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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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UMM-JULY-2015
Highly active and hugely sensitive would be our description of the property market right now. We’ve certainly reached a plateau for asking prices, so if you’ve been holding off putting your place on the market in order to max out your property’s value, there’s really no longer any reason to wait. And plenty of good quality buyers makes it an easy environment to be selling in.

As we’d hoped and mentioned in September, stock levels of property for sale have risen as word got round that prices were levelling off. This has resulted in some damn good new instructions and a lot of new enquiries.

A few standouts include a fantastic 1 bedroom loft at Alexandra Studios in Clapham Junction at £695,000; 4 apartments in Shepherdess Walk N1 from the pioneering developers Solidspace, with prices around £2million; and a jaw-dropping loft on Shoreditch High Street at £3.95million.

Sales in London have been good too, and we’ve been busier here than we’ve been since the summer. A couple of sales we’re rather pleased about include exchanging contracts on the live/work house at Havelock Walk in Forest Hill SE23, an artisan-filled mews where sculptors, designers, jewellery makers and other creative types open their doors to showcase their wares. And at The Lightworks in Brixton we’ve agreed terms on another live/work property, this time at a converted lightbulb factory hidden away in Brixton SW2.

Outside the capital the market is less intense, although it has to be said that some of the properties we are taking on around the country are every bit as well-designed as those in London. Proof that you can live in an amazing space in almost every county. Our regional business is still in its infancy but we’ve proved we can generate plenty of unique interest and that we have something extra to offer than conventional local estate agents. More on this in the coming months.

Lettings stock, in our part of the market at least, remains low as anything that comes onto the market gets snapped up immediately. You’d think this would send prices into orbit, but the high level of availability for conventional rental property is keeping rents where they are. Tenants have a lot of choice right now and they don’t have quite the willingness to pay over the odds for a unique property in the way that buyers sometimes do. Clearly there’s no investment opportunity seen in paying above-market rents.

We hope that’s given you some insight into the world of individual property for sale and for rent in London and around the UK. We’ll be back next month with more thoughts.

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