House-hunting usually requires some compromise: a downgrade in location, a flat rather than a house, the sacrificial shedding of car parking space. At first glance, Johan Denekamp a former advertising CEO, seems to have it all – the townhouse, the location, the views – but take hope, because it took him and his wife a long time to get there.
“When we first moved to St Katharine Docks, people asked us ‘why are you living there?’”, he says. “And they had a point. There’s a nice Waitrose now, but you couldn’t just go out to get a pint of milk if you ran out. It was a very sleepy place and used to completely shut down at weekends.”
The Denekamps had bought one of only seven new townhouses built in the Nash-style, in the middle of the docks during a short-lived moment of residential development. The four-storey properties were a far cry from the grimy trading hub it used to be in the 17th century. It was bought and modernised into a commercial space by Taylor Woodrow during the 1960s, but the housing boom took a long time to reach the City fringes.
The Tower Walk townhouses were built in 1989 and the Denekamps moved into number 19 in 1992, all the while eyeing up number 7, which had better views over Tower Bridge. When it came up for sale in 1998, they traded places. Inside, the layout was identical to number 19 – only it was in reverse – but the couple quickly set about remodelling it into their dream house.
“When we got to the new one, we reduced the number of rooms so it went from being a six-bed, six-bathroom, to a four-bed, four-bathroom. One of them is used as a study and the other as a dressing room. We don’t have kids so, as a couple, we’d rather have walk-in dressing rooms, a suite for ourselves, a couple of guest suites and a larger-than-usual study.”
The most eye-catching re-invention took place in the dining room, which was knocked into the lounge to create a 50ft room with 180 degree views over the Docks. Extensions also took place in the kitchen and two bathrooms were knocked through to make what Denekamp claims was the largest bathroom in the UK at the time. But 18 years later, the Denekamps are planning a move to Wiltshire to enjoy their retirement, where he’ll have a lot more room to indulge his passion for racing; the three-car garage is another feature he feels justifies the house’s price tag.
And, thanks to some effective lobbying against further development from local residents, the house in Tower Walk is on sale for over £5m in remarkably unchanged surroundings.
Call Sotheby’s International Realty: 020 7495 9580: Sothebysrealty.co.uk