The Story Behind This Super Skinny House In South Kensington

Originally, back in the 19th Century, 5 Thurloe Square was an artist’s studio. Nowadays, it’s a pricey piece of property, with a one bedroom flat selling for almost £900,000 in 2016.

Despite it looking impossibly narrow from the south-west corner of Thurloe Square, it’s actually triangular, meaning it widens—albeit undramatically—from its skinniest point. One of London’s coolest optical illusions!

Photo: @steven.maddison

You’ll find Thurloe Square between South Kensington tube station and the V&A museum. Many of the houses on the square were designed by London architect George Basevi, a student of neo-classical architect Sir John Soane. They were all fairly traditional, boasting beautiful columned porches at their entrances. However, about twenty years later, 23 houses in the square were sold to the Metropolitan District Railway (now ‘the Tube’), despite uproar from landowner H.B. Alexander.

[See also: Sir John Soane’s Museum – the London museum that’s been perfectly preserved for 180 years]

In the end, only five houses (1 to 5 Thurloe Square) were demolished, although many surviving buildings had their back gardens slashed in size. A year later, in 1868, South Kensington station opened to the public.

Photo: @theroyalborough

In the late 19th century, Kensington and Chelsea were known as a hub for art, so loads of artists were building studios in the area. A local builder named William Douglas saw this as an opportunity to fill the little triangle that 1-5 Thurloe Square left behind after they were knocked down. Amazingly, he designed and built seven artists’ studios in this meagre space, in the form of the current wedge-shaped building we see today.

[See also: Leighton House Museum – the stunning palace of art that’s hidden inside a Kensington townhouse]

The building, now flats, is just 6ft wide at it’s narrowest point, growing to 34ft at its widest. Despite its size, its location is to blame for it’s hefty price tag. In 2016, a one bedroom apartment—at just 600 sq ft in size—went on sale for £895,000. More recently, a flat in Thurloe Square was listed for £795,000.

Also published on Medium.