London’s Basement Revolution


They are the luxurious answer to London's shortage of space, for those who have the investment and time. Whilst the uproar of living next to or in the vicinity of major construction works will always cause headaches amongst locals, there seems to be no stopping London’s growing population digging down.

Ultimately, if value can be added by excavating a basement, it is no wonder they are so sought after. In 2001, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea received just 46 basement planning applications. In 2013, the planning department received over 450. By the end of 2014, well in excess of 500 will have been applied for.

Grosvenor Crescent Mews Basement

Whether you are worried about the hassle and expense of moving, or are simply looking into all the possibilities of an extensive renovation on your property, creating a new basement makes more sense than you might think. Unlike a loft conversion, which offers more space but restricted movement, a basement provides a near whole new floor comparable to the ground level or perhaps even larger.

Given the increasing number of basement works, there is a growing sentiment that restrictions should be applied. In Central London, both the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster have hinted at limiting the extent of works applicable on a project specific basis. Consequently, residents and developers are now squeezing in their applications in the time before the luxury is taken away.

In some instances, the addition of a basement creates homes where there is actually more space below ground level than above ground. An additional floor can add to the feeling of spaciousness. Any further underground space and there is always the risk of having a bunker feeling. Currently under construction, 76 Ladbroke Grove is one example of this 21st century subterranean living. In the heart of Notting Hill, it will benefit from a double basement with 4 bedrooms, gym and media room.

Ladbroke Grove Basement CGI

Until any comprehensive new rules come into play, owners’ ambitions for their underground developments know no bounds. There have been cases where owners have applied to turn the basement of his Fulham townhouse into several windowless, air-conditioned rooms to act as one big fridge for food and drink shipped in from overseas. With an industrial power supply, it goes to show that these conversions can be used for absolutely anything you can think of. The possibilities are endless.

Quite simply, there are two types of basement builders. The uber wealthy do what the rich have always done, building basements with James Bond gadgets, which doesn’t necessarily add any value to a sales price. Then there are the spatially challenged who want to create extra rooms and add value to their property for example, additional living space, playrooms for the children, and living quarters for the nanny. If a basement is functional, they will significantly enhance the end price of the property.

“Ensuring any basement is practical is if anything, more important to just having that Wow factor. If the space looks good, but isn’t well arranged, buyers won’t be able to visualise how they use it” says Eleri Lloyd, Senior Interior Designer at Landmass. In a Belgravia mews house, the basement’s sheer volume of of 3.2 metre high ceilings provided the necessary splendour but Landmass ensured that every inch of space within the property is used to its best potential. On completion, Ross Lawson, Head of Projects at Landmass remarked “the house is unique in that if you go in with the lights off, it’s still bright. The fact a buyer paid £6.9m, a record selling price for a London mews is no surprise.”

Mews houses can be dark, so making sure that light came through the property was a priority. Thanks to innovative design and, a glazed roof and glass flooring, light flows from the south-facing roof terrace right down to the basement deep underground.

Landmass - Mews Basement

When it comes to high-end features, another Landmass property development ticks the boxes. In addition to a sunken TV area, bespoke fireplaces, there’s even a 10-and-a-half foot water feature. In this Hyde Park house, there was a huge challenge in that there were no windows at the rear of the property. It had houses all around it so was basically stuck in a box. Managing Director of Landmass then suggesting something truly unique amongst property throughout the world. “We took out a corner and created an atrium from the top floor with a glass retractable roof on it down to the basement with waterfall running all the way down”. That house sold quickly and went on to win Best London Development and Best Interior Design in the United Kingdom

Best Interior Design

What is clear is that basements are under more scrutiny than ever. In ten years, it’s possible that permissions for digging basements in some high value areas in London may be stopped completely. So if you are keen to add a pool, gym, or games room to your London property, now might be the time.