Size matters, of course, but what kind of size? For most buyers in London, usable square footage has never been more important. Any extra alcove you can squeeze in could be worth thousands, or make the difference between ‘cosy’ and ‘pokey’. For some, however, up is the new out. Cubic feet are the thing, as buyers and vendors at the upper end of the market are coming to realise.
‘For the first time ever, ceiling heights are now being added to floor plans,’ says Roarie Scarisbrick of Property Vision. ‘”How high are the ceilings?” is the first question people are asking, and a 2.6m ceiling just isn’t tall enough any more.’
The views from London properties often fall short of those in a more vertical city like New York or Hong Kong, and other tricks are needed to create light and space. A double or triple height-ceiling can be crucial. In some cases there are practical benefits to living somewhere that resembles an art gallery, adds Matthew Creed from Khalil & Kane, a property finder.
‘Many of these buyers own great pieces, and you need the volume to show them to their full potential,’ he says, adding that the ground floor of a traditional stucco-fronted London home typically fetches a premium of between 30 and 50 per cent, because of the extra height.
Not all buyers and renters looking for double-height spaces are would-be Saatchis. In some cases they are themselves artistic, particularly in creative strongholds like Shoreditch and Bermondsey.
‘They could be a photographer or a musician who wants somewhere they can work,’ says Stephanie Lieu from Urban Spaces, an agency that specialises in industrial conversions. ‘They want somewhere with plenty of light, that’s not just your average two-up, two-down. In many of our properties it would be easy to put in a mezzanine or even another floor, but why would you want to do that and restrict the height?’ In some cases properties are advertised as having zero-bedrooms, with no partitions to interrupt the flow of the space.
It’s not only in warehouse conversions that the space above your head is important. Basement excavations on older properties can amplify square footage, but they can also be claustrophobic. ‘Developers are definitely recognising that increasing ceiling heights help create a space which looks dramatic,’ says Matthew Morton-Smith, from Savills. ‘A basement that is voluminous and light will ultimately feel more impressive.’
Drama, above all, is what the extra volume gives you. Less space to live in, perhaps, but far more scope to show off.