Pictured: The property’s roof terrace
Pictured: The courtyard at the Camden Mews home
Published: 10 May, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
FROM the Ewoks in Star Wars to the Swiss Family Robinson, it has long been the fantasy of writers and film-makers to live in the upper branches of a sprawling tree.
Now, those with a little more than £1million to spare can own a home that boasts a mature tree snaking through the floors and poking its canopy out above a roof terrace in the heart of Camden Town.
The property, built in the late 1980s, is in Camden Mews, and when local architect Peter Bell was commissioned to build on the site, he couldn’t bring himself to chop down the tree. Aged around 60 years, it is related to the snowdrop family.
Mr Bell recalls being approached by a BMW garage owner who had bought the plot and wanted to build his dream home.
Mr Bell, whose practice was based in Albert Street, had designed a showroom for Hexagon cars in East Finchley and the owners wanted him to take on a private project.
He had already built a home in Camden Mews for himself in 1980 so he knew the street well.
It has in recent decades become known for providing a quiet stretch of sites that architects have used to create their own private projects.
After completing his first home, Mr Bell had intended to move into it but it never happened.
He said: “My wife didn’t like it so we decided to stay in Albert Street.”
The site had garages, a garden and the tree.
Mr Bell said: “I took one look at it and thought it looked rather a nice tree, and I do not believe in taking down trees.
“I thought I’d see what I could design around the tree."
"I remember it being a lovely job and it was a really nice tree that could add to the home I wanted to build.”
The wood theme did not just rest with Mr Bell designing the house to be based around the tree – he also used a completely timber frame and wood materials.
The home cost around £150,000 to build in 1985.
“I designed it to be built in hard wood,” said Mr Bell.
He recalled a tree specialist from Camden Council appeared driving a Porsche and wearing a special white protective suit before climbing amongst the branches to gauge its age and health.
The tree still had plenty of growth left in it – so Mr Bell did some research and estimated it would double in size over the next 100 years.
He said: “I decided to make the hole made for the tree twice as big as it was currently needed, and design a rubber skirt to fit the hole.”
He also designed the foundations to sit above the base of the tree to allow it to expand to ensure it didn’t interfere with the roots.
It boasts a central courtyard, with three double bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage, a kitchen with a breakfast area, and a large sitting room.
A roof terrace is shaded by the upper branches.
With the tree continuing to grow, Mr Bell said the owners had to be slightly pragmatic towards it.
He said: “We decided if branches fell off, you’d simply have to clean them up and get on with it.”
And he believes his groundbreaking design is as relevant today as it was when he first put pen to drawing board.
Mr Bell added: “A decent tree is more important than people – and I think the idea would be very much in vogue today.”
Estate agents London Residential in Parkway are selling the property, which is freehold.