Closet space. Is there such thing as too much of it? If this outrageous $20 million Delray Beach, Florida estate is any barometer, the answer is an emphatic, “No.” We can never have too much room for our stuff. If this ultimate fashion-inspired home with His-and-Hers dream closets doesn’t illuminate this domestic law, nothing

Where’s the best place to live in London?

I don’t mean to take away credit from the research effort a lot of websites have invested into picking the best of the best, but maybe a seasoned inside view would help.

  • Mayfair is arguably not the best if money is no object, or certainly not by itself. It really depends what you want, Mayfair is very vibrant but it’s also pretty busy for the most part. In spite of the counter intuitive price argument , the mayfair of 2016 is more suited to be the playground of the hyper successful late 20s trader or musician than of the 10th generation aristocrat or indeed the normal well to do young family.

    If you’re after a happy family life, all the mainstream upscale areas are probably to be well avoided with the exception of known family friendly mansion blocks, unless you are more than a little wealthy. If you can afford a townhouse, a driver for the children to go to school and so on, I’m sure most of the struggles of life here can be mitigated, but as a long time resident I would mention there are not a lot of families around nor a lot of people pushing a carrycot around.

  • Knightsbridge is for the the loud, in your face kind of wealth. Locals are not the ones you think, and they would generally wear yoga pants, Nike sneakers and some random top(ladies) and jeans, t-shirt + comfortable walkings shoes(men). For ladies, it’s usually the Chanel/Hermes/Dior bag complementing their outfit which “give them away”.

    Now of course there are exceptions, and certainly Knightsbridge is completely different season to season and day to night. Over-dressed people in plain sight are probably just there for the “PR”, and ladies visiting to be introduced to successful men are easily depicted by their “trying too hard” behaviour.

    It’s fun how easy you can tell them apart, locals would not even bother wearing make-up unless the occasion called for it, a trait I particularly find most admirable, ladies who are too busy doing whatever they really want rather than feeling compelled to impress look wise all the time, just as the men don’t really care how “successful” they look. Less is definitely more in this sense. I’m not implying wearing make-up or a nice jacket is in any way sacrilege, and obviously we are all entitled to our preferences, but particularly in areas like Knightsbridge this discrepancy of focus lets call it becomes very obvious.

    What’s even more remarkable is that people of very real affluence who like to indulge in their clothing spending habits or nice watches(no not D&G or Gucci), I mean the real high end brands(Loro, Berluti, Hermes, Stefano Ricci and so on), will just go by unnoticed while the in your face displays of wealth like gold effect shoes or whatever get a celeb like treatment. In the absence of a big gold logo only the most astute gold diggers can correctly identify prospects 🙂 Just goes to say how much of a flash the cash attitude this neighbourhood has.

  • In the day time, the insane affluence of tourists can be daunting. This is probably just Hyde Park and Brompton Road(where Harrods is), but still, if you’re after a regular Starbucks latte, the queue is 20 minutes 9AM on a Monday morning. You can of course take the back roads to places where the queues are short, all you have to do is pay twice the price for the same thing :). In the summer time, there’s an eternal symphony of the Horsepower Orchestra, all part of the famous “How big is your trust-fund” summer festival

    In the summer, running away from the hot weather of Qatar or Dubai, a lot of people come over with their gold plated cars. They are free to choose what to do with their money as far as I’m concerned, just as I feel entitled to my own extravagancies, be it as it may in a different category, but it does tend to be as much in your face as possible. There seems to be a consensus around how visible your cash should be. I took all these photos myself, hence the poor quality, but enjoy nonetheless.

    Have you ever seen a 6×6 Custom gold plated Mercedes G Class?

  • As a Knightsbridge resident I have to say yes. It’s so ridiculous after the first month living here it takes a Veyron for you to turn your head, the average” Lamborghini Avendator just doesn’t do it anymore. The levels of splash the cash wealth are insane, there are so many hyper cars you don’t even bother taking the phone out of your pocket anymore.
  • It’s only when friends come to visit that you realise just how insane the wealth gap is, just because of all the jaw dropping. It’s also hard to tell them you’re not really Roman Abramovich when several £300k + cars are casually waiting at the traffic light at any given time.
  • Belgravia is by very far the most quiet and likely the most pleasant to live in. But, and there’s a big but, real estate rental/ownership prices aside, welcome to rip off town! As soon as your postcode changes to SW1 ish, you start paying triple from a simple salad(which btw can easily push £12 – 15 around here, and I’m talking the fast food kind), to dry cleaning and everything else.

    It’s true this is only possible because most people around here just don’t bother looking at the price or batting an eye(a very clear and strong indication they are spending money they didn’t earn), otherwise who in their right mind pays 2 x the price of a wine bottle inside Harrods when they could have free next day delivery of the same thing via Amazon?

    Eaton Place, Eaton Square, and surrounding areas through Belgravia remain purely stately and residential. They cost a pretty penny, but you’re unlikely to hear a revving Ferrari engine on these streets. It’s still kept, in my humble view, the older school vibe which to some is more appealing. Outside of Motcomb street with a few shops and beauty salons, plus just a few more leading up to Chesam Place, it’s all super residential, and uniquely so, with no intertwine of business and residences. Not 100% of course, as you head out of Eaton Square towards Sloane or towards Grosvenor Square some real estate agencies pop up alongside 2/3 restaurants, but that’ mostly it.

    White stucco fronted properties throughout, pretty much all the way from Hyde Park to Victoria. It’s not exactly huge, we are talking 15 – 20 minutes walking distance maybe, but it’s unlike any other area in West London, it’s very very quiet and at the same time, imposing, refined, but in the subtle ways of a Greek statue rather than the finest grade Graff diamond.

    Have you ever seen a stucco fronted supermarket?

    If the answer is no, welcome to Waitrose Motcomb Street.

  • South Kensington has definitely got a different vibe. There’s a strange mix of architecture every now and again, the same you tend to get in Kensington, with some done-up council flats proudly “adorning” a neighbourhood full of mostly Victorian properties.(Right to buy, Thatcher etc). If I am not mistaking, most of these neighbourhoods were really brought to their current “glory’ during the Victorian building boom, which makes them “slightly new” compared to the more vintage St James. Same for Knightsbridge.

    Lots of family run cafes, health food shops, local clothing shops from a high quality Italian brand you never heard of, former stables that are now luxury multi million pound properties(the so called mews houses), and generally a more homely feeling.

    It’s definitely a lot busier than Belgravia, but probably less so than Knightsbridge. Imperial College, the Victoria and Albert Musesum, the Boujis club next to the station, all reasons why in turn, students, tourists, and party goers, will rain on your quiet parade on different days of the week.

    For some weird reason(maybe it’s just me), it feels wonderful but less bohemain and tranquil than Belgravia, but still a vibrant place, full of culture and bon gout. It’s a more modern day intertwine of business and residences, with shops everywhere, or real estate agencies, or some form of business at the street level/ground floor of every building.

    In comparison, Belgravia has nothing, 0, just clean pretty residences. Knightsbridge tends to be “all in one place”, on Sloane Street and Brompton Road(including Harrods), but that’s mostly it. Strangely enough even at the busiest times as soon as you turn into a back road, there’s almost always no one. South Ken is definitely a lot busier.

  • Chelsea in my view is the most bohemian and homely of the lot, in a more traditional way, but still full of lavish, old school, refinement. Belgravia has a silent air of “ultra posh” and aristocratic to it, a silent air of “you should better know how many buttons a jacket should have” or “which silver spoon to use first”, and obviously that may not be to everyone’s taste. And everyone over 40 speaks in a perfect RP accent, the casual stairway chat with your upstairs neighbour may well be mistaken for the Queen’s speech.

    Chelsea feels less “pressured” and more free spirit, artistic, and full of life and rich culture. Again, a repeated trend of lovely restaurants, local shops, health food shops, wine shops, fashion boutiques going from highly established(Chanel and the like on Kings Road – I hope I have this right), to the lovely Italian brand you never heard of but now that you’ve discovered you absolutely love.

    Definitely more family friendly, and going up to “Old Chelsea”, with the riverside flats, the atmosphere feels more like “we’re living off the interest” than the Eaton Square equivalent of “Are you out of your mind? Do you really take Sundays off? Did you hear that Peregrine, a man in his early life enjoying the weekend? How peculiar indeed, don’t you think?” Some of the flats have stunning stunning views of the river, and they are all built in the lavish way of large open spaces, high ceilings, period features, and so on.

    It truly feels like a community, and in many ways a village, where you know everyone and everyone knows you. Of course don’t start asking neighbours for sugar, but the vibe is altogether different.

For me, Belgravia wins

All in all, I would have to say Belgravia is by far the very best. Its beautiful Stucco fronted properties are gorgeous at any time of the day or night, its stately homes are a sight to see no matter how long you’ve lived there. On one hand Sloane Square is close enough, on the other so is Hyde Park(15 minutes walking).

Roads and pathways are safe to walk day or night. It’s fair to say the area is heavily controlled by private security, and in places like Eaton Square there are throughout the night many patrol cars constantly scanning the area, but I wouldn’t be afraid if my teenage daughter was walking her dog outside at 11PM around here.

It’s definitely the most kept, understated and quiet, and certainly not the poster card background for the wild life of Ibitha or similar. This is a place to live a life, have a family, and well, work 2 lifetimes in one, because that’s the norm “around here”. Also, do you notice the no Ferrari policy?

You don’t have to be born a Lord or a Lady to live here

Avoiding “tourist” or “show off” prices is an art form, from the relationship you build with your local dry cleaner to simply knowing what to buy from where. The secret is that nothing is ever worth the so called full retail price, and granted maybe some people don’t bother looking at that, but if you’re a sensible person you can realise just how enormous the profit margin is in your favourite cashmere sweater or whatever, and how much more your local health restaurant needs to charge you just to make Belgravia rent for a massive place, let alone turn a profit.

Although in all fairness, there are more than a few Lords and Ladies around, a couple of which I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and they are the most down to Earth people I’ve ever met, in spite of their status and affluence. They would never spent a single pound unless they had to, a trend not so commonly shared.

Life is just comfortable and tranquil in Belgravia

Why happy? Because it’s an incredibly tranquil and stunningly beautiful place. And people are just very at ease with themselves, incredibly polite and most of all insanely hard working. Happy means people spend time having a picnic with their families in the garden, not spending ridiculous amounts on senseless things(e.g 6×6 cars in the middle of London, let alone gold plated).

These are the people who wanted success, not money, and as a result feel no need to impress you or anyone with their earthly possessions. It is true their choice of residence and other material possessions reflect their mental pursuit of excellence, but for the simple goal of living life on their terms rather than pretending to be something they are not for the purpose of impressing others. Something so intrinsic is perhaps not immediately observable, but it’s definitely a unifying characteristic or the understated wealth, tucked away in privacy and never outspoken. In simple terms, revving your brand new Ferrari around here will just make you look like a complete idiot, no matter how much you paid for it.

The “best” is slightly subjective.

Best is highly subjective, for all I know you’re an inspiring artist with a deep hatred of Victorian architecture, but in my view, best is the best value for your money, most comfortable and highest quality of life, from multiple angles.

It’s fair to say there’s a certain degree of financial stability required to have your residence in any of these areas, less than people think, but more than average, and conflating money with best was not the goal, as much as giving a hopefully useful insider tip to what’s usually deemed the best, but often wrongly interpreted or mystified. Just know that in most instances, people of real self made or educated affluence are generally down to earth, quiet, kept and for the most part invisible, and they have the luxury of removing price from the equation and simply answering the question “what is the best I can get”, and a lot of them choose to live here.

And as always in life, if you treat people right, from your dry cleaner to the Harrods shop clerk, the more of that you do, the more you step into the freebie territory, the more friends you have walking around(as opposed to a rip off industry) and the better your life gets, from doing chores to anything else.