(Bloomberg) -- Alan Gower dreamed of owning the house he spotted in Blackheath in southeast London for more than 20 years. Granville House, like many big Victorian homes in London, had been chopped up into five flats over the years, all rented out or owned separately.
As an architect who spent the past three decades working on restoring properties in places like Westminster and Notting Hill, Gower could see past the dark entryways and cramped living spaces.
“I was walking past it on the heath, and knew what it could be and what it would take to restore it to its former splendor,” says Gower. He says he bought the first flat inside the building for around £200,000 in 1999—back when banks would loan 95% mortgages, so he didn’t have to front the entire cost of the project. He bought the flat below it the following year and acquired the other flats in the building in 2012.
The work, once it was properly underway, took the better part of three years to complete. Overall, Gower spent more than £4 million on the renovation after he bought the properties, turning five separate living areas into one home where his family has been living for three years.
Now he’s listed Granville House for £12.5 million ($15.8 million) with Grant Bates at Hamptons Private Office. For that, the buyers get 9,000 square feet of living space, six bedrooms, a 33-foot indoor pool, steam room and a Himalayan salt spa with infrared lights.
That price makes it the most expensive listing in Blackheath on the open market, according to the listing agent. No single family home or flat has sold for more than £10 million in the area, according to data from England’s Land Registry.
Granville House, built in the 1850s with a wealthy solicitor as the first inhabitant, wasn’t considered historically important enough to be listed. “That was a good thing, as it freed me from a lot of red tape and let me knock down walls and truly open up the space to create a modern home,” Gower says.
He planned the renovations and oversaw the work himself, making it a showcase for his own style. He used his experience on a £25 million project for an oligarch in West London, where he dug into subterranean basements and created lavish living spaces and below-ground pools.
Not much from the original build is left. Only the shutters on the ground floor windows, a grand white fireplace moved from the ground floor to a first floor bedroom, and the simple wooden front door are original. Gower says he did take inspiration from the period, such as the decorative plaster moldings on the ceilings on the ground floor and bedrooms. The same is true with the stained glass, and he says 60,000 reclaimed bricks in London yellow were used to build the new perimeter wall around the property, all from roughly the same time period as the house.
“Much of the internal living spaces had been chopped around and was not salvageable,” says Gower. “Everything had 170-plus years of wear, tear and abuse, so in this case it was better to replace totally than patch up.”
The renovation project took around three years, which included multiple appeals to the council for approval on such things as the roof terrace, which turns into a sun trap in the summer.
Gower loved the ceiling heights when he first saw the property, but wanted to create a new layout and not be guided by the home’s original one. Instead, he created separate living zones inside the house. “I wanted to make it so we didn’t have to constantly go up and down stairs to get what we needed,” he explains.The top floor, where his older children’s bedrooms are, has a small kitchen so they can put pizzas in the oven without having to go downstairs. There’s also a granny flat on the lower ground floor with an elevator, complete with a kitchen area of its own and direct access outside. Gower’s mother lives there, but he says the space would make sense for an au pair or nanny for the future owners.
The heart of the house is the dining area that opens straight into the garden with a koi pond. In the summers, Gower opens all the doors and throws parties that spill from the house outside.
“It has been a party house for me, I’ve loved inviting people over to use the pool,” he says. He adds that he’s invited close groups of friends to use the spa facilities on weekends, which usually ends up with them drinking wine out in the orangery.
He also wanted to create playful aspects in the design, pointing to a gleaming white bookshelf on the ground floor. When you pull back a book, the staircase swings open to become a hidden door that leads to an indoor garage with underfloor heating, where Gower keeps his Aston Martin.
Ready to Sell
Gower says he’s enjoyed living in Granville House, but he found another house to renovate in nearby Eltham. The Blackheath home has been a personal project he’s been working on for the better part of 24 years, and now he’s ready to sell and net the house as an investment.
As to who he sees buying the house, Gower thinks it’ll be someone British, as he doesn’t think the area is well-known internationally, especially compared with places he’s worked, such as Notting Hill. He also thinks it’ll likely being bought by someone working in finance, because of the ease of getting into London’s finance districts from Blackheath.
And as for it being the most expensive house in the area, Gower says the listing price is warranted.
“It would cost more if someone were to a renovate a house like this now, with the cost of raw materials,” he argues. “And this is an achievement due to my 30 years of experience bringing Victorian villas back to life.”
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