200-Year-Old London Palace Gets 21st-Century Makeover


A 200-year-old London mansion that hasn’t been lived in since World War II is undergoing a private restoration that will make it one of the largest and most expensive homes in the city.

Construction is underway to restore Forbes House, a mammoth Grade II-listed estate built in 1810 at the edge of Hyde Park, to its former glory, according to dozens of planning documents filed with the City of Westminster.

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When complete, the private residence will be one of very few in the city spanning more than 50,000 square feet and will include a sprawling master suite with his-and-hers bedrooms; a private hammam with plunge pools; and six en-suite children’s rooms.

The epicenter of the home is a series of formal living rooms on the first floor, including separate family and guest dining rooms, a sweeping original staircase and many small intimate gathering spaces.

It was in the ballroom of this house that actress Doris Day sang "Que Sera Sera" in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

A sign of the wealth behind the restoration: the Forbes Mansion has no family kitchen in the typical sense, but rather one massive commercial kitchen beside a score of staff bedrooms in the basement. There’s also a smaller, secondary kitchen among the children’s rooms on the upper levels, according to the latest proposed floor plans filed with the city last year.

Modern-day amenities will include a car lift, home theater, spa treatment area, elevator and beauty parlor.

The pièce de résistance is an entire master wing with two bedrooms connected by a shared sitting room, as well as separate bathrooms, dressing rooms and a pantry.

The house last changed hands in 2016, when the land registry shows a company based in the British Virgin Islands bought the leasehold for £34 million (US$44 million) with a loan from the National Bank Of Kuwait.

The Evening Standard revealed Friday that the owner is former prime minister of Qatar and billionaire Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, who actually paid closer to £150 million.

But the home will be worth at least that much when construction is finished, if listings in the neighborhood are any guide.

The most expensive home on the market in the same postcode is a 8,300-square-foot terraced house listed for £30 million—or about £3,580 per square foot, according to Rightmove. Were an agent to price Forbes House similarly, it would hit the market for over £200 million. That calculation doesn’t factor in the home’s historic significance or the array of lavish amenities the owner plans to install. 

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Some agents reportedly have placed the future value at more £300 million.

When it’s complete Forbes House will have retained its red-brick Georgian facade and much of the grandeur added to the interiors during the early 20th century, but with a range of modern amenities and an expanded guest suite.

"It is, in effect, a small urban palace. It is a house that was remodeled to celebrate the height of the British Empire when money (for some) was no object and the quality of workmanship was as good as it ever had been," according to a heritage statement prepared by architects at Donald Insall Associates and submitted as part of the planning process.

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