|( From top ) One of the four bedrooms, furniture and dining area of an apartment worth £16.5 million
London, June 25: Spacious apartments with ceilings five metres high and overlooking Hyde Park in one of the most prestigious locations in London were put on the market yesterday with the property developers making a particular pitch at rich Indians.
The luxurious development, known as The Lancasters, on the Bayswater Road consists of two four-storey town houses, worth £30m (Rs 207 crore) each , and 75 apartments, varying from £2m (Rs 13.8 crore) for a 1,000 sq ft studio flat to £16.5m (Rs 113.85 crore) for a 5,200sqft four-bedroom flat which The Telegraph was shown.
To make the flat look even more appealing, the joint developers, Northacre and Minerva, and a firm of interior designers — Intarya — had put in £1m (Rs 6.9 crore) worth of furniture and fittings.
Enough suitcases were heaped in the corridor to make the unsuspecting believe the socialite wife of a rich Delhi or Mumbai type had already hit town.
Should an Indian decide to purchase one of the apartments as a London home, he (or she) will have to walk only a short distance to Kensington Palace Gardens, billionaires row, if Lakshmi Mittal feels inclined to extend an invitation to tea.
A third of the properties are already spoken for, according to Klas Nilsson, the Swedish-born chairman and chief executive of Northacre, whose particular skill is to modernise heritage buildings in London. This is the chance to own a modern structure in a historic part of London, said Nilsson.
He sticks to renovating properties in London but expressed interest when told Calcutta, with its treasure-trove of dilapidated heritage homes, could do with someone like him.
Nilsson is also an experienced engineer and architect. Retaining the Grade II-listed façade of what once stood on Bayswater Road — there were 15 properties on the site that at one stage made up a hotel — the architects and the engineers went to work, completely gutted the interiors of the structures and basically built anew. Marble was brought from France and Italy, chandeliers from Murano in Italy.
An in house team of interior designers, Intarya, took over. Since potential buyers could come from India or Russia or from one of the Gulf states, the aim was to create something that would attract the international traveller.
A Bengali, should he be wealthy enough to buy one of the apartments, would probably want a few more books lying around the place. For others, with the Indian art market resurgent in London, there will be no problem getting hold of M.F. Husains. In fact, MF, should the mood take him, could even be persuaded to create a fresco on one of the walls.
The name Intarya is made up from international and arya — the latter is taken from Sanskrit to denote noble, great, excellent and truthful, the creative director of the firm, Daniel Kostiuc, explained.
His colleague, Kamini Ezralow, was born Kamini Jivan, into a 100 per cent Gujarati family from Porbander, and has lived and worked in Hong Kong, America and London and has a good sense of the needs, requirements and tastes of the international traveller.
There are touches of India — tigers and elephants and village women carrying jars of water have been painted on to the silk draped walls by a London company called Fromental, which specialises in such art.
The attention to detail is painstaking and expensive. The crystal wine glasses are St Louis, the dinner service Hermes and the cutlery Puiforcat, all from France. There is no obligation on Indian buyers to take these extras — some from India would no doubt prefer to bring their own peetal bartans (brass utensils) and lotas.
There is also the question of whether an Indian could convert several crore rupees into pounds for such a purchase.
According to Fox Mandal Little, the Indian legal firm that has an office in London, the restriction for buying property was $100,000 (Rs 46.5 lakh) per person in a financial year but several family members could pool together to buy a house. But this figure has now gone up to $200,000 (Rs 93 lakh) and people were waiting for that, a source said.
The way round the restriction is to buy a property through a company since the sum then permitted is 400 per cent of the net worth of the company. The source commented: When we are talking of millions of pounds, the buyer is probably a CEO or an entrepreneur of a big company and it should not be a problem as the cut off figure is 400 per cent of the net worth of his company.
Are Indians buying homes abroad? The answer to that is: Yes, Indians in India now have a lot of, you know….money.
The people behind The Lancasters appear to have done their home work.