A chef for your shih-tzu? A restaurant reservation in Rio? Shipping a supercar to St Tropez? It is all in a day’s work for Lydia Varaona, director of residences at the Peninsula London. Her kingdom lies behind the imposing hotel on Hyde Park Corner, where 24 sprawling – and seriously expensive – apartments have been bought by the international jet-set.
‘There are big, spectacular things that we do for residents but really it’s also about the small, little things,’ explains Varaona, who previously curated services for guests at One Hyde Park. ‘We make a note of when their cars need an MOT, when the plants need to be watered, or the windows need to be cleaned. It’s really all the details. Our aim is for residents to say to me: “Do you know why I love living here? It’s because I don’t have to think about anything that’s cluttering my life”.’
Such is the level of privilege afforded to the owners of these private palaces, which have remained an elusive presence on London’s super-prime property scene.
The design and strategy of the Peninsula Residences
Unlike the Peninsula Hotel itself, which had seemingly endless column inches devoted to its 2023 opening, the residences have been kept deliberately out of the spotlight. The strategy, designed to create a sense of intrigue and exclusivity, has proved effective: 80 per cent of residences have sold in the five years since the development came to market off-plan. Now, only a ‘handful’ of residences remain.
Designed by American architect Peter Marino, the apartments offer between 1,700 sq ft (one bedroom) and 5,500 sq ft (four bedrooms) of lateral living space. Most are sold at ‘developer’s finish’, or ‘designer ready’ (bare walls and no furniture). However, one show apartment was snapped up as-seen, and other buyers have opted for the ‘complete’ package – a fully-decorated, turnkey home.
The original inventory of 26 apartments was reduced to 24 after two buyers splashed out on two apartments each, with the intention of creating sprawling mega homes that will be among the most impressive in London. Certainly, they’ll be among the city’s most expensive.
The pricing structure has been kept under wraps but a one-bedroom apartment sold for £10 million. There are rumours that another buyer spent £100 million, although this has not been confirmed.
Naturally, no names are named, (every transaction has involved an NDA) but the nationality of owners reflects those who are major players in the city’s super-prime market, according to Simon Fernandes, director of sales at Peninsula Residences. This will be the primary London residence for the owners, he explains, but many will also have an estate in the countryside – ‘and 101 homes around the world’.
A household staff of hundreds
Interiors are as lavish as one might expect: honey onyx bathrooms, dressing rooms crafted from sycamore, and a kitchen made from copper so extensively treated it resembles a burnt orange marble. Special attention has been paid to the glazing of the windows: despite its central London location, the level of outdoor noise registered inside the residences is comparable to a ‘whisper in a library’.
Downstairs, residents have access to a suite of amenities including an 8,000 sq ft wellness centre complete with 25m swimming pool, gym, reformer pilates studio, and private treatment rooms serviced by hotel practitioners. There is also an in-house chocolatier, florist and personal chef ready to whip up bespoke menus morning, noon and night.
If that proves insufficient, there is always the Peninsula Hotel, accessed via a private entrance. There, residents can dine in one of the three restaurants – Canton Blue, the Lobby, and Brooklands, which this week was awarded two Michelin stars – be pampered at the Peninsula Spa and Wellness Centre, and be catered to by the 650 members of staff, who are seen ‘as an extension of their private households’. The 190 bedrooms also provide convenient accommodation to visiting friends, family, or even members of staff.
Those UHNWs hoping to mop up second-hand sales will likely be disappointed, says Fernandes, who believes buyers have opted for long-term – or even lifetime – investments.
The residences are even more desirable when viewed in the context of new rules introduced by Westminster Council that restricts the size of new build homes. Adopted in 2021 as part of the borough’s 2019-2040 ‘City Plan’, the regulations mean that no new residences or properties can be greater than 200 square metres (around 2,150 square feet) in size, ‘except where it is necessary to protect a heritage asset’.
This means that the Peninsula Residences would not receive planning permission if it was brought before the council today. It also means there will be no similar new developments erected in the area.
Lydia Varaona will be on high-alert over the coming months as the first owners are expected to move in ‘before summer’. Exactly how long they remain for, and how often they visit, remains to be seen, but she expects a mix of full-time residents and seasonal visitors. (Restrictions on rentals – terms must be at least a year – means there will be no short-term lets). But her work doesn’t stop when they board their private jet home.
‘Our services are not just for here, they extend to wherever the residents are in the world,’ she says. ‘Booking restaurants, hotels, transfers… Wherever they are, it doesn’t matter. Anything they need, we can do it.’