EVEN within London’s once-notorious East End, The Highway has an extraordinarily colourful history. Formerly known as Ratcliffe Highway, in the 1800s it was home to the world’s largest wild animal emporium.
A statue of a small boy and a tiger by Tobacco Dock commemorates the incident in which a fully-grown Bengal tiger escaped and carried off a small child who tried to pet it. Miraculously, the boy lived. The area was renowned for muggings, murder and opium dens and, in 1936, just a spit away, Cable Street was the scene of one of Britain’s most famous skirmishes when locals fought back against a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
What a difference a century makes. Today, Wapping and its environs — neatly gentrified, with its historic warehouse buildings preserved and reincarnated as Manhattan loft-style apartments — is a highly fashionable inner London address.
There’s no better example than this stunningly stylish three-bedroom, split-level penthouse in Telfords Yard, within a redeveloped former wool warehouse on the Highway. It’s not for sale — the owner can’t quite bear to part with it — but it’s available for a three to four-year let to those who can afford around £70,000 a year.
Outside, the dark brick of the original building has been carefully preserved; tall cast-iron gates reflect the building’s industrial past and lead to a leafy and private inner courtyard.
But inside this airy 1,800sq ft penthouse apartment, with its twin terraces, double-height ceilings in some parts, exposed brickwork and original ironwork, no expense has been spared on a lavish and somewhat extraordinary £400,000 refit.
Stretching across the fifth and sixth floors, it is as quirky as it is sumptuous, and every bit of bespoke furniture comes with the flat, although the new tenant might have to find their own artwork.
The doors are all finished in highly glossed walnut, while the gleaming black entrance door came from Williams Ironmongery. Near the entrance, a glass-topped side table sits on twisted metal legs, while a studded metal chest holds other artefacts.
In the middle of the living room, a glass-walled wine cellar — bespoke from Cellar Maison — holds up to 250 bottles, cleverly varying temperatures in different parts of the cabinet to suit red and white wine and champagne.
Off the main living area are two generous bedrooms with plush cream carpets, and in the master bedroom, there’s a wall of feature wallpaper with gently swooping swallows. French doors lead off to a generous terrace, with views into the interior of the building.
The second bedroom, currently used as a dressing room, has built-in wardrobes with mirror panels, a splendid, hot pink-coloured chaise longue and a chest of drawers designed in the style of a 19th-century ‘travelling’ chest.
The large bathroom on this floor has large rust and blue-hued ceramic floor tiles, with a wall of mirror panels, a bath and a large shower. The living room has poured concrete floors (quite a feat on the fifth floor), a cowhide rug, shimmering with a silver-splatter treatment (with a matching pouffe, natch) and two leather ‘saddle’ chairs complete with stirrups.
The Roundhouse Design kitchen has a hammered granite worktop which extends to create an island/bar with pendant lights, crafted from the same concrete used on the floor. The leather and metal-studded bar stools (bespoke and £1,000 each) swivel and turn so you can look out at the views across London, while bi-fold doors open to a large terrace.
The owner ripped out the spiral staircase and replaced it with a more linear, floating wooden staircase. Upstairs, in a most unusual feature, a third of the floor is glass. In a second living area, a huge flat-screen TV is poised on the exposed brick wall before an elegant green velvet sofa and deep mauve-coloured velvet chair. The pitched roof has skylights, while a feature wall boasts exotic aqua-coloured peacocks on a sage green backdrop.
No detail has been overlooked in this luxurious home refit. Even the sliding doors, hiding copious storage space, are covered in soft rust and blue-hued velvet. The third, guest bedroom is tucked away here, with its Kingfisher wallpaper designed to give an aviary feel. The en-suite shower room is fitted in brown tiles with just a hint of glitter.
The refit was a work of passion for the owner over the past eight years. He now travels too much to properly use the penthouse but said he couldn’t bring himself to sell it.
‘I have loved living here,’ he says. ‘With everything on your doorstep, the location is amazing.
‘And so is this apartment…’
■ £1,350 per week, dexters.co.uk
What you get for your money
■ 1,800sq ft with three bedrooms and three bathrooms
■ A £400,000 refit of furniture and fittings — all included in the rental price
■ A chic, convenient address, near the City
■ Bespoke quirky furniture, sure to be a talking point
■ Private twin outdoor terraces, with views across London
■ Private reception
■ Gated building
■ A leafy inner courtyard
■ Wine cellar (pictured)