The grand facade of the Beckhams’ new London home has remained unaltered for 150 years, but its occupants over the decades tell a revealing story of social change.
One of its first residents in the 1880s was a successful Yorkshire wool broker. In the 1920s a Peruvian diplomat lived here, and in 1930 it became a boarding house for genteel single ladies.
By the 1990s, the dawn of a flashy new epoch was reflected in the installation of a vast subterranean pool complex beneath the house, which had been bought by a rich horse-breeder.
In 2005, a Guernsey-based holding company purchased the property and it is believed to have been unoccupied for several years.
This week its new owners were revealed to be Victoria and David Beckham, who intend to put their own unique imprint on the property.
When the retired footballer, his fashion designer wife and their four children move in, the house will once again take on a new hue — that of our celebrity-obsessed era.
The couple, who have been renting a property in Kensington since January, have, according to one source, paid more than £30 million for the house, which stands on one of the smartest streets in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
At more than 9,000 square feet, it is one of the largest in the area, boasting eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms.
Victoria, 39, has instructed the interior designer Kelly Hoppen — who is a friend — to renovate the house, with an upper budget of £5 million.
After discussing Victoria’s ‘vision’ with her at length, last week plans for the renovation were submitted to the local council, where they are publicly available.
While the property’s Grade II-listed status prevents major alterations to the exterior structure (a mercy, perhaps), Victoria has very definite ideas about what she wants done inside.
So let us, then, take a tour of Beckingham Palace, Mark II — Victoria and David Beckham’s idea of urban palatial living — starting at the bottom of the five-storey house and travelling up to the top.
On the lower ground floor there will be a spacious gym and massage area (the pool was removed several years ago).
According to a friend, the former Spice Girl turned fashion designer hopes to recreate the atmosphere of a luxury spa.
‘There will be four massage beds, a fish tank which apparently has calming properties, and a cascading water feature on one wall,’ says the friend.
Nearby will be a luxury powder room with flattering mirrors and lots of expensive products.
Across the hall from the massage area will be two ‘boot rooms’ — not literally for Victoria’s boots (of which she has many pairs, several thigh-high) but for deliveries and storage.
There will be a playroom for the couple’s three sons, 14-year-old Brooklyn, Romeo, 11, and Cruz, eight, and daughter Harper, two, as well as a small study, a utility room and larder.
Moving up to the ground floor, there will be the family living room, a huge kitchen leading into a dining room and a ‘home office’ for Victoria.
Intriguingly, the entrance to Victoria’s office will be a secret ‘jib’-style door — the type that blends into panelling or a book case.
The door will be soundless, which will give Victoria the opportunity, if she so wishes, to walk in at any moment and surprise her assistants.
The kitchen will be the heart of this area of the house.
‘Although Victoria isn’t really one for cooking, the kitchen will be restaurant quality,’ says the source.
The first floor — all 2,000 square feet of it, the size of a large family house — will be devoted almost entirely to Victoria and David’s bedroom space. The master bedroom and ensuite bathroom alone take up around 1,000 sq feet.
The two studies which are currently located on this floor will be done away with. In their place will be a giant-sized dressing room and a moderately large dressing room. No prizes for guessing who will be getting the enormous one.
According to the friend, Victoria’s dressing room will have a wooden floored catwalk-style ‘runway’, on which she can parade her new outfits.
The walk-in wardrobes will feature an electrically operated ‘runner’ — like those used in large dry cleaners’ shops — so that Victoria can press a button and wait for her dress of choice to arrive in front of her.
Last week, Victoria gave away some items of her clothing to the Red Cross to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, but presumably there are plenty of frocks left over to fill the new wardrobes.
Leading on from Victoria’s dressing room, which is likely to feature pictures of her style heroine, Audrey Hepburn, on the walls, will be an area set aside for ‘manicure, hairdressing and make-up’.
According to the friend, there will be four nail bars, four comfy chairs attached to sinks, just like those in a real hairdressing salon, and a make-up area with vast mirrors and surrounded by lightbulbs, just like those backstage at a theatre.
‘Victoria wants four of everything, in case she has friends over, such as Tana Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay’s wife,’ explains the friend.
The hairdressing area leads out to a charming terrace, overlooking the manicured 100 ft oriental garden, where Victoria and her friends can enjoy drinks together.
Upstairs on the second floor will be three bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, for the Beckham boys.
Right at the top of the house, on the third floor, will be a ‘snug’ for 39-year-old David. In this Victoria-free haven will be a pool table, as well as a mini-bar.
There will also be three guest bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms and one with a dressing room. Within the grounds at the bottom of the garden, there is another small house for overspill guests.
State-of-the-art security is to be installed throughout.
And what about the interior furnishings? On her website, Miss Hoppen, who became a ‘dragon’ on BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den earlier this year, states: ‘Kelly’s ever-evolving style is underpinned by a subtly coordinated fusion of East meets West; clean lines and neutral tones, blended with charming warmth and sumptuous opulence.’
So lots of cream, beige, taupe: no neutral shade is left untouched in a Kelly Hoppen scheme. Her use of dark wood and slate in contrast to all these shades of cream is undeniably soothing, but does rather bring to mind the interior of a Thai restaurant.
|Their former house, The Beckingham Palace worth £12 Million|
And whether this ‘fusion’ of East meets West is entirely right for a traditional stucco-fronted London mansion is debatable.
But Victoria, for one, is a great fan of 54-year-old Miss Hoppen’s interiors. Indeed, she flew her out to decorate the family’s six-bedroom £13.5 million home in Los Angeles six years ago.
According to the friend, Victoria has entrusted Miss Hoppen with all the finer detail at the London house.
‘Kelly will get the cutlery, the crockery, cushions, pictures — the lot,’ says the friend.
It is significant that the Beckhams have chosen the Royal Borough of Kensington as their base following their return from LA.
Their previous home, the so-called Beckingham Palace — which sold a couple of months ago for £12 million — was set in the Hertfordshire countryside.
It acquired its nickname on account of the blingy bathrooms and furnishings and line of fast cars parked outside. Kensington is seen as a new beginning for the Beckhams, a move away from bling.
Victoria — who is so aspirational her nickname in the Spice Girls was ‘Posh’ — believes an elegant house in Kensington means the family have truly arrived.
‘Victoria sees Kensington as the epicentre of where things are happening,’ explains a friend. ‘Simon Cowell lives nearby, so does the singer Gary Barlow.
‘She likes the shops, of course, and it’s on the right side of London for Heathrow Airport.’
Victoria and David have viewed several large houses over the past few months, but what particularly appealed to them about this house was its grandeur — or ‘kerb appeal’.
There is, after all, speculation that at some point Beckham will get the knighthood his wife feels he so richly deserves.
‘Victoria believes the place will be suitable to receive visitors if they become Sir David and Lady Beckham.’
Its relatively close proximity to Kensington Palace, home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is a factor, too, says the friend.
‘It all gives weight to the general opinion that right now the borough of Kensington is the place to be,’ the friend continues.
It’s no secret that the Beckhams are rich, but the price tag on the new property has caused some surprise.
Can they really afford it? Well, an examination at the Beckhams’ accounts shows the couple’s finances to be doing very nicely indeed, despite David’s retirement from professional football in May.