The London home where high design meets the great outdoors

Jonathan Christie heads to (upwardly mobile) Kilburn to find out
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The Independent Online

Very occasionally, the mantra "location, location, location" can be challenged on the grounds of aesthetics. Set back from a busy main road in north London is a masterpiece of contemporary building. Created by architects Denton Corker Marshall, this house has an unwavering design ethic, acute attention to detail and a complete disregard of compromise that's rarely seen in new houses.

The practice has an international reputation and their work includes the internal conversion of The Sanderson Hotel and restaurant in central London, in collaboration with designer Philippe Starck.

The site was acquired in 1997 by a photographer, but it took several years to negotiate the vagaries of the local planning system. It wasn't until 2001 that the final shadow gap was skimmed into place.

Approached along a private drive, the house has two entrances. The larger door opens onto the ground floor and into a vast open-plan work space. This room is 70 feet long with an office area, cloakroom, store and dark room. The limits of how this space could be used are bounded to the edges of your imagination.

The other entrance leads to a lobby and staircase that draws you up to the first floor landing. This is the "Live" level of the house and provides access to all the rooms.. Straight ahead from the stairs brings you to the most dramatic space - the kitchen/living room.

First impressions lead your eye out of the windows and onto an unexpected view. This house backs onto Kilburn Grange, one of the few open spaces in this area, and the sight of seemingly endless trees and greenery is powerful.

Back inside, and the clean lines of the detailing begin to emerge. The textures of the stone, concrete and wood blend well with the parkland outside. The glass walls fold right back and away to blur the inside and outside space further and there's a real sense of this house sitting comfortably within its surroundings. The kitchen is integrated with the living space and has simple, flush cupboards and high quality fittings .

Through again to the landing and a series of doors lead to a bathroom and three bedrooms. They've been orientated to face the north-east and consequently all benefit from those views. The bathroom furniture seems to float above the polished-concrete floor, creating a relaxing space. There's plenty of "invisible" cupboard space and a floor-to-ceiling glass door opens the room up to the elements. The two guest bedrooms have glazed external doors and both are spacious enough for a double bed.

The master bedroom boasts some nifty design tricks . Storage cupboards and the en-suite shower room are tucked away inside a central pod that divides the bedroom and study. The bed sits centrally and faces the window. The room appears devoid of practical space, but the cupboards and wardrobes are all concealed. The study could be used as a dressing room, particularly if the ground floor became an office, but this space works well as a room of one's own.

The final surprise is the outdoor space. There's no garden to speak of, but another set of stairs rise from the living room terrace to a roof terrace, offering an eyrie from which to get the best of those park and skyline views. There's virtually no divided space up here, so your options on how to use this area are very open.

But while the integrity of the building is unquestionable, some questions remain over the location. The dramatic views over Kilburn Grange are wonderful, but step out the front gate and you're right in the heart of Kilburn High Road. Ask a local agent about the housing market and their response is that Kilburn's on the up and has been for ten years. But the ghosts of "loony left" Brent council and drunks spilling out of Irish pubs still seems to stick in the memory.

"If this house was a mile in any direction," says selling agent Simon Harris, "the price would double. Kilburn's fortunes have changed, but it's still a way behind neighbours Maida Vale and West Hampstead." The signs are good though. Waitrose and Habitat are nearby, transport links are excellent and coffee shops and slinky new bars are mushrooming up as more and more buyers are trading in their flats in Notting Hill for a house in NW6.

This house is a gem and it's location has shifted it into a different price bracket. There's no such thing as the perfect house, but this comes close. And if you prefer urban-edge over suburban-cosiness then maybe this is your slice of heaven. Just don't expect to walk to Harrods in three minutes.

GET THE SPEC

What's for sale? Unique, contemporary house designed by Denton Corker Marshall architects.

Where is it? Kilburn Grange, just off Kilburn High Road in London NW6

What do you get? Master bedroom with shower, study area, two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen/living room, larder, open plan workspace with shower room and darkroom, large roof terrace and parking for several cars.

How big? 2,661 sq ft (210 sqm) internally

Any nifty touches? Underfloor heating

How much? £2.1m freehold via Cityscope (020-7830 9776, www.cityscope.co.uk)

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