Sunday, December 26, 2010
Inside Roman Abramovich's palatial £150million home by Harrods.. that extends three storeys underground
It is a mansion fit for a king - or even a tsar.
Not content with the dozens of houses he already owns around the world, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has purchased all nine flats of a prime London block by Harvey Nichols and Harrods.
Spread across two stucco-fronted properties in Lowndes Square in London, the eight-bedroom building is expected to be worth up to £150million.
It should provide plenty of space for Abramovich, 44, girlfriend Dasha Zhukova, 29, and their baby son Aaron, one.
For Chelsea football club owner Abramovich, whose £14billion fortune makes him the 15th richest person in the world, the house will be a measure of his vast wealth and an opulent expression of his personal style.
'It looks as though it will be palatial,' said a source familiar with the plans. 'He wants a very plush interior in the style of high neoclassical Victoriana to match the exterior.
'This is clearly a personal project, because men like him would normally hand such a massive undertaking to some upmarket interior design firm.
'He's going to be very hands-on and there will be nothing minimalist about his taste. Inside will be all cornices, thick pile carpeting and heavy drapery.'
The proposals, approved by Kensington and Chelsea council, should also prove more than adequate for Mr Abramovich, if his older five children do occasionally visit.
The development, over five storeys above ground and three basement levels, boasts a cinema/entertainment room, an indoor pool, steam room and sauna, as well as a children's study and entertainment room.
All six family bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, as do the two guest rooms. In a linked mews development behind the main building, four flats above a multicar garage will be used as staff accommodation.
The total size is 30,000 sq feet, five times the area of a normal five-bedroomed family home.
The home is currently two adjoining townhouses, which were split into nine apartments in 1998.
Mr Abramovich has been buying up the individual flats over the years to convert the building into the single home, but did not change the exterior.
He first bought a flat there in the late Nineties, spending £1.2million.
He and his then wife, Irina, spent a similar amount gutting and remodelling it and it was their London home for several years.
That was before he bought Chelsea FC, a Sussex estate and a home worth £40million in nearby Chester Square, which Irina kept following their divorce.
Abramovich held on to the Lowndes Square flat and steadily expanded his portfolio.
'I knew he was buying property in the square,' said a property expert.
'But I didn't realise all of them were in these two buildings. He was obviously determined to acquire them and just waited patiently until, one by one, they came on the market.'
By cannily buying up individual flats, the Russian has ended up paying between £15million and £20million for the two historic houses, a great deal less than their eventual worth.
He bought the freehold for the buildings from Sun Life for only £1.8million.
Abramovich's property portfolio also includes a luxury flat at the new Bridges Wharf development next to Battersea heliport; an £18million, 420-acre estate, Fyning Hill, in West Sussex; a villa in the South of France; a house in Tuscany; a hotel complex in Cyprus and a holiday home in Montenegro.
There is also a house in Moscow and a palatial St. Barts compound purchased last year.
And he own multiple yachts.
The Knightsbridge building was designed by renowned master builder Thomas Cubitt, who worked on a swathe of grand designs in West London in the 1830s.
Cubitt was also responsible for the east front of Buckingham Palace.
The new interiors are designed by neoclassical architect John Simpson, a favourite of Prince Charles who was responsible for the Queen's Gallery addition to Buckingham Palace, built in in 2002.
John Martin Robinson, a historic building consultant who has assessed the proposals, said there was so little period detail remaining that the work could only improve the building.
'It will reintroduce a grand town house of the type which originally featured in the square,' he said.
'The work will revive some of the original early Victorian glamour of the square and introduce a classical interior worthy of the elevation.'