Much more than meets the eye

From the outside, mews houses often look rather small. But it's amazing what you can find behind closed doors these days. Mary Wilson reports
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The Independent Online

The Saint lived in one, Mandy Rice Davies spent much of her time in one, Noel Gallagher has owned one and the Queen keeps her gold state coach in one. Mews houses are the sort of property you either love or hate. To the unconvinced, they are small and pokey and claustrophobic. To the fan, they are very sexy - as somewhere to keep their classic car, as a pied-à-terre or a groovy bachelor pad. They can even appeal to someone who wants to live in London, but likes the villagey atmosphere that prevails in a mews.

Mews were originally quarters for falcons and the name comes from the bird "mewing", which means moulting. Then horse-drawn carriages became the residents of mews, superceded by cars. Mews made wonderful staff flats and garages to grand houses, only to be sold off as homes in their own right.

"People like them because of the parking, the security, the look of the mews and the peace and quiet," says Charles Seligman of FPDSavills, which is selling nine mews properties in widely differing shapes and sizes. "There is also a strong sense of community if you live in a mews. People look out for each other."

Myles Dacre and Corinne Blackburn are selling their two bedroom house in Princes Mews, W2. He bought it as a four bedroom house with two oversized bathrooms and has opened it right up so that it is more open plan and has more atmosphere.

"The main challenge with a mews house is that they are very dark at the back," Dacre explains. "So I put in some big skylights on the top floor and over the stairwell and a glass bridge at the top, which the light pours through. It has been designed to be used open plan, but there are a couple of sliding doors if you want more privacy.

"I like being in a mews because they are very quiet and private on the one hand, but also there is a sense of community. You can see all the comings and goings and get to know all your neighbours. We've had a street party here and in the summer we use the mews as an extension of our homes."

Now that he and Corinne have a young baby, Kaia, they are looking for something a little different. "It was designed to be minimal architecturally, which we just feel that is now not appropriate for us any more," he says. The garage has been incorporated into the ground floor to create a huge open plan kitchen/reception room, there is a bedroom with en suite shower room and small study on the first floor and master bedroom with en suite bathroom on the second floor. FPDSavills (020-7535 3300) is selling it for £975,000.

Further up the mews ladder, John Hickman of Kingston Estates is selling a brand new four bedroom home at the end of Grosvenor Crescent Mews in Belgravia, SW1. He has had more than 75 craftsmen working on the property over the last two years and created an extra floor below ground so it has a sauna, swimming pool with teak decking and underwater lighting - additions rarely found in a mews property.

"There was a pretty awful 1950s mews house there before," he says. "Now, we have created a spacious home with 3,880 square feet, and a wonderful enclosed terrace with cyprus and olive trees," he says. The house has a garage, dining room, kitchen and maid's room on the ground floor; 29ft-long drawing room, study and one bedroom, plus roof terrace on the second floor and three more bedrooms on the top floor.

With air conditioning, cabling for state-of-the-art communications and hand-crafted oak joinery, oak wine store and limestone fireplace. John D. Wood (020-7824 900) and FPDSavills (020-7730 0822) are selling it for £4.25 million.

At the other end of the spectrum, Engel & Volkers (020-7590 3170) is selling a small, but smartly renovated mews in Elm Park Lane, in Chelsea, SW10. This is being sold by Jane Ross, the widow of Alan Ross, who was a poet, writer and cricket devotee and with 759 sq ft, it has a sitting room and kitchen/breakfast room on the ground floor, two bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. It is for sale at £685,000.

Another small one is a charming period end-of-terrace mews house in Northwick Close, NW8. This is a bit bigger with 850 square feet and is in a cobbled mews, close to Little Venice with reception room and open-plan kitchen, plus garage, on the ground floor, two bedrooms, tiny study and bathroom on the first floor and flat roof terrace. Lurot Brand (020-7479 1999), which specialises in mews properties, is selling it for £550,000.

A larger traditional mews house, with contemporary kitchen and bathroom, is in Eaton Mews South, Belgravia, SW1. This is a triple fronted property, with a garage, dining room and kitchen/breakfast room on the ground floor, drawing room, study area and TV room on the first floor and two bedrooms, two bathrooms on the second floor. FPDSavills (020-7730 0822) is selling it for £1.65 million.

Another traditional mews, which is un-modernised and with scope for improvement is in Pavillion Road, SW1. This has a double length garage, private courtyard behind a wall, reception room and tiny kitchen, plus balcony on the first floor and two small bedrooms at the top. Friend & Falcke (020-7581 3022) is selling it for £495,000.

The same agent is also selling an unusual triangular shaped three bedroom mews house in Dove Mews, SW5. This has a large reception room with a high ceiling on the ground floor with a wall of built-in shelving either side of the fireplace. Behind this is the kitchen/breakfast room. On the first floor are three bedrooms and two bathrooms and there is a spiral staircase up to a little conservatory and large decked terrace. It is for sale for £785,000.

And finally a house Hays Mews, Mayfair, W1, is another ultra-modern mews, which was owned by Charles Saatchi's first wife, the American author and art collector Doris Saatchi. This has been totally refurbished by Bermac Properties and is available to rent. With a three-storey atrium, three bedrooms, large reception room, home cinema, decked roof terrace, home automation system, under-floor heating and comfort cooling, it is available for £2,400 per week through Wetherell (020-7493 6935).