On Belgravia’s Chester Square, an address that routinely ranks among the most expensive in London, a certain townhouse has been garnering a lot of attention of late. No. 73, Margaret Thatcher’s house for 22 years until her death, is on the market for £30m through Savills. And although a glitzy redevelopment by Leconfield has given it a contemporary twist, including a media room and gym in the basement, traces of the Iron Lady remain – not least the bomb-proof front door.
But just six doors further along the elegant white stucco terrace, 29-year-old twins Will and Ben Samuels, founders of the property development company Wilben, are giving Maggie’s 6,300 sq ft house a run for its money with a mansion that provides the ultimate in bespoke, one-off luxury for their super-prime target market.
At £32.5m through Savills and Strutt & Parker, it is also thought to be the most expensive property ever to go on sale in the garden square, whose residents past and present include Mick Jagger, Roman Abramovich and Nigella Lawson.
The house at No. 67 spans nearly 8,000 sq ft – partly thanks to a rare double mansard roof that creates space for a further two ensuite bedrooms, making eight in total. The brothers have also melded the mews house behind the house into the design of the Grade II-listed townhouse.
“We don’t know of anyone else in the square who has done this and it means you have formal living space at the front and modern family living at the back,” says Ben, the more finance-minded twin who used to work for Foxtons, while Will, who cut his teeth at Inchbald and Brahm Interiors, focuses on the design side.
Their role models, naturally enough, are the Candy brothers – and Christian Candy was suitably impressed when he recently called in to check out their work on Chester Square (the Candys sold the house to its current owner, a Malaysian who has personally only popped in once).
Even for £30m or so, you don’t get much in the way of outdoor space in these parts, but this house does at least provide an open-air terrace that joins the mews and townhouse. The house also has an eye-catching 30ft green wall, which forms one side of the yoga studio in the basement. That’s just along from the staff quarters and the magnificently decadent cinema room with its specially designed day beds.
Another striking feature is the vast Italian chandelier in the formal reception room. Shaped like a crystal spinning top with carved shards, from below it is like gazing up at a million stars.
The bespoke nature of the finished product is Wilben’s trademark, whether they are developing a £2m flat or a £30m house. Every feature is designed specifically for that property, from the joinery down to the cushions, which both of the brothers discreetly tweak and plump as they walk around No. 67.
“Everyone we sell to loves the turnkey product and they have all bought the furniture,” says Ben. That would add around £450,000 to the price of the Chester Square house – not including the modern art collection on loan from various galleries, including a Gavin Turk in the dining room.
Properties like this provide a glimpse into the world of the impossibly rich. “The owner – who originally bought the house to live in, but decided mid-way through its renovation to sell – wanted the bath in the master bathroom to overflow, turning the whole space into a wet room. There are also five different thermostats so he could run all the showers at once, some hot, some cold,” Ben informs.
The accompanying bedroom, meanwhile, has direct lift access, “so you can step straight into the bedroom with your suitcases,” he adds. “This will be a wonderful family home for someone who will spend at least five or six days a year here,” he says – though he’s joking, he hopes.
He admits that so far, in the six years since he and Will did their first property deal in Knightsbridge, a flat they sold for £2.55m, they have only once correctly guessed who the buyer will be. It was a flat behind Harrods that went to a Middle Eastern client who uses it for a fortnight each summer.
Yet each of their projects requires stepping into the shoes of the owner or potential buyer. “With every project, we have to second-guess how these guys live and make it as easy as possible for them. They like you to tell them what they want – but the super-wealthy don’t like wasting money on anything,” says Ben.
It’s a mindset he and Will are getting to know intimately and they now have several new projects on the go – some their own investments, others redevelopments for clients such as two houses in Battersea whose owner wants the same “high class product” as Chester Square.
No doubt having the former PM’s house as a neighbour has shone a spotlight on the square again, but it won’t impress the super-rich, thinks Ben. “They look at the space you get for your money and what other houses have sold for. People at this level are more conscious of their money than ever.”
Oh how the other 0.01 per cent live.