Heritage Housing: An Interview with Northacre CEO Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro

By Paul Joseph

What is the emotional drive that makes people want to live in homes with a rich heritage? This was among the questions we were keen to ask one of the most influential figures in London’s property market when we caught up with him recently.

Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro is the CEO of Northacre, an acclaimed real estate developer that has been responsible for some of the most prestigious restoration projects in the capital in recent years. And he was keen to share his thoughts and expertise on a wide range of topics during our illuminating conversation, which you can read below.

SY: Can you start by giving us some background to Northacre and the services you provide?

“Northacre was founded over 30 years ago by Swedish architect Klas Nilsson, who had a single-minded vision to preserve and celebrate some of London’s most treasured addresses. This vision has established a company that is widely acknowledged for its uncompromising standards, creativity and pursuit of perfection as well as its continued ability to set new standards for luxury living experiences.

“It is no secret that London has become more competitive, more demanding and with clients more discerning than ever before, but Northacre has evolved and risen to that challenge.

“Today, we stay true to our founder's acquisition approach of locating landmark sites that have a unique location and great potential for us to craft exceptional homes that offer unparalleled living experiences. However, we now not only preserve stunning heritage buildings to craft beautiful spaces, but also create the heritage spaces of the future using cutting edge materials, design thinking, and the attention to detail and creative flair that has been The Northacre Way since the very beginning.”

The Lancasters is probably your most famous project to date – what can you tell us about that?

“The Lancasters was originally an elegant parade of fifteen magnificent stucco-fronted Grade II listed houses dating from the mid-nineteenth century. It was an ambitious five-year revival of the old Lancaster Gate Thistle Hotel involving a 130m long and 30m high façade retention and excavation of a three-level underground car park.

“The buildings were restored to create a unique fusion of traditional architecture with brand new design across the 190,000 square feet landmark scheme, comprising 77 homes with access to magnificent landscaped gardens, 24-hour porterage and full leisure facilities including pool and a private gym. When it was completed in 2011 it was the longest facade retention in Europe – an achievement we are very proud of.”

What do you think is the motivation that makes people keen to live in homes with a rich heritage?

“Buying a home, be that a first, second or fifth, is always an emotional process. And particularly so for our buyers, whom the majority are looking to make a legacy home purchase, meaning that they intend for the property to remain in their family for generations to come.

“Not only do heritage properties each have their own unique character and charm but they all have their own story to tell, and people emotionally connect with stories. For example, No.1 Palace Street was originally The Palace Hotel and built to host distinguished guests of Queen Victoria. There is something special about living in a place that holds the keys to secrets. And I am sure the walls of No.1 Palace Street could tell us some interesting tales!

“However, relying on heritage alone is not enough. It is vital that we balance heritage with innovation and that is where we pride ourselves the most, on meticulously restoring the beauty and character of a heritage building whilst ensuring the homes are designed and equipped to meet the demands of modern living – for today as well as in many years from now. “

How has the London property market evolved in recent years – what have been the trends?

“I think that there have been some clear changes in the market in general, many of which aren’t unique to high-end residential developments in London. However, we’ve seen trends in the residential market going slightly back to basics in the sense that for a long time, developers thought that the more expensive the property, the more they had to put in it, with everything adorned and over engineered to give a sense of luxury and how much they have spent. The fact is that our clientele like to turn the switch on and off, and the button for fading the light is the most they want to see. So, we’ve been stripping back on the technology and have gone back to #basics’; because the sense of luxury can also be the beautiful simplicity of the light switch.”

What are the main day to day challenges you face individually and as a company?

“It’s two-fold. More site specific, in the case of No. 1 Palace Street, coordinating the contractor, twenty different consultants and making sure that 600 people show up on site every day, is a big challenge.

“In the case of The Broadway, similar numbers but the operatives are actually over 1,000. As a company, always trying to be ahead of the curve and trying to reinvent ourselves in a very difficult industry environment.”

And what would you say are some of the most fulfilling moments of a major project?

“The most exciting time is at the beginning when you buy the site and your head starts racing forward to the possibilities of what an incredible building or destination you can create.

“The next really fulfilling aspect, as the actual development and construction process in between is obviously the most challenging, a labour of love if you will, is meeting some of the buyers after they have been living in their home for two, three years. Hearing them say that they are so happy to be living there, and are enjoying building their life there is just fantastic. I ran into someone who bought into Vicarage Gate House in 2016 and they said, ‘do you know how much I love living in this building?’ This was super fulfilling to hear!”

Finally, can you tell us about some of the projects you’re currently working on and any that are in the pipeline that may excite us?

“No. 1 Palace Street and The Broadway are the pipeline; we have £2 billion worth of apartments to deliver which is more than anyone else in Prime Central London. They are two such different and complex projects and we get excited about seeing them every time we go on site.

“No. 1 Palace Street is set within a historic conservation area and has a long-standing affiliation with British royalty. It offers a rare opportunity to live in a landmark location opposite Buckingham Palace and is the only residential development with views of Buckingham Palace Gardens. Spanning over 300,000 sq.ft. of gross area, the development will upon completion be an exceptional private residence comprising of 72 extraordinary apartments, each unique in design and layout, across an island-site comprising five different architectural styles; 1860s Grade II Listed Italian Renaissance, 1880s French Renaissance, 1880s French Beaux-Arts, 1890s Queen Anne and contemporary design by leading architects Squire and Partners.

“There is also an equal amount of focus to ensure that No. 1 Palace Street will offer the lifestyle to match the bespoke design. Residents will have access to over 10,000 sq. ft. of amenities, including a 6,500 sq. ft. ‘haven of wellbeing’, an expansive gym, personal training suites, treatment rooms, and one of the most impressive private pools in the Capital. 

“Our other development, The Broadway, is situated adjacent to St James’s Park station and is one of the largest, if not the largest, high-end residential schemes in London. It comprises of six striking residential towers which we have named after three of the world’s most revered diamonds; The Sancy, The Paragon and The Cullinan. When completed, The Broadway will boast 258 modern apartments with carefully considered interiors that take advantage of the dramatic quality of light created by the unique exterior, providing a real sense of space and breathtaking views of some of London’s most iconic landmarks.

“Also, the first three floors of each of the six buildings will consist of 116,000 sq. ft. of office space and 27,000 sq. ft. of carefully curated retail alongside a dynamic public square with cafés, art, music and markets, establishing The Broadway as a new thriving lifestyle destination at the heart of one of London’s most historic districts.”

By Paul Joseph