Mews are some of London's prettiest streets with narrow cobbled lanes and lovely pastel cottages. It is easy to forget you are in the middle of one of the world's busiest cities.
Unsurprising then, mews style houses are some of London's most sought-after properties, but they come from unexpectedly humble beginnings.
What is a mews property?
The buildings we now call mews properties were built as stables and coach houses. Usually, to be found in cobbled lanes, these low-level stable blocks sat behind the more palatial residential townhouses to which they belonged. Despite their relatively humble origins, mews properties have become highly desirable dwellings. Though mews buildings can be found in other cities in the UK, they are generally associated with London.
The first London mews was built in the 13th century for royal falcons to shed their feathers. The word mew comes from the French word mue, meaning moult. Over the centuries, the Royal Mews began to be used to stable horses and house royal coaches with living accommodation for the staff. As London expanded in the Georgian era, grand terraces of townhouses were built, but space was needed to accommodate horses, coaches and servants away from the main home. Mews were constructed in a row at the back of the property with access via a separate lane. Most mews houses had stables and space to place a coach at the bottom with servants' quarters above. Mews houses have no windows at the back to prevent servants from seeing into the garden of the main property.
Why are they so appealing?
The main appeal of mews properties is their central location. Because they built close to squares of townhouses in some of London's most wealthy neighbourhoods, mews houses can be found in London's most prized locations, including Knightsbridge. A central location means that mews properties are situated near a wide range of amenities and attractions.
Aside from location, mews properties tend to be tucked away down quieter streets, away from the faster pace of the world nearby. Their comparative seclusion adds to their charm, while the mews streets also tend to boast attractive exteriors and period features, almost in the same tradition and style as a country 'chocolate-box' cottage.
Parking outside a mews property is not uncommon, and some of these properties have garages intact. In addition, a mews street often feels safe, private and secure, which will always appeal to buyers. While for those who like to have close neighbours and enjoy a sense of community in a central London area, mews properties are ideal.
What should buyers and investors look out for?
Developers have, by and large, improved the interiors of many mews properties, remodelling them to enlarge and reconfigure the space. The main downside of mews properties is that they can be small inside. However, they tend not to be listed, allowing developers and owners greater freedom to remodel the interiors. This could mean excavating into the basement to add a third level, extending into the roof space, or installing a roof terrace.
Rooms inside a mews house can be small unless the property has been remodelled into an open-plan space. Many mews properties don't have windows at the back or side, which can make the interiors dark. However, modern lighting design will solve this problem, but lighting might still be a key consideration for anyone looking to buy a mews property.
Original features of a mews property to look out for include timber beams, sash windows and coach house doors.
Mews property: Pros
We adore mews streets and the list of advantages if you are lucky enough to live in one is long. We have limited ourselves to three highlights:
Tenure - Most mews houses are owned freehold, which means you will own both the building and the land it stands on with no time limit. So, unlike other small central London properties sold as leasehold, there are no service charges and no lease agreement to adhere to.
Privacy and security - Mews houses are built on quiet cobbled streets set back from the main roads. Because mews lanes don't have through traffic, there is virtually no street-level noise. There is a real sense of community on mews streets where your neighbours will watch your home when you are away.
Garage space - Having evolved from stables and coach houses, many mews houses have space to accommodate a car.
Mews Property: Cons
Mews living isn't for everyone, in the interest of balance, here are three downsides to living in a London mews house.
Windows and lighting - Owing to their original purpose, mews houses usually only have small windows at the front and none at the back, have small rooms and low ceilings. To enhance the natural light, many mews properties have skylights added.
Gardens - Most mews houses do not have a garden, although a small number have a roof terrace.
Alterations - The majority of Mews are in conservation areas, and some are listed. You will therefore have to comply with various regulations if you want to extend or alter your property. This could include even small things like the colour you paint your front door.
If you want to buy in a mews property in central London, either to live in or let out, Plaza Estates can help. Contact us today.