What lies within

Mayfair is known more for its traditional interiors than sleek, cutting-edge design. Mary Wilson finds two homes that buck the trend
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The Independent Online

Behind the traditional façades of handsome Georgian houses, towering Victorian mansion blocks and pretty mews properties that make up central London's Mayfair, you might find a prestigious 10,000 square foot family home, a conversion into apartments or typical pied-à-terres with high ceilings and period features.

Behind the traditional façades of handsome Georgian houses, towering Victorian mansion blocks and pretty mews properties that make up central London's Mayfair, you might find a prestigious 10,000 square foot family home, a conversion into apartments or typical pied-à-terres with high ceilings and period features.

What you rarely find is a house that has been converted into a totally contemporary home, the sort of thing you might expect to find in Clerkenwell or Covent Garden, but not in good old conservative Mayfair. However, there are currently two houses - one a six-storey cream-painted Georgian gem, the other a pretty Victorian coach house - that belie their exterior once you are through the front door.

Richard Franklin's converted coach house is in Bourdon Street, W1, a quiet backwater just behind Berkeley Square. From the outside, it appears to be a conventional Victorian redbrick mews house. But it is a different story inside. "I was ideally looking for a house in Clerkenwell or Islington and never dreamt of living in Mayfair," says Franklin. "But I loved this house as soon as I saw it and have been here for five and a half years."

Franklin, who owns and charters a beautiful yacht in Palma, Majorca, is now selling up after finding that he needs to be in London less and less. "Bond Street is only 100 yards away, and there is always a taxi in Berkeley Square. Canary Wharf was only 15 minutes away on the Tube, and when I worked in the City, it was a wonderful place to come back to after a 10-hour day."

One side of Bourdon Street is lined with a row of the identical coach houses, most of which have the traditional small-room layout. Although Franklin's house looks just like the rest with its double garage doors on the ground floor, inside it is light, bright and spacious. Enter via the steep, narrow stone steps and you move from the past to the present. Floors and stairs are in beech throughout, except for the kitchen and bathrooms, which have slate-blue rubber flooring. The kitchen and the two bathrooms are up or down five or six steps from the rest of the living space; the changing levels add to the charm of the place.

Three large bedrooms occupy the whole of the first floor, all boasting impressive 10ft-tall beech veneered doors. A very private teak-decked terrace - said to be quite a sun-trap - is accessed from the master bedroom through sliding patio doors. A clever design trick of inserting large glazed panels into the side walls of the bathroom and dressing room at each end of the terrace ensure that each room is light and airy. But the pièce de résistance is the 28 feet 6 inches by 22 feet 6 inches reception room, which Franklin had sited on the top floor. "Most of the other coach houses have this room on the first floor," he says. "But it is so much better at the top of the house because you have the vaulted ceiling and a much more interesting space."

Indented niches have been built into the room's white walls for display purposes, and an understated fireplace with a solid limestone hearth is set into a grey glazed screen at one end of the wood-beam vaulted room. The dining area is set under one of the eaves. "The house hardly needs any maintenance," he says, "and I have recently redecorated and painted the outside of the property as the landlord, Grosvenor, requires the exterior to be done every three years." He pays only a peppercorn rent.

The neat kitchen has a stainless-steel worksurface and splashback with beech cupboards. A remarkable amount of storage has been built into the fabric of the house, ensuring that the "minimalist" look can be maintained. In one of the bedrooms, which Franklin is currently using as his office, there is a massively deep and wide cupboard behind beech-faced doors and a huge blanket box, also built in. "These are worth their weight in gold," he says.

At the end of the long garage - big enough for a limo or two small cars - there is ample space for luggage, surf boards and skis; all the paraphernalia a young man about town needs. Beauchamp Estates and Wetherell are selling the Bourdon Street house for £1.375 million with a 101-year lease.

In nearby South Audley Street, an imposing six-storey house has been brought back to life as a newly contemporary family home, after many years of mixed use as offices and apartments. "Mayfair is a traditional address, so it is nice to see some of the houses being done in a way which will appeal to the younger market moving into the area," says Mark Orbrys of Cluttons, which is selling the 4,264 sq ft house for £4.5 million.

The house, with its striking three-sided front with ornate pillars, pediments and window detailing, was taken "right back to the core", says architect Stuart Miller. "Inside it all was the original timber-framed Georgian construction, all of which had to be stabilised and strengthened without losing the important internal period detail."

Working closely with conservation officers, Miller has successfully retained lovely windows, plasterwork and fireplaces while totally refurbishing the four-bedroom three-bathroom home. Flooring throughout is now solid oak, windows have been sensitively double-glazed for both heat and sound insulation, and the entire house has ceiling speakers linked to a computer-controlled sound system and wall-installed plasma screens.

The formerly dark interiors are newly white and light. On the lower ground floor the handbuilt oak and limestone kitchen boasts one entire storage wall, including a temperature-controlled wine store; and the family eating area leads outside to a courtyard terrace. A double reception room occupies the ground floor and the 34 feet drawing room is on the first floor. Above are the bedroom floors. On the top three floors, there are four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The master bedroom suite's bathroom, in white Russian oak and white granite, has its own sauna; the other bathrooms and shower room are in limestone and oak. A passenger lift runs from basement to third floor.

Beauchamp Estates (020-7499 7722)

Wetherell (020-7493 6935)

Cluttons (020-7262 2226)