Byline: DAVID SPITTLES
A LIMITED edition of modern classics is being created on the site of the former Saatchi Gallery in St John's Wood: 15 contemporary design houses each named after a famous artist - from Andy Warhol to Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
It is a rare first, all the more special because of the location. Of all London's prestige pockets, affluent St John's Wood is perhaps the nearest thing to villagey urban bliss in the capital.
It has a boutiquey high street around which lies a residential neighbourhood unblighted by mixed-use developments. Instead of the green belt, there is Regent's Park, a giant garden on the doorstep.
"Elsewhere in London there is always a reminder that you are in a big city," says James Simpson of estate agent Knight Frank. "Here, there is a slower pace and a sense of belonging. People know each other; you see the same faces."
The area has a settled backbone, based on relaxed wealth and politics.
Americans love the place, which has helped reinforce the axis with Canary Wharf, now only 25 minutes away on the Jubilee line.
Bankers and lawyers may well be in the frame for one of the above "art houses", launched to coincide with the bonus season.
Called The Collection, the properties have been designed for people with discerning taste who want a "new original on the birthplace of Britart", according to Michael Eggerton, of developer Vanderbilt Properties.
There is nothing to feast your eyes on at the moment. The 15 houses will occupy a 0.7-acre plot, currently a blank canvas, at the junction of Boundary Road and Abbey Road.
Space and light, with an accent on privacy and security, are the main architectural qualities, adds Eggerton. The houses are lined up in a row, but the terrace is softened by setback elevations and a contoured courtyard with sculptural landscaping. Facades are crisply rendered and have cathedral-size entrance doors. Extensive glazing and internal atriums allow light to flood in. Sizes range from 2,792sq ft to 3,844sq ft, plus roof terraces with spa tubs.
And each house has an underground garage, meaning residents can drive straight and step safely out of their car into their living space. "They are like luxury apartments in the form of a house," explains Eggerton, whose fixation with attention to detail is clearly evident as he produces an Armani swatch to demonstrate the tawny colour of exterior render being used.
"We have utilised every possible bit of space, carefully thought through the room layouts and put in the creature comforts people expect at this level."
Completion is about 18 months off. Vanderbilt, backed by developer Oakmayne, known for designer apartments in fashionable Borough, says it is content to sell three houses and then close down sales prior to a show home being ready in October 2006. The expectation is that prices will rise during the construction period because of the scarcity value. Vanderbilt is planning to give away a piece of original art with each house.
The houses are all freehold and priced from [pounds sterling]1.95 million to [pounds sterling]2.85 million.
This equates to about [pounds sterling]850 a square foot, which is not top dollar for St John's Wood. One reason is the Boundary Road location, which is less select than the area's prime avenues, but is suitably individual for a development with Britart credentials. Call estate agent Aston Chase on 020 7724 4724.
Like St John's Wood, resurgent Marylebone has an undersupply of new houses.
There are few development sites in the listed heartland around the high street. But there are more opportunities north of Marylebone Road, close to Regent's Park, where there were once light industrial premises associated with the motor trade. …