“I viewed this place without knowing any detail” says Mr H who, back in 2015, was persuaded by Mrs H to look at this cavernous four-storey live work house in leafy Forest Hill, once described as a “delightful pocket of South London” by Sir Norman Foster.
Having been Clapham residents for some years, the owners were looking for a bigger family home and, pushing their search further afield, discovered the SE23 postcode (something of an enclave for creative people). The moment they walked into the huge open-plan ground floor space where the dining kitchen and TV area now sit, they were certain this was the place for them. Sealing the deal was the first floor where the ceiling height peaks at almost five metres: Mr H's personal favourite spot.
After buying the house, a complete renovation project was swiftly begun: the kitchen and bathroom were replaced, while the second floor - was refurbished to provide built in wardrobes. At the top of the house, the principle bedroom suite in the eaves has a sizable en-suite, air conditioning and a private balcony. Back down on the ground you'll find a large decked terrace of circa 300 sq ft.
The building itself was constructed in 1868 and is rich in local history. It was the meeting house of the Foresters Friendly Society, an organisation dedicated to financial help for vulnerable families and which still trades today. After the society moved out, the later conversion resulted in the three houses that are here today, adding to Forest Hill's famous assemblage of live work space, most notably at Havelock Walk.
This favoured place in the hearts of London's creatives has helped to forge SE23's ever-expanding list of neighbourhood coffee shops, pubs and restaurants, with The Dartmouth Arms a longstanding local favourite and St David Coffee House an absolute must for coffee aficionados. Just around the corner, the Forest Hill location of The Butchery sells exceptional meat, while Brockley Market, a firm fixture in London's artisanal food scene, is a 5 minute hop on the Overground. For film buffs, you'll find an Everyman Cinema at Crystal Palace and a Picture House at Dulwich, both nearby.
Yet despite the vibrant local food and cultural offering, there is plenty of peace and quiet to enjoy and you won't go short on green spaces to visit: Dulwich Park, Horniman Gardens, Crystal Palace Park, Peckham Rye, Hilly Fields and more are all within easy reach. And for travel, Forest Hill Station is but a few minutes walk, and just 18 mins by train from London Bridge and 22 mins by Overground to Shoreditch High Street.
Summing up, the sense of community in Forest Hill is something the owners have thoroughly enjoyed during their five year tenure, but the call of family back in their homeland of New Zealand means it's time to hand the keys on to a new, lucky owner.
Clyde Vale, Forest Hill, SE23