The penthouses, which sprawl imperiously at the top of their apartment blocks, seem to be the natural habitat of the rich.
Perhaps that’s what attracted actor Hugh Grant to his penthouse, located between South Kensington and Gloucester Road, in the heart of London, in the early 2000s.
The Cuatro Bodas star sold the apartment after a few years but is now back on the market.
Besides being the best toy for rich kids, attics make a lot of sense. Being at the top of the block means nosy neighbors can’t see what you’re doing.
They’re gloriously peaceful, despite often being in the center of town, and they’re also virtually impossible to steal. That makes them perfect for locking in and going out.
Practical choice: Penthouses, highly sought after across the country, offer privacy, are quiet and virtually impossible to break into.
Grant’s old attic offers all of this. Inside, an elevator opens directly to the 3,000-square-foot L-shaped living space comprised of open-plan living and dining rooms, a kitchen area and a sunroom.
The floor-to-ceiling windows flood it with light and the exterior is perfect for parties.
The terraces lead to a gym and if you like company in the jacuzzi, this has enough space for six people, with views of the Natural History Museum and the London Oratory.
Penthouses originated in Manhattan in the 1920s. Until then, the upper floors were used as staff accommodation.
Manhattan architects, led by Emery Roth, changed all that and targeted those upper floors for the super-rich. Wealthy residents wanted space for terraces, a swimming pool and a gym.
The best penthouses have one thing in common: a beautiful view. Ben Cotton has lived with his partner and his two young children in their attic in Deal, Kent, for five years and never tires of looking at the seascape.
“You can see France on a clear day,” says Ben, who originally bought the flat for a weekend retreat when he lived in London.
‘You’ll see paddlers, kayakers and swimmers heading out in winter and summer in all climates. I’ve also done wild swimming, so the penthouse has changed my life.’
The deal itself may not attract central London’s showbiz celebrities, but its proximity to the capital (St Pancras is 82 minutes away) makes it convenient for creatives and journalists such as Jan Leeming, Mary Kenny and Gavin Esler, who live nearby.
Ben’s penthouse is for sale for £495,000 with Bright and Bright.
Penthouses are wanted throughout the country. But prices have stabilized. Hugh Grant’s former abode on Harrington Road was listed in 2019 for £10 million.
It returned to the market two years later for £9m, which was reduced to £7.9m and is today £7.25m with BHHS London.
The “potential northern” cities have bought them in a big way. In Manchester, number 1 Deansgate is a three-bedroom penthouse situated on the ninth floor in the heart of the city, with a 126-year lease, for sale for £1 million with Hunters.
In Leeds, the two-bedroom penthouse at Regents Quay is on the market for £850,000 with what amounts to a starter package for wealthy members of Gen Z: Lutron lighting, Sonos sound and ‘bespoke’ fixtures and fittings worth of £250,000 (listed with Fine and Country). It has a 978-year lease.
In Cheltenham, many people are moving from the surrounding Cotswold villages for the amenities (particularly schools) and year-round festive atmosphere in the town itself. A three-bedroom penthouse in Grosvenor House, it has a lift and is listed on HMT for £500,000 with a 982-year lease.
Beware of developers cramming two flats next to each other to collect the premium for selling both as penthouses.
On Portsmouth’s seafront, Gunwharf Quays has changed the feel of the naval port. Its penthouses rise 100 meters above the Solent. Yopa is currently selling a three-bedroom penthouse for £775,000 with a 175-year lease.
Penthouses are usually sold on leasehold, so read the fine print in the sales details, especially regarding service charges.
“And beware of developers cramming two flats next to each other to charge a premium for selling both as penthouses,” says Sara Ransom of Stacks Property Search.
“Also, if you are buying off-plan, establish the exact layout of the development,” he adds. “Another block could appear nearby, ruining your views.”