The next in our London’s 5 best series looks at life inside a converted factory. These giants of the industrial age conjure up images of huge windows, tall ceilings and massive halls filled with machinery and held up by chunky concrete pillars.
While not great for the health of Victorian and Edwardian Londoners, the industrial age left a legacy of buildings ripe for redevelopment as contemporary urban living began to take hold in the 1990s. Many of the city’s former factories are now home to some extraordinary loft apartments and penthouses, often designed by the initial buyers in conjunction with their own architects to create exceptional one-of-a-kind spaces. Here are 5 of our favourite London factory conversions.
Spratts Walk, Limehouse E14
This former dog food factory on the Limehouse Cut canal remains something of a London loft lovers’ secret, half way between the DLR stations at Devons Road and Langdon Park in a tranquil spot away from all the action at Limehouse Basin and the Thames. Originally converted into shell apartments by a bunch of enterprising artists in the 1980s, the buildings have since become home to a varied and sociable mix of creatives and city types looking for a sociable, neighbourly vibe. The spaces inside are huge, raw and thoroughly authentic while the community spirit is refreshingly buoyant.
Alaska Buildings, Bermondsey SE1
One of London’s first incarnations of gated loft complexes, created from a former seal tannery. The iconic white art-deco centerpiece – designed by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, architects of the famous Hoover Building on the A40 – hides some beautiful communal gardens around which sit more apartments, some converted from older warehouses and some newly built. At the front, two rows of 1970s-built office buildings house some huge live/work units.
The Jam Factory, Bermondsey SE1
A rather more polished affair, the place where Hartley’s Jam was made put this part of Bermondsey firmly on the map after a hugely successful conversion into lofts, live/work units and penthouses. Ian Simpson Architects designed the 200 or so apartments across three Victorian buildings, with around 50% sold as shells. Hard landscaping adds a sharp edge to the street level environment, while the views of London from the double-storey glass extensions and rooftop terraces are truly awesome.
The Factory, Shoreditch N1
One of the earliest developments from Manhattan Loft Corporation and the building that really kicked things off for Shoreditch. The Factory has retained its place at the top of the league through a timeless conversion into shell apartments that harnessed all the good stuff from the building’s industrial heyday and left a gritty blank canvass for the East End’s new wave of incoming creatives to foist their ideas upon.
The Light Works, Brixton SW2
Brixton doesn’t really have much of an industrial heritage, but tucked away behind a fairly typical terrace of Edwardian family houses is The Light Works, a former lightbulb factory. This is the smallest factory conversion on our list, home to just a handful of large live/work houses that really do feel like a secret uncovered the minute you step into the courtyard. There’s a also a sense of fun about this hidden mews, with each house getting a different exterior colour splash.