Have you heard of ‘Mews Housing’? It’s quite the thing in London today. The word ‘Mews’ is synonymous with ‘molting’ of the Royal hawks at the Royal Mews in Charing Cross. Later, when King Henry V111 ascended the throne, the mews were used to stabling or housing horses.
Traditionally, a mews is a cobbled street with two rows of terraced cottages facing each other, much like modern day row housing. These buildings were abandoned after the mid-19th century, and in the last few decades, though expensive due to their central location, have become much sought after. They are located mainly in areas surrounding Hyde Park, Regents Park, and Holland Park. Most mews houses are residential though there are some used for wholly commercial or part commercial and residential – an ideal for someone who wants to run an office from home. The other attraction is that mews housing often comes with garages, an impressive advantage in central London, where parking is at a premium!
Many who’ve decided to downsize have opted for mews housing – Often tucked away from the urban hustle and bustle, the community spirit in mews streets is unbeatable. “Unique” is a word that seems to be used very freely these days, but many of London’s mews houses seem to define the word! The typical mews house now measures 1,300sq ft to 1,400sq ft, according to Lurot Brand, but some go up to a massive 10,000sq ft. Lurot Brand is selling a 2,000 sq ft, three-bedroom mews in South Kensington – which has been extended and renovated behind the original facade – for £4.25million. ‘Developers like mews as it gives a sense of identity,’ says Oliver Lurot. ‘Call an area a road, a street or a place and it is not seen as special. A mews presents a different image – it describes something more unusual.’ The Rolling Stones frontman, Mick Jagger, was living in a mews flat just north of Marble Arch, in the mid-sixties. It was rented, but what would have cost £8,000 costs £820,336 today.
In America, mews houses are called ‘Carriage Houses’, and the cobbled streets they’re located on are called ‘Alleys’, but whatever they’re called, ‘they share a common history – that of housing horses. Manhattans precious few carriage houses were built for the horses of men who ran railroads, owned steamship lines, etc. Today, carriage houses carry the exclusive stamp that is regarded as a status symbol! Creating a bridge between Manhattan’s gilded past and stylish present, one of the 75 carriage houses (178 East 75th Street) that survived into the 21st century can now be bought for$19 million!
Unlike the wealthy Englishmen in 18th-century London who had the space to build mews streets to house their horses, New Yorkers faced one small obstacle: cramped 25- by 100-foot lots that threatened to put people a little too close to their favored mode of transportation. “The proximity of the stable building to the house was a problem,” explains Mosette Broderick, Director of the Urban Design and Architecture Studies program at New York University. “So almost from day one there were streets that evolved as stable blocks—the equivalent of a parking lot district.”
Styled from beaux-Arts o Romanesque Revival, the carriage houses on East 73rd Street were designed by none other than Richard Morris Hunt, the architect who crafted the exquisite facade for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each boasting its uniqueness, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. 178 East 75th Street stands six stories tall with five bedrooms, measuring 6,600sqft, an elevator servicing each level, in deference to high-tech modernity – from the basement complete with gym and sauna right up to the 6th floor! “The ceiling height on every floor is between 10 and 12 feet, whereas in others it may only be eight and a half,” says Caroline Grane, VP of Nest Seekers International.
In another rarity, natural light floods the home, a fact that was unheard of when the buildings housed equine occupants and their keepers. Skylights in the bathroom bathe the Jacuzzi tub and double shower in sunlight, the large fourth-floor living room, and the solarium. “That is very unique,” says Grane. “In most carriage houses you don’t have any rear views, but this is basically a greenhouse.” Speaking of views, 178 East 75th Street also takes advantage of its uncharacteristic height with a private roof deck—1,246 exterior square feet with a bird’s-eye view of the neighborhood.
Though the place had operable windows the latest in HVAC systems installed, energy considerations were massive, and the place needed state-of-the-art shading to maximize light view and insulation. Summer in Manhattan is stultifying to a large extent, and winter is cold and dreary, so seamless window covering was absolutely critical to the comfort of the occupants.
Automatic Roman Blinds for Carriage Houses.
Not wanting to overawe the interiors with drapes, they decided on the richly crafted yet functional Silk Artisan Roman Balloon Shades for all the living spaces except the kitchen, bathrooms. And the skylights! As it was a high-tech home, they decided on automatic window blinds. For the kitchen and bathrooms, they opted for the stunningly beautiful advanced Woodlore Plus shutters from Norman to cope with humidity and condensation. Lightweight and in colors that matched the various color schemes, they blend neatly into the ages-old architecture.
For the motorized skylight shades, they decided on the solid wood hand finished Norman Teak shutters that were customized to fit the skylights without the expected hassles. And best of all, all the shutters have automated vanes that are programmed to flood the rooms with light in the mornings and reduce the intensity of the light during uncomfortable hours to ensure that the HVAC system functions without overload. In addition, they are synced to the room darkening roman shades and the lighting to perform efficiently to provide fabulous view outside, superbly bright but well-insulated interiors.
Today’s carriages may be horseless, but 178 East 75th Street’s colorful past is never far away. “This is for the buyer who appreciates history combined with every modern convenience,” says Grane. “Plus, they also don’t have to do any work. They can just move right into a prime location on the Upper East Side.”
Meanwhile, NYU’s Broderick realizes there’s another factor at play. “I think there’s a novelty and a coolness to it,” the history lover admits. “It’s better than saying, ‘I just live in an apartment.’ You get to say, ‘I live in an old carriage house.’” Caroline Grane, Nest Seekers International, 415 Madison Ave.