foot, whereas the equivalent figure for an apartment would be closer to £4,000.

Only last month a brand new penthouse in Mayfair sold for £7,000 per square foot – the most expensive home sold in Britain so far this year.

Despite the inflated prices, super flats are in demand as never before while that for city mansions and town houses is starting to wane.

“Although the high-end homes market has been falling as a result of the recent changes in stamp duty, the properties bucking the trend, and holding their own, are apartments. Many of them are more like five-star hotels in character than traditional London houses,” says estate agent Peter Wetherell.

“The world’s super-rich all seem to want to have lateral living space on one floor, whether they are Middle Eastern royals, Asian bankers, celebrities or commodity brokers,” he says. It is a reflection of the social change in London.

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