A Story of Home Kensington & Chelsea Area Guide
Making a home in a city involves forging personal relationships with the hidden enclaves and quiet spots that allow you to reflect, refresh, empty your mind or fill it with ideas. These places feel like your own secret discoveries, and not only do they transform your local area into a neighbourhood that feels like home, but they also form a huge part of the lifestyle you wish for from your home and its surroundings. London is full of these small, tucked away oases of calm and culture and many Londoners make them a part of their daily rituals.
We are standing on the garden terrace of an elegant four-storey house in The Little Boltons, one of London’s most sought-after addresses. Stretching out in front of us is a large tree-lined garden that exudes peace and serenity in the heart of Kensington & Chelsea. Although the Royal Borough’s five square miles embrace some of the most vibrant city life you can find anywhere, 70% of it is in conservation areas.
We thought we’d take you to just a handful of the calm, hidden gems within walking distance of this quiet, graceful garden, places which typify the beauty and elegance that is pervasive in Kensington & Chelsea and which offer subtle alternatives to the area’s many landmarks and nightspots.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Since 1673 Chelsea Physic Garden has occupied four acres of land on the edge of the Thames in Kensington & Chelsea. To step inside this place, nestled behind garden walls, is to be embraced by that sensation of finding a magical, hidden place that you cannot believe you never knew.
The garden was established by the Apothecaries to grow medicinal plants and is today a unique collection of 5,000 edible, medicinal and historical plants that thrive in the south-facing sun and warm air currents of the riverbank. For 350 years, gardeners have used the microclimate here to grow plants not usually found outside in the UK, from grapefruits and pomegranates to ginkgos, mulberries and eucalyptus, and many other rare and endangered species.
Plants remain the foundation of a quarter of all modern western medicines and each bed in the Psychic Garden relates to plants associated with different medical disciplines, like Oncology and Dermatology. It is a place of genuine fascination. But it is also a place in which to simply let yourself exist surrounded by peace and beauty. It is a chance to step away from the streets and marvel at another unexpected side to London’s personality.
The garden seems strangely vast, a reflection on the extraordinary gift to body and spirit that it offers. Imagine this being your local park; a garden that is yours to sit in whenever you want to, a regular part of your London routine, both every-day and genuinely magical.
Tucked away on a quiet street to the south of Holland Park, near to The Design Museum, Leighton House is possibly the most stylish nineteenth-century home open to the public in London. The Victorian artist Lord Leighton lived and painted here, having built a home and studio that was a homage to his travels in the Middle East.
The house is filled with textiles and other objects brought back from Syria, Turkey and Egypt by Leighton in the 1860s and 1870s. The remarkable Arab Hall is lined by a beautiful collection of tiles from Damascus and topped by a stunning gold mosaic frieze that was made in Venice and shipped to London in sections.
Frederic Leighton was a master of self-promotion, and the opulent house was a feat of Victorian PR, drawing to it all the people that mattered in the art world. Today the house and studio of the former poster boy for British art is a place where Londoners can step into a glittering but intensely calm oasis in which to feel inspired.
Kyoto Garden and Fukushima Memorial Garden
Within Holland Park is the sanctuary of the Kyoto Garden, a traditional Japanese garden with hypnotic waterfalls, Japanese maple trees exploding red, crimson and gold in autumn, and Sakuras that are a shower of pink in spring.
The garden was a gift from the city of Kyoto in 1991 to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain. The Fukushima Memorial Garden was added in honour of Japan’s gratitude to the British people for their support following the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
The classic elements of a Japanese garden are here; stone, for structure; water, the life-giving force; and plants, offering colour through all the seasons. The result is a place for quiet reflection centred around the waterfalls, which create a sensory experience in the middle of Kensington & Chelsea and a soundtrack that calms the mind.
A better-known spot, and one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries established in the nineteenth century to cope with the demands of a rapidly growing population, Brompton Cemetery is a haven for wildlife, a home to spectacular trees and a perfect place to escape, contemplate, read, write, or make plans.
There is something uniquely calming about a city cemetery. They are strangely inspiring places, contrarily life-affirming. Brompton was designed as a public space, for enjoyment and recreation, not just a place of burial. It offers a genuinely uplifting respite from the streets of West London and an easy way of getting pleasantly lost amidst the quarter-million resting places. The majestic colonnades and lime tree-lined central avenue remind us that the cemetery was built as a private business which needed to attract wealthy Londoners to buy plots here.
But what makes this place so special is the way in which many West Londoners make it a part of their weekly routine, alongside the woodpeckers and song thrushes, butterflies, bats and bees that have made their home here amongst the wildflowers and memorials, in the centre of Kensington & Chelsea.
When we work with a client to find their next London home, we are looking for a home that will bring to fruition their clear vision of the life that they want to lead. That’s why we are constantly curious about encountering the different sorts of places that make London a home for a wide variety of people. And that is why we seek out quiet London as well as effervescent London.
One of our favourite writers, the Italian novelist and journalist Italo Calvino, wrote in Invisible Cities, “You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” In London, many of our questions are answered by the city’s bright, noisy delights, but some need a sense of calm wonder, or the magic of a hidden place.
What these quiet jewels remind us is that in the nineteenth century when the village of Chelsea and the manor of Kensington developed, and Central London grew out towards them, some of the greatest architects, landscape designers and arborists in the world built the finest streets and homes in today’s Kensington & Chelsea. From the quiet lichen-clad benches of the Chelsea Psychic Garden to the shops and bars of Kensington High Street, and from the single-domed Venetian roof of Leighton House to the two million objects inside the V&A, this is an area of London in which to make a home surrounded by elegance and inspiration in many different guises.
We currently have an off-market opportunity to purchase a unique semi detached townhouse located on the prestigious The Little Boltons.
Please get in touch with one of our team for more information on 0207 867 3999 or email@example.com