Rodić Davidson Architects

‘Invisible’ mansard approved for Knightsbridge townhouse


Sectional 3D View

Knightsbridge is perhaps best known for its mansion blocks, developed through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth to house London’s ‘bright young things’. Their palatial redbrick elevations rise steadily from Hyde Park, adding as much to the neighbourhood’s skyline as Harrod’s, the Royal Albert Hall, and the London Oratory.  That’s not to say, however, that the sought-after streets between Brompton Road and South Carriage Drive are lacking in architectural diversity. Beyond some of the better-known thoroughfares, there are opportunities for investing in contemporary penthouse apartments; characterful chapel conversions; reconfigured ‘modern mews’. There are rows beyond rows of desirable London stock brick terraced housing, provided you know precisely where to look.

Just a short walk from the Piccadilly line stands ‘The Montpeliers’, a collection of quintessential fourth-rate Regency townhouses oriented around Montpelier Square. More so than most in Knightsbridge, this building typology lends itself to application as a traditional one-family home. Generous garden space is a given, as are wrought iron railings, Classical proportions, and plaster details around the windows and doors. There is almost always space for three bedrooms, if only of a modest size, providing a comfortable environment for bringing up young children.

Pick up a copy of Peter Nicholson’s The New Practical Builder and Workman’s Guide and it will become apparent that the only challenge lies in the orientation of the spaces. Inefficiently distributed around split-level floors littered with corridors, the flow and functionality of the fourth-rate townhouse floorplan is less than desirable. The butterfly roofline renders the attic space unusable and there is often a palpable sense of lost opportunity, particularly in a neighbourhood like Knightsbridge, where floor area carries a considerable premium. But these concerns are easily remedied by architects familiar with spatial planning, who see in a problem a possible course to resolution.

Rodic Davidson recently secured planning on their proposals for a Montpelier Place townhouse in view of their commitment to preserving the strengths and addressing the weaknesses of the Peter Nicholson model. From the street front the house would be virtually indistinguishable, every effort having been made to reduce the visual impact of the developments due to take place. The approved view prepared by independent consultants indicates a welcome degree of congruence with the visually pleasing period design. Within, the building tells a different story.

Stepping through the doorway, the progression through the property into the garden will be immediately apparent, the open plan living space flowing freely into the two-storey glazed extension and the landscaped green space beyond. Climb the staircase and the opportunities presented by the Studio’s careful spatial manoeuvres will be exposed. What was once a rather modest three-bedroom dwelling will be transformed beyond recognition into a five-bedroom home, able to accommodate the requirements of the growing family who issued the commission.

The addition of a two-storey extension supports improvements to the dimensions of the existing bedrooms. Coupled with the standardisation of the floor level, this will allow for the more even distribution of bulky furniture, dispelling the oppressive sensation of clutter. But the triumph of the project is no doubt in the value added to the roofline, formerly an unusable asset. The two new bedrooms were achieved through the addition of a mansard, discretely designed to reduce visibility from the street and meet the stringent requirements of a Grade II listed property.

Works such as this have the potential to augment real estate values and to make possible the prospect of living comfortably with a large family in Prime Central London. The return on investment can be extensive, provided you work with architects who understand the complexities of planning in the Knightsbridge area. A design-led and historically astute Studio well-versed in planning matters in and around the City of Westminster, Rodic Davidson have the skill and the experience to get your proposals for a spatially efficient family home off the ground.


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