What Makes a Prestigious Super-Prime Penthouse?

By Oliver Burns

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April 1, 2014|

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  • otable for their generous proportions, spectacular views and lavish interiors, penthouses are heralded as the ultimate luxury space for those requiring the best city abode. Originally defined as a smaller separate house constructed on the top of a building, these rooftop spaces have always held a ubiquitous appeal, providing the definitive status symbol for the wealthy. There is a huge cachet to owning a one-off space such as a unique penthouse, so when it comes to price, these apartments are in a different league. The penthouse at Walpole Mayfair fetched record high prices for Mayfair and St James’s at £4542 per sq. ft.; the penthouse at One Hyde Park, the most expensive apartment in London went on the market for £140m*1; late summer 2014 will see the completion of the Ebury Square penthouses in the heart of Belgravia from the Berkeley Group, with prices from £20.1million; and the up and coming penthouses at Battersea power station are set to be priced at £25-£30m*2; With the London market showing signs of being overinflated and operating in a bubble-like status, there are some properties that will always hold their value. Penthouses, if well located and designed and developed to the best standard, will almost always present a sound investment.
Image via Oliver Burns

At Oliver Burns, we have worked on a number of penthouses and have several more in the pipeline. What makes these spaces so special is multi-layered. First and foremost is their address. Uniquely found in cities, the best penthouses are located in high profile landmark locations and therefore in short supply. Although a downside for the prospective buyer because choice is limited, it is their scarcity that helps make them so desirable.

Image via Oliver Burns

Adding to their appeal is their rooftop positions that present often stunning panoramic views of the capital. London is an amazing city with a rich architectural heritage interspersed with an assortment of interesting contemporary buildings. Penthouses with great roof terraces allow their owners to appreciate some of this lustre in the comfort of their own personal space. The better the view, the more desirable the apartment, so it is almost always worthwhile to try and secure that extra space on the roof if permission isn’t currently in place.
When it comes to the space itself, penthouse apartments are usually large, around 3000 square feet and upwards, which means they are often twice the size of the apartment below. The two-storey penthouse at The Shard for example is deemed to be the size of a six or seven bedroom house*3. This sort of space is hard to come by in London, so presents a very exclusive opportunity for the prospective buyer. However, the luxury of space and a roof top location does not guarantee a swift return for developments. Whilst these elements go a long way to delivering a great penthouse, a truly splendid space requires good design, clever utilisation of space, and delivery of the wow factor.

Image via Oliver Burns

Perched upon a rooftop, penthouses usually benefit from considerable light and space, and this can be further enhanced with large expanses of glass such as double or triple height windows and doors. This in combination with an open plan layout ensures light is not blocked and panoramic views are undisturbed. We designed the penthouse at Walpole Mayfair with six metre high frameless windows spanning two floors and glass balustrading on the roof terrace to ensure maximum light and uninterrupted views of the skyline. For a private commission in St James’s, we extended the living areas onto the terrace to provide a seamless indoor-outdoor space.
At the same time, the interior design must be carefully considered to ensure the open plan spaces don’t look cold and sparse. When designing, we divide the space to create zones for living, eating and entertaining and to help with privacy. The apartment needs to work for the client, so ensuring it’s functional and flexible is key. Whilst it should be a stunning masterpiece in design, it’s also a home, so getting the balance right is crucial.

Image sourced via The Corinthia

In the finest luxury hotels, penthouses are designed and equipped to first-class standards, setting a new benchmark for luxury accommodation. Super luxury hotels position their penthouses as prime residential spaces. The vast 5000 square foot Royal Penthouse at the Corinthia hotel, for instance, features an oval polished Makassar ebony dining table with seating for 10 guests, a butler’s kitchen and walk-in wine cellar and a private spa suite. It is these features that help take these apartments beyond the ordinary.

Image via Oliver Burns

When designing penthouses, we work to translate the needs and aspirations of the Ultra High Net Worth Individual into something special. This means combining best in class finishes with bespoke handcrafted furniture, then adding in contemporary design elements and a touch of the unexpected, to help deliver the wow factor.
Aside from the aesthetics and more specifically for developments, additional services play a key role in ensuring a penthouse has a differentiated offering. To a large extent, it needs to match the amenities that a hotel can provide, especially if it’s used as a pied-à-terre in the week. Features, such as a 24-hour concierge, private lift and luxury communal areas, all go a long way to delivering the overall package. If that’s not enough, then additional services can usually be provided by the hotel next door or around the corner.
With beautiful individual design, world-class views and the best facilities – it’s everything the prospective buyer could want and more – that’s what makes penthouses so special.
Written by JB
*1 The Daily Mail, 11th August 2010
*2 The Evening Standard 9th May 2012


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