Morpheus. In Greek mythology he is the god of dreams. In modern day London he is the deliverer of über high end homes. The fulfiller of dreams. The face of Morpheus is dashing developer Andrew Murray. More anon. A forgotten site in a memorable mews is the latest location. The Chelsea Townhouses, just three of them, are each a mesomorph in mortar and marble composite.
Viewed along mutually perpendicular radii, the concertinas of the finned (to the front) and buttressed (to the back) elevations unfold in anamorphic monochrome. The triumphant triumvirate of light surface, shadowy void and dark glazing is as precisely incised as an Erhard Schön woodcut puzzle. Strips of vertical garden clinging to the rear buttresses provide light green relief.
This art of delaying access to deeper meaning is both metaphorical and physical. The Chelsea Townhouses are four up, two down. Their true verticality remains unrevealed by the delineated modernity of the façade. Two concealed levels lie below street level. Beyond the entrance doors, an airy expanse of lateral living comes as a visual and experiential surprise.
Garages are an integral part of the building envelope. “These houses are real ‘lock ups’,” explains Andrew. “You can drive straight into the garage, step into the lift, walk out of the lobby and you’re home. They’re incredibly secure.” When you’re not at home, Morpheus’ Residential Management Team cleans, carries out security checks, sets up floral arrangements in the first floor reception suite, and a Harvey Nics hamper in the double height kitchen will await you on your return.
This quintessentially upper crust concierge service is included in the purchase price (a snip at £10 million) for the first year. When you are at home, a sommelier will attend to parties while food rises up to the dining room on a mirrored servery, “London’s largest dumb waiter!” Andrew’s words.
Morpheus selected guest designers 1508 London to decorate the 900 square metres interior of the middle house. “We commissioned English designers and craftsmen for much of the furniture,” relates Andrew. “Herringbone and checked tailoring, Fromental wallpaper and Jura blue grey limestone present typical British understatement. Patinato Veneziano polished plaster and brass trimming add a touch of international glamour. Nothing is off the shelf. Everything is handmade.”
A cantilevered staircase resting on open risers with a glazed banister floats efortlessly upwards like a lightweight glacial artery. Andrew refers to it as the “natural flow”. He reckons the first floor winter garden has the best of both worlds, revelling in both display and privacy. This could be a metaphor for the house as a whole. The upper levels are filled with natural light and are used for entertaining: display. The ambiance changes on the lower levels to a duskier clubby feel: privacy. An acoustically panelled cinema and snug family room provide the ultimate underworld sanctuary.
In later Greek mythological writings, Morpheus morphs into the god of sleep. And so to bed. One of four bedrooms, the master suite occupies the whole of the top floor. To the front is the bathroom. A strip of windows facing onto a landscaped roof lights the swathing of bookended Italian marble. To the back, a roof terrace is accessed off the silk carpeted bedroom.
Over the last two decades in business, Andrew has witnessed the metamorphosis of London into the most desirable address in this world. “Demand is through the roof,” he observes. “The capital has one helluva lot of attractions, from culture – where else are museums free? – to a convenient time zone, generous tax structure, political stability, security of legal ownership and education.” Plus heavenly houses fit for the gods like The Chelsea Townhouses.