An apartment scarcely larger than a one-car garage has just hit the market in London's ritzy Mayfair district for more than $1.5 million.
At just 328 square feet, the flat is less than grand. A petite entry hall gives way to a combined living/sleeping area with a small closet. The bathroom has no tub, but it's not terribly cramped, given the space constraints.
The closed-off kitchen is not quite 32 square feet, but as Robert Windsor of listing agency Wetherell points out: "Given that it is next door to Le Gavroche, I doubt the kitchen will ever be used." Le Gavroche is a world-renowned restaurant that has held as many as three coveted Michelin stars in its nearly half a century of business.
The apartment is a so-called dower flat -- originally intended for a dowager, or aristocratic widow whose title derived from her husband. After her husband died, she would have been obliged to leave the main family homes for a smaller "dower house" in the country plus an apartment like this one for her visits to town.
"The Mayfair 'dower flats' were deliberately compact so that they were low maintenance and cost effective to run, allowing the widow to continue her socializing in London but at vastly reduced costs," according to Wetherell. "Advances in healthcare amongst the wealthy during the Victorian and Edwardian eras meant that Mayfair was 'awash' with dowagers who included Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Carnarvon (the real Downton Abbey)."
This particular building, at 42 Upper Brook Street, was erected in 1928. Wetherell speculates that Lady Virginia Champneys -- widow of Sir Francis Henry Champneys, who founded the Royal College of Obstetricians and was president of the Royal Society of Medicine -- might have lived in the flat. She did live at the address, "and certainly it would have been the perfect dower pad for a titled lady of that era," Wetherell said.