Saturday, December 31, 2022

All hail vulgarity


21st century gauche replaces 20th century elegance


A hidden enclave opposite the V&A museum in South Kensington was home to two of the twentieth century’s most fascinating individuals. London club owner and arbiter of good taste Mark Birley lived at Thurloe Lodge for nearly thirty years until his death in 2007 and for a time, the British ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn resided next door at Amberwood House.


Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias DBE (1919 – 1991) and Mark Birley (1930 –2007)
Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias DBE (1919 – 1991) and Mark Birley (1930 –2007)

Sadly, now, both properties are about to be subjected to the wrecking ball. Built in the 1840s and remodeled during the ownership of the renowned actor-manager Sir Nigel Playfair in the 1920s, Thurloe Lodge – which was marketed and sold for some £17.5 million by Birley’s daughter India Jane in 2011 though agents W. A. Ellis – is to be pulled down and replaced with a three-storey dwelling.


As it stands: Thurloe Lodge, 17 Thurloe Place, London, SW7 2SA
As it stands: Thurloe Lodge, 17 Thurloe Place, London, SW7 2SA
The unispired designs for the replacement of Thurloe Lodge by  Stanhope Gate Architecture and Urban Design
The unispired designs for the replacement of Thurloe Lodge by Stanhope Gate Architecture and Urban Design

That the new owners have managed to secure planning permission to replace the entire building despite Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea planning officers noting “the existing property does make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area” is somewhat perplexing. Nothing it seems is sacred and that the “well appointed” rooms of Birley’s “ultimate bachelor pad” will be replaced by something more appealing to a Russian oligarch is both sad and telling.


Amberwood House was built in the 1920s and it was here that Fonteyn lived with her husband the Panamanian ambassador Dr. Roberto Arias in the 1950s and 1960s and where also she took in Rudolf Nureyev in 1961 when he defected from Russia. It is currently on the market at a price of £25 million through Knight Frank after having been sold to developers Prime London Holdings for £12.5 million in 2010.


In its current unmodernised state: Amberwood House, 17a Thurloe Place, London, SW7 2SA
In its current unmodernised state: Amberwood House, 17a Thurloe Place, London, SW7 2SA
The interior as is
The interior as is
A rendering of the proposed exterior of the building
A rendering of the proposed exterior of the building
The design for the entrance
The design for the entrance
An interior fit for an oligarch is on the cards
An interior fit for an oligarch is on the cards
And a swimming pool suitable for James Bond
And a swimming pool suitable for James Bond
The developers have included designs for a car lift capable of dealing with a Rolls-Royce Phantom
The developers have included designs for a car lift capable of dealing with a Rolls-Royce Phantom

The firm of developers, which is connected to former Dragons’ Den star James Caan, have gained consent to increase the unmodernised building from its current 6,147 square foot to 13,500 square foot and will dig down to create further accommodation at basement and sub-basement level. Naturally, given the needs of the type of purchaser they’re targeting, such things as a swimming pool, leisure facilities and a passenger lift are included in their designs. In addition, an “ingenious solution” for parking a car as big as a Rolls-Royce Phantom has been proposed. It will incorporate a hydraulic lift platform and will require a planning modification.


Though many will argue that change should be accepted and that the new wealthy will leave their own intriguing legacies, we imagine that sadly both Fonteyn and Birley would turn in their graves if they saw what was being done to their old homes.



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        • You know sweet FA about what goes on with members of the planning committee: I too am a resident and know a little more of the way things pan out. I know absolute shits who are courteous and helpful….it means bugger all

          • and one ex chairman of the planning committee used to have a number of off shore accounts: odd, considering he was a lowly retired journo!
            No, Mowbray….you are wrong on this. With one Conservative cllr forced to resign over child porn and another kicked out for circulating images of young boys this council is corrupt. The former Leader even flew First class to US cities; stayed at the best hotels and enjoyed $400 dinners with unnmaed guests….

    1. How very, very sad. I have many happy memories of this quintessential English gentleman (once even spending Christmas with him at Ormeley) he would loath the ‘taste’ of some of the current ‘spuer rich’.

    2. What is that ugly parking lot in front of the Birley place about? Demolish the place and build a block of flats for those in need.

    3. There should be an enquiry into the process of the planning consent for the demolition and new building
      It smells of noxious wafts of bribes and corrupt undercurrants

    4. Amberwood house to me is beautiful and now with this permission is great as well.
      Why do you think it is so ugly? Interior is not my cup of tea but the new owners can make it equal beautiful,still up to date. Can I have explanation?

      • You must be either blind or bribed. I bet you work for the developers, an estate agent or their PR, their architect or something similar.

        • Yolanda there’s no reason to be rude. I just asked for explanation what is wrong with house in your eyes? If you can’t explain in nice way than don’t. Gosh.

          • You don’t answer my points. I was not being rude. You come across as just such yourself. The plans for the house are vile.

            • It is a desecration in my view Bradon. There is no need for such vulgar additions to buildings in London and frankly the damage to the water table is what worries me most. Property developers often do good but this scheme is not in keeping with the building’s heritage in my view. The proposed interior designer makes the Bulgari Hotel look positively tasteful.


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