Since the late 1980s, the number of school buildings converted into loft apartments has been pretty huge and the desire for them has never gone out of fashion.
It’s almost as though the Victorians had a vision for their learning establishments to become homes at some stage: with their high ceilings, tall windows, beautiful parquet floors and pitched roofs, school conversions hold a perfectly timeless urban quality.
The beauty of the buildings on the outside is also a major draw; they are unfailingly elegant affairs with a strong sense of presence and, of course, familiarity. Many of us will have spent our formative years being schooled in these buildings, and so they hold a sense of nostalgia, even be it in such a modern, contemporary form.
Lovers of the automobile also revere the buildings. School playgrounds lend themselves perfectly as car parks, giving schoolhouse conversions a regular fan base of those who want to keep a car in London, and keep it secure.
Generally speaking, school conversions are in established residential neighbourhoods, which is kind of obvious when you think about it. And given that not everyone wants to live in an industrial district, they can offer a leafy alternative to those who want a loft, without the grit.
So is there any downside to these icons of the urban renaissance? Just the one: you’ll rarely find one with a lift.
Here’s a list of our five favourite school conversions in London. Clicking on the building names will take to you a Google Maps location link.
The first of two we feature by developers Sapcote, who were at the vanguard of London loft living. Originally sold in shell & core format, no two units are the same with each one kitted out by the buyer in their particular style. A sense of community is strong at The Paragon with a residents’ summer promenade party that meanders through various apartments.
The second Sapcote building on the list, in a neighbourhood that’s rarely in the spotlight but that is regularly ‘discovered’ with each property boom. Kennington is a Georgian enclave with a sweet ‘village’ centre, hidden squares, traditional pubs, etc. Handy for Westminster, The Lycee has some stonking apartments and a well-tended residents garden.
The Lanterns, Battersea, SW11
Perhaps the most exquisitely converted schoolhouse we know. The property market here was already very established when The Lanterns was redeveloped, meaning a generally smoother and more luxurious specification to reflect the Battersea set including some truly beautiful restoration works to, and highlighting of, the original interior features.
Minstrel Court, Bethnal Green E2
With a super hip location between Columbia Road and Broadway Market, less than a mile from Shoreditch High Street and Old Street, Minstrel Court takes the cake for an East End creative lifestyle. There’s a real mixed bag of apartment sizes here from just a few hundred to around 2000ft2 and even a space converted from the former bell tower.
The School House, Bermondsey SE1
One of our favourite things about The School House is that you don’t need to be a millionaire to live here as the building was developed mainly for the first time buyer market. The many entry-level apartments around 500-700sq ft have fun mezzanines and are a real antidote to similar sized typical new builds. Lovely communal gardens, too.