My House: Kristian Robson, the man behind Chelsea tailoring brand Oliver Brown tells us how he built his Notting Hill house on top of a duck pond
The owner of men’s tailor Oliver Brown on his charming mews house in Notting Hill. As told to Melissa York.
"When I first moved into my house, one of the neighbours told me it was built on top of a duck pond that was filled in with concrete in the 1960s. So that was interesting when we had to drill lots of holes in it. We weren’t initially able to buy it because we went to Ladbroke Grove thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve got £1.6m to £1.7m to spend on a really big 2,000sqft house and we’ll probably develop it and live there forever.’ But we went down there and they were all way more expensive than that so we kind of missed the boat.
"Then we saw this really unattractive mews, which we just fell in love with, and it was under offer. However, the agents were still showing it to us, which was really naughty, and they said ‘Look, if it falls through, we’ll let you know.’
"It was just when stamp duty increased for properties over £2m, so basically they had 25 bids on it from developers. So I said to the agent, ‘I’ve got a shop called Oliver Brown in Chelsea and I’ll clothe you forever if you get me this house.’ Then they called us up and said the buyer was really mucking them around, so we offered another £50,000 and got it. In the end, I gave him a load of suits and that was it.
"Before we bought it, a solicitor, his wife and three daughters lived in it for 50 years. The sisters fell out when their parents died and it was in probate for 10 years. By the time we arrived, there was this swirly carpet in it, and if we’d kept it, we’d have been sick quite often. It’s hilarious, we kept some of it in our stair cupboard so we could show people how bad it was.
"I didn’t want it to feel like a new development, that’s why I wanted my architect friend Alberto Marcos Flores to do it. He works for AMPS in Madrid and designed the whole exterior facade; it was extremely expensive, but that’s what will sell the house. It’s 2,500 tiles and it took five weeks when we thought it would take three, which we didn’t think about, but we’d never done it before so it was all really exciting.
"I’m half Norwegian so there’s a lot of Scandinavian influence in there, though the outside is very Spanish. There’s a lot of Scandi furniture and we found an amazing art dealer called Christopher Penn, who is very famous, and he picked all the art for me. This guy was exceptional and my wife is probably going to leave me and marry him. Thankfully, he’s already happily married but he’s just the nicest man in the world. There’s £400,000 worth of art and sculpture in there!
"We lived in the house for four years before we realised that if we wanted to grow the family – we’ve got one but we’re desperately trying to have more at the moment – we needed to dig a basement to have that extra space because it’s such a funny layout. There were a couple of neighbours who turned quite nasty because they just didn’t like the idea. I understand that, but living in London, it’s just something you’re going to have to deal with. There were some neighbours who supported it because the house just couldn’t work for two or three kids. It’s not a family house, it’s really for your single hedge funder who wants to entertain.
The living wall was installed in the last two or three weeks – it was my idea and it is real. Everyone in the mews absolutely loves me for it. Even the ones that were so anti me doing a basement dig have said, ‘Wow, thank you so much for doing that.’ They come out in the morning and instead of a white wall, it’s green and it will be amazing in the summer.
"I think the mews is way more charming than living in a townhouse. Everyone knows each other and I’m converted to mews life. We are one of the few mews that get access to Ladbroke Square Gardens and it’s an absolute joy. My son totally loves it, he goes there every day.
"There are so many corners of the house I spend a lot of time in. Specifically the snug upstairs beside the kitchen has such amazing energy. If you’re in the master bedroom at night, you have this beautiful marble aspect with the ensuite steam room, then opposite that is the dressing room, which is my pride and joy. It’s massive in there, particularly because I have loads of suits and shirts. It’s a walk-in wardrobe that’s really well designed.
"My home and my work are quite separate – I work in the shop – but there is a desk area in the hallway, which is very functional.
"We decided to sell it seven weeks ago, but nobody’s bid yet. We’ve offered the agent at Strutt & Parker who sells it £20,000 worth of Oliver Brown clothing, just because they do get offered money – which you’re not allowed to do – but you’re absolutely allowed to give them a gift. The agents have got quite excited about that, apparently."
Kristian Robson’s mews is on sale with Strutt & Parker for £5.295m. Call 07818 553465