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Interview Special: Developing The Sanctuary

The development of The Sanctuary over the course of the past 18 months has become a talking point in Battersea. Locals have witnessed the revival and restoration of the once derelict building of St. Paul's Church with delight. Now the building stands tall on St. John's Hill as a symbol of excellence and for what can be achieved in the great city of London. When discussing a conversion project like The Sanctuary, the true scale of such an undertaking can only be rightly conveyed through the words of those closest to the project behind the scenes. It was a great pleasure to speak with developer, Nick Laurence, and interior designer, Sarah Reed to discuss their highlights and what the project has come to mean to them. Here are their journeys. Nick Laurence, founder and developer, James Laurence Group What initially excited you most about the prospect of converting St. Paul's Church in Battersea' We have worked in and around Battersea for more than 20 years and have always been drawn towards unusual projects. St. Paul's Church provided a great freedom for us to blend originality and quality. We've specialised in conversions for years and we couldn't let the opportunity to work on an historic building like this to pass us by. What were the biggest issues you faced when converting the church from an open community space into separate properties When converting any building, one of our main aims is to hide infrastructure. However, this conversion had the added element of trying to maintain the feel of the building as a church while meeting modern housing compliance standards. We went to great lengths to ensure that the internal features were maintained and preserved. We are proud to have achieved a high energy efficiency which is quite an accomplishment, particularly when converting an historic building. In your opinion, which features or aspects of this new redevelopment makes this project particularly special in the current market' There are a number of features to point out at The Sanctuary. The most prominent feature is definitely the spire which we have made into a fantastic folly. The tower spire room contains a five-metre-long chandelier which is an outstanding feature and the top floor viewing platform boasts 360 degree views of the city. The devil is in the detail. The Gothic inspired arched doors for example are all handmade and were inspired by the designs of Horace Walpole in 1749 for Strawberry Hill House. When I've shown pictures of The Sanctuary to architects and developers, they are always amazed by the level of detail and what we have achieved. Usually a project loses a little bit of its initial lustre by this point, but the space is still inspiring when I return to work during the week. If you were to own a property at The Sanctuary, which rooms could you imagine spending most of your time in' This is a tough question, as there's so many great spaces. The Apse has an approximately 600 square foot bedroom and bathroom, this is connected to a study and drawing room by a secret door. It has all been built within this wonderful huge arch in the eastern end of the church which was once the altar. The arch now houses a bookcase that hides a cupboard, a secret door and a bar! Totally unique. You have now completed numerous projects in the Battersea area. Do you know feel a connection with the area, and if so, what do you love most about Battersea' Yes, I definitely feel a connection to the area. What I like about Battersea is that the area has maintained its originality with its range of eclectic shops and restaurants ' not your usual cloned shops seen in so many high Streets. The parks in the area ' Wandsworth, Clapham Common and Battersea ' are such a great amenity for the area. They are venues for some great annual events ' Battersea Park even has a zoo! What are the greatest rewards when converting an unused site such as St. Paul's' Over the past 18 months, one of the most rewarding things for us has been the high praise that we have received from locals and passers-by. They were all so pleased about how this historic site was being developed into a usable space once again. We often travelled past St. Paul's in the past and overlooked the building as it was in such disrepair. It is now greatly rewarding to compare pictures of the church as it once was to what it is like now. Which London property schemes or initiatives have caught your attention in recent months' From a local perspective, the stand out scheme is the Power Station and the adjoining development. It's added a significant new dimension to Battersea and the surrounding area. Its also incredible to see the kinds of values achieved there, we feel it makes Sanctuary Apartments pricing extremely good value. Sarah Reed, interior designer, Hard Hat Property How did you approach this particular project in terms of design' I identified the features of the church that could be translated into exquisite and luxurious modern living: coolness, calm, peace, tranquility and celebration. Timelessness has been key to the design, as has retaining and championing as much as possible of the existing structure. You'll find recurrent themes of contrasts: darkness into light, grand open spaces and small, intimate areas, natural surfaces against soft, luxury and simplicity, intricate detail and effortless elegance. Which parts of the process are most memorable to you' It's extraordinary today to remember what the church looked like on my first visit two summers ago. Empty inside and open to the roof, it was a challenge to visualise three floors in the space above, rooms accessed through the soaring arches, light beaming through the clerestory windows high above, now shining through bedroom and bathroom windows, the spire reinvented as the coolest hangout in London. Since then, it's been a daily practice in designing detail which looks as though it's always been there, as if it belongs and will always be there and to incorporate the most luxurious elements of modern living into an historic building. How would you describe the atmosphere and overall feel of The Sanctuary to potential buyers' Visitors still express a sense of awe on entering: the scale of the flats is still remarkable. You're right: it is about the atmosphere: a sense of calm and permanence, a sanctuary from the world outside. It's both technologically advanced and timeless. In terms of the look and feel, the colours are based on the original stonework and historic hues, together with natural and tactile surfaces finishes in oak, limestone, marble, linen and velvet. The interiors are of exceptional quality and are pervaded by a sense of luxury. Every detail of the aesthetics has been bespoke-made by a dedicated team to maximise this sense. Leading London estate agent, Winkworth, are keen to market the project over the coming months: 'Winkworth are proud to be linked to one of the best schemes in the area for many years. The Sanctuary demonstrates how passionate craftsmanship can transform a part of London's history for the better. We look forward to the next phase for this beautiful building and showcasing these prime properties in 2015.'

The development of The Sanctuary over the course of the past 18 months has become a talking point in Battersea. Locals have witnessed the revival and restoration of the once derelict building of St. Paul's Church with delight. Now the building stands tall on St. John's Hill as a symbol of excellence and for what can be achieved in the great city of London.

When discussing a conversion project like The Sanctuary, the true scale of such an undertaking can only be rightly conveyed through the words of those closest to the project behind the scenes. It was a great pleasure to speak with developer, Nick Laurence, and interior designer, Sarah Reed to discuss their highlights and what the project has come to mean to them. Here are their journeys.

battersea_sanctuary 5

Nick Laurence, founder and developer, James Laurence Group

What initially excited you most about the prospect of converting St. Paul's Church in Battersea'

We have worked in and around Battersea for more than 20 years and have always been drawn towards unusual projects. St. Paul's Church provided a great freedom for us to blend originality and quality. We've specialised in conversions for years and we couldn't let the opportunity to work on an historic building like this to pass us by.

What were the biggest issues you faced when converting the church from an open community space into separate properties

When converting any building, one of our main aims is to hide infrastructure. However, this conversion had the added element of trying to maintain the feel of the building as a church while meeting modern housing compliance standards. We went to great lengths to ensure that the internal features were maintained and preserved. We are proud to have achieved a high energy efficiency which is quite an accomplishment, particularly when converting an historic building.

In your opinion, which features or aspects of this new redevelopment makes this project particularly special in the current market'

There are a number of features to point out at The Sanctuary. The most prominent feature is definitely the spire which we have made into a fantastic folly. The tower spire room contains a five-metre-long chandelier which is an outstanding feature and the top floor viewing platform boasts 360 degree views of the city. The devil is in the detail. The Gothic inspired arched doors for example are all handmade and were inspired by the designs of Horace Walpole in 1749 for Strawberry Hill House.

When I've shown pictures of The Sanctuary to architects and developers, they are always amazed by the level of detail and what we have achieved. Usually a project loses a little bit of its initial lustre by this point, but the space is still inspiring when I return to work during the week.

battersea+sanctuary

battersea_sanctuary 2

If you were to own a property at The Sanctuary, which rooms could you imagine spending most of your time in'

This is a tough question, as there's so many great spaces. The Apse has an approximately 600 square foot bedroom and bathroom, this is connected to a study and drawing room by a secret door. It has all been built within this wonderful huge arch in the eastern end of the church which was once the altar. The arch now houses a bookcase that hides a cupboard, a secret door and a bar! Totally unique.

You have now completed numerous projects in the Battersea area. Do you know feel a connection with the area, and if so, what do you love most about Battersea'

Yes, I definitely feel a connection to the area. What I like about Battersea is that the area has maintained its originality with its range of eclectic shops and restaurants ' not your usual cloned shops seen in so many high Streets. The parks in the area ' Wandsworth, Clapham Common and Battersea ' are such a great amenity for the area. They are venues for some great annual events ' Battersea Park even has a zoo!

What are the greatest rewards when converting an unused site such as St. Paul's'

Over the past 18 months, one of the most rewarding things for us has been the high praise that we have received from locals and passers-by. They were all so pleased about how this historic site was being developed into a usable space once again. We often travelled past St. Paul's in the past and overlooked the building as it was in such disrepair. It is now greatly rewarding to compare pictures of the church as it once was to what it is like now.

Which London property schemes or initiatives have caught your attention in recent months'

From a local perspective, the stand out scheme is the Power Station and the adjoining development. It's added a significant new dimension to Battersea and the surrounding area. Its also incredible to see the kinds of values achieved there, we feel it makes Sanctuary Apartments pricing extremely good value.

battersea_sanctuary 3

battersea_sanctuary 4

Sarah Reed, interior designer, Hard Hat Property

How did you approach this particular project in terms of design'

I identified the features of the church that could be translated into exquisite and luxurious modern living: coolness, calm, peace, tranquility and celebration. Timelessness has been key to the design, as has retaining and championing as much as possible of the existing structure.

You'll find recurrent themes of contrasts: darkness into light, grand open spaces and small, intimate areas, natural surfaces against soft, luxury and simplicity, intricate detail and effortless elegance.

Which parts of the process are most memorable to you'

It's extraordinary today to remember what the church looked like on my first visit two summers ago. Empty inside and open to the roof, it was a challenge to visualise three floors in the space above, rooms accessed through the soaring arches, light beaming through the clerestory windows high above, now shining through bedroom and bathroom windows, the spire reinvented as the coolest hangout in London.

Since then, it's been a daily practice in designing detail which looks as though it's always been there, as if it belongs and will always be there and to incorporate the most luxurious elements of modern living into an historic building.

How would you describe the atmosphere and overall feel of The Sanctuary to potential buyers'

Visitors still express a sense of awe on entering: the scale of the flats is still remarkable. You're right: it is about the atmosphere: a sense of calm and permanence, a sanctuary from the world outside. It's both technologically advanced and timeless.

In terms of the look and feel, the colours are based on the original stonework and historic hues, together with natural and tactile surfaces finishes in oak, limestone, marble, linen and velvet.

The interiors are of exceptional quality and are pervaded by a sense of luxury. Every detail of the aesthetics has been bespoke-made by a dedicated team to maximise this sense.

Leading London estate agent, Winkworth, are keen to market the project over the coming months: 'Winkworth are proud to be linked to one of the best schemes in the area for many years. The Sanctuary demonstrates how passionate craftsmanship can transform a part of London's history for the better. We look forward to the next phase for this beautiful building and showcasing these prime properties in 2015.'

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