How Chelsea Barracks raised the bar for urban living
The Rake recently took a spin around one of the most talked about (and coveted) neighbourhoods in the world. Welcome to Chelsea Barracks.
It's not often that you walk into a modern property development and are left speechless, but recently I found myself carrying my jaw around one of the most talked about real estate projects in the world. The development in question is Chelsea Barracks, the enormous 13-acre super-luxury vision of the Qatari Diar group, which finally welcomed the first of its new residents this month. From the purchase of the land - the site of a former army garrison - off The Ministry of Defence in 2007, the realisation of this colossal scheme comes after many a twist and turn, not least the great financial crisis, but make no mistake – walk along Chelsea's Pimlico Road today and you will be greeted with one of the most impressive contemporary luxury apartment developments in all of London. It seems the wait was worth it. I was lucky enough to visit Whistler Square to interview Take That's lead, Gary Barlow, in September this year for The Rake's December issue. The shoot was held in one of the penthouse apartments; a sprawling six-bedroom duplex affording stunning 360-degree views of South West London, not least from the ensuite, floor-to-ceiling glass bathrooms. There were still elements to be added to or worked on, but the level of finishing was there to see. From the private lift, one steps into a vaulting atrium that with commanding artworks on the walls and incredible views of Chelsea and Belgravia. Elicyon, the interior design studio responsible for many of the residences and amenities spaces have done an excellent job honouring the heritage of the site, translating its spirit of legacy into rooms of great beauty and distinction. Weaving delicate military details, inspired by infantry uniforms and artillery into the design, many elements of the interiors subtly honour the heritage of the former Barracks.
If the scale of the residences is enough to leave you gobsmacked, then the attention to detail will render you even more open-mouthed. No expense has been spared in the sourcing of the finest materials and the very best artisans who specialise in them. The Bianca Eclipse stone used in the kitchen worktops is, for example, quarried in Brazil, then finished by Italian stone artisans. Then there are the bronzed balcony balustrades, which are a bespoke design inspired by the botanical prints of William Morris. Residence floors and cabinetry are crafted to endure from the highest select grade FSC certified European Oak. As for the townhouses, they also come with their own unique trimmings: the balustrade railings are one-off works of art, created bespoke for each townhouse by Tord Boontje; the fireplaces in the formal reception rooms are crafted from black Port Laurent stone with metallic white and gold veins; the chevron flooring, hewn from solid oak, will develop a deep, rich patina over time; the entrance hall is a space of elegant proportions and fine craftsmanship, with bespoke flooring fashioned from three varieties of natural stone; the spacious eat-in kitchen is fitted with handmade cabinetry by Halstock, the epitome of fine English craftsmanship; Arabescata stone floors, walls and countertops pair with bespoke Samuel Heath basins and fittings in the capacious bathrooms; and the landscaped private garden connects seamlessly with the living space of the mews houses, perfect for relaxing and entertaining.
So far, so opulent. For all the extravagant bells and lavish whistles in the residences, a development on the scale of Chelsea Barracks could not exist in the current market without a world-class amenities service and so Qatari Diar has thrown the kitchen sink at providing a 6-star hotel-like concierge service. Called The Garrison Club, residences can think of it as their own private, always available, Society of the Crossed Keys (Wes Anderson fans know what I'm talking about). For those looking to unwind, the palatial spa is a subterranean Aladdin’s cave of bespoke wellness, peace and tranquility. From the stunning lobby featuring a woven feather and fibre optic chandelier by East London-based artist Sharon Marston, guests can choose to be pampered from an extensive menu of Elemis spa treatments ranging from peptide facials to body scrubs, wraps and massage, or can of course arrange for their favourite masseuse and/or treatment expert to tend to them in one of the private rooms. Further inside, the white marble and gold detail spa area features a light-reactive 20m pool, male and female experience showers, steam rooms and saunas, a tepidarium, together with wet and dry relaxation areas and vitality pools, all suffused in a calming ambient light. It rivals anything else in London, and as a resident, you needn't even step outside to access it. Beside being pampered to within an inch of one's life, the Garrison Club also boasts a private cinema (the popcorn menu is insane), two 12-seater boardrooms should feel that way inclined, a capacious living area (perfect for hosting guests or having private parties) and a real den of a games room, complete with billiards table, backgammon sets and a personal lock-up for guests to stash away bottles of their favourite tipples. As I left Whistler Square on that day in September, builders were just putting the finishing touches to an apocalyptic Conrad Shawcross sculpture which dominates the Pimlico Road entrance. It's a real Marmite work of art, but such has been the evolution of Chelsea Barracks from day one. Not everyone will warm to these 13-acres of extreme luxury, but what one can appreciate is the passion and dedication that has been poured in to making the fantastical come true.