What it's like inside 'England's thinnest house'

With space at a premium in desirable city locations, architects and buyers have taken to carving clever living spaces from the tiniest slices of real estate.

But this is no new phenomenon, as the Victorian property billed ‘England’s thinnest house’ proves.

The former hat shop in west London has been converted into a five-floor residential property — a fascinating prospect considering it is just 5ft 5in (1.65metres) wide in places.

Part of the old Roman road from London to Silchester, Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush became increasingly popular as the capital boomed — Charles Dickens bought a cottage around the corner on Lime Grove. Although estate agents aren’t sure precisely when the hat shop was built, contemporary maps show it was between 1865-95.

In the 1990s, fashion photographer Juergen Teller bought the property and converted the upper floors — formerly used for merchandise storage and rather more humble living quarters — into a quirky but beautiful home.

Further touches have been added by subsequent owners, including Pride And Prejudice star Simon Woods, who lived here between 2006 and 2008. Wedged between a doctor’s surgery and a hairdressing salon, the frontage retains the old shop window.

A dangling bowler hat converted into a lampshade now illuminates a window-display tableau which the current owner has changed regularly, from Halloween to a Lego Christmas via an Oxford Street sign and a Japanese-themed arrangement.

Once through the ornate shop frontage and into the lobby, the clever use of space-expanding tricks is immediately obvious.

Wooden floorboards lead the eye through the property past white furnishings and elegant storage solutions, while ample windows at both ends of each floor admit as much light as possible.

Towards the rear, the property opens up a little — the cosy reception room at the rear of the ground floor is 7ft 3in (2.2m) wide, and features a working fire grate, although the house also has Nest-controlled central heating.

That heating is fuelled by the green Aga range downstairs in the kitchen, which also features shaker-style cabinets. It’s a galley kitchen, perhaps understandably given this is where the house hits its 5ft 5in (1.65m) minimum width.

However, as the parquet flooring points through a beautiful old brick arch denoting the rear limit of the original house, the lower floor opens out into the dining room extension.

Light pours in through skylights across the full 9ft 11in (3.01m) width of the property’s broadest room, and full-width, full-height glazed doors lead out onto a 16ft (4.8m) garden.

The garden isn’t the only outside space.

On the first floor, behind translucent glass doors, is a front bedroom, and at the back, through another room currently used as a study but convertible to another bedroom, a planter-festooned roof terrace.

But that does not mark the end of the ascent. The second floor contains both a bathroom, with art deco bath and sash window, and a shower room with toilet and bidet.

Between them, a dressing room contains more savvy storage, which creates more space on the fourth and final floor above.

It’s not often you access a master bedroom through a door in the floor. The door-hatch closes on itself to maximise space, aided by the absence of bulky wardrobes thanks to the dressing-room downstairs.

With the built-in double bed fitting comfortably at the slightly wider rear of the house, the top floor provides one final stroke of layout brilliance: under full-width skylights, a mezzanine opening at the front overlooks the ornate bath on the floor below.

The eye is led down by a double-height feature wall, its designer wallpaper featuring patterns of ornate birds.

Clearly, the house won’t suit every prospective buyer’s needs — or budget, for that matter: at £950,000 freehold for 96 sq m it’s a shade under £9,900 per sq m, almost doubled its price when last sold in 2009 for £525,000.

‘It’s not designed to be a family home,’ admits David Myers of Winkworth.

‘Potential buyers viewing the house are single people and couples — creative types such as media people, designers and photographers.’

Whoever does buy the house next will get a (thin) slice of history, cleverly repurposed as a residence and thriving in its new style — and we can all take our hats off to that.

The house is up for sale with a guide price of £950,000, through winkworth.co.uk

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