Friday, 17 March 2017
Why we probably won't be moving to Kensington
So Kathryn and I are window shopping in South Kensington and, since this is the nature of high streets, we're peering through the glass at property for sale. Unlike most normal places, there aren't any actual houses for sale, just what seem to be identikit flats - some studio, some one-bed, some two-bed. All with white walls, wood (or wood-a-like) flooring, glass dining tables, uncomfortable looking sofas, and, if you're lucky, some singularly naff art. Plus a price tag north of £2 million quid.
What struck us (other than that stratospheric price tag) was the sameness, the lack of soul, the impression that no-one actually lived in any of these flats. But this isn't new build, these are apartments hacked out from a beautiful Georgian town house in a leafy London square. We meandered from estate agent to estate agent seeking out some property that looked like it was a little bit loved - perhaps with a rug to break up the monotony of wood-effect flooring (whatever happened to carpet), maybe something wooden like a coffee table or an antique chair.
Perhaps this sort of uninspired, bland and plain decor is what passes for style these days down in South Kensington. Maybe people are too busy doing all the other exciting things London offers (or else working all hours god sends to pay the mortgage on the £3 million pad off Queensgate). Or maybe this is what estate agents think sells flats - hard edges, pushed back furniture, minimal colour and devoid of life. None of those things we'd expect elsewhere - a peep of greenery, a bookcase (with books on), a mish-mash of art on the wall, things that show off or feature the age of the property.
Or maybe the sort of besuited, hard-nosed, driven men who work in South Kensington's estate agencies know their market and that anything looking like life, community and continuity will put off the sort of international whizz-kids who've got the brass to buy that South Kensington flat.
Had we a few million spare, we'd certainly consider a bolthole in London - it's a fantastic city. But I'm not sure that what we see in Kensington - and it's probably little different anywhere in Zone One - is inspiring, interesting or presented in a way that appeals. The housing is gorgeous - London's Georgian terraces are among the wonders of the world - but the flats hacked out of those gorgeous buildings seem to have killed the sense of age, heritage and tradition preferring instead a boring, pale, hard image that owes more to the international hotel than a real London living style.