Need to Know: The mission - What exactly do millionaires have in their houses?
Nicholas Barber snoops, with the aid of a Kensington estate agent
Saturday 26 September 1998
he's got for sale around the pounds 2m mark,
and, just as long as you can get out those last few words without choking, you'll be amazed by how quickly he'll fix you a viewing appointment. I was slightly afraid that I'd have to produce a year's bank statements before I'd be allowed to peek through the keyhole of a stranger's pounds 1.8m pied a terre, just down the road from the Albert Hall. But, no, the estate agent was happy to imagine I was an eccentric aristocrat slumming it in jeans and a sweatshirt. "How many people are going to be living here?" he asks as we roam through one of the drawing rooms. "I don't know," I mumble. "Two, maybe?" "Let's have a look upstairs," he chirps. He doesn't seem surprised to hear that two people might find a use for six bedrooms and five bathrooms. Perhaps he assumes that I'm a diarrhoea-prone hide- and-seek addict, but, to be fair, why should he be suspicious? I doubt he often has to deal with someone who has no intention of buying a property from him, if only because most of us don't spend any more time in the company of estate agents than is absolutely necessary.
Both this house and one I nose around in Mayfair have been newly renovated and decorated, so I can confirm that minimalist, loft-style decor with a hint of MFI is de rigueur for the discerning Ferrero Rocher-eater. The other salient features of luxury living are endless storage space (one advantage of having five storeys: lots of cupboards under the stairs, sausage-shaped neck-cushions which rest at either end of the bath and little spotlights embedded in the ceilings - "low-volted downlighters", to be exact. Best of all, these lights go on gradually. Hit the switch, and there's a slight pause before the bulbs ease themselves gently to full power. Not for millionaires, that harsh sudden brightness which so taints the lives of the poor.
Next, I visit a cosy mansion which is a snip at pounds 1.6m. (It is, says the advertisement in a Sunday newspaper, "charming".) The couple who own it feel that two homes are enough for them these days. "Barbados and Jersey is a nice mix," explains my host. "Barbados, Jersey and London, though, you never have enough time to enjoy them all." To the untrained eye, this particular residence could be your average middle-class household, only three times bigger and a short stroll from Kensington Palace. You don't have to be Loyd Grossman, however, to spot a few clues to the owner's bank balance: the Oriental maid and the 19th-century paintings, for instance, and the fact that the larger rooms have two phones each. (At last, an end to those how-come-the-phone-always-rings-when-you're-at-the-other- side-of-the-room frustrations.) And, of course, location is everything. As we're leaving, the estate agent reveals another selling point: "The Tube is just 100 yards away." I'm sure the lucky purchasers, whoever they might be, won't travel any other way
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Germany sees 'visible rise' in support for far-right extremism in response to perceived 'Islamisation' of the West
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...
£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...
£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...