There’s something romantically Shakespearean about the sound of a "winter garden" – an analogy, perhaps, for finding sanctuary or solace. Which is all rather apt at Goodman’s Fields, a new development from Berkeley Homes that sits at Aldgate’s fast-changing crossroads where the culturally diverse east London collides with the City of London’s newest glass towers.
Just yards from where the Goodman's Fields Theatre opened nearly 300 years ago – a stage that was no stranger to performances of the Bard’s works – you can now find sanctuary in the winter gardens belonging to the £5m Goodman Penthouse, which sits on the 17th to 19th floors of Satin House.
A winter garden – or sky garden, as some call it – is a glass box that has little to do with greenery but is all about providing an extension to the living space in new-build apartments. It’s the modern take on a covered balcony – a way of taking in some extraordinary city views at altitude without the accompanying wind chill factor.
From the two winter gardens in the Box 66-designed Goodman Penthouse – one a dining area that protrudes from the large Poggenpohl kitchen, the other a reading space that extends out from the third bedroom – you sit suspended above the heart of the city that is surreally silent from this great height.
It’s hard to imagine any book or dinner table chat distracting enough to divert your attention from the views of city life outside – the architectural icons (the Cheesegrater, Walkie Talkie and Gherkin are framed by one of the glass walls) and the rush-hour headlights, after-work joggers and trains that snake along nearby streets and tracks. For background lighting, you have the glow of the City’s office blocks. When you long for fresh air, the penthouse also has large open terraces.
If you live 10 or 20 storeys up, a well-designed winter garden is the clever way to bring the outside in. “They are conceived with an inherent flexibility, so you can slide them open to recreate the sense of a balcony in warmer months, and they enhance and seamlessly integrate with the main living space to make the most of expansive views,” says Piers Clanford, managing director at Berkeley Homes (North East London), who has watched Aldgate transform and local property prices double in the 10 years since Goodman’s Fields was a twinkle in Berkeley Homes’ eye.
There is still “good value and opportunity to improve further”, he adds, with the development proving popular with City financiers who fancy a walk to work. Also pivotal to the area’s fortunes is the “big game-changer” less than a mile down the road, Whitechapel’s Crossrail station.
Winter gardens barely existed in central London 10 years ago. Where they did, the often looked inelegantly bolted on and lacked a sense of purpose. But their design has evolved and they are now springing up all over the place, providing a major selling point in many of London’s highest profile new developments, from Battersea Power Station to Canary Wharf’s latest Manhattan-inspired residential towers such as Mount Anvil’s 31-storey Dollar Bay.
At King’s Cross, Taylor Wimpey Central London’s Onyx Apartments, from £675,000 have winter gardens that overlook Regent’s Canal and the historic gas holders. And atOne Blackfriars, St George’s skinny boomerang that is set to transform the south side of Blackfriars Bridge, is also making the most of its double skin of glass by creating private winter gardens for apartments throughout the tower. Prices of two-bed flats start at £2.68m.
Winter gardens can work on houses too. The design studio Echlin has devised one with a retractable glass roof on the top floor of a 7,000 sq ft house in West London. “You can see the blue skies and feel the sunshine,” comments Sam McNally, Echlin’s design director.
But they really come into their own in London’s high-rise developments as a way of making residents feel “a connection with the outside world”, thinks Knight Frank partner Mark Wilkinson. He’s selling the £17m penthouse designed by Studio Reed at Neo Bankside, where you can’t imagine feeling disconnected from the city for too long, given St Paul’s Cathedral is your near neighbour just across the river.
There’s also a highly practical purpose behind these urban sky gardens: you get to take in the views without the simultaneous inhalation of exhaust fumes and car horns. “They enhance the lifestyle aspect of the development by providing residents with a usable amenity space, they achieve noise reduction and they can dramatically change the appearance of an apartment building from the more traditional forms such as inset or projecting balconies,” comments Simon Taylor, technical director of Redrow London. They’re marketing 205 Holland Park Avenue, where flats from £1.1m have winter gardens overlooking Royal Crescent Gardens.
It’s high-rise London’s latest design trend and who knows what Shakespeare would have made of it. Not so much of a winter’s tale, perhaps, as a sanctuary for all seasons.
- Source: Luxury Photo: telegraph.co.uk