Fri. May 20th, 2022

In the heart of central London, an 1860s house has an observation tower hovering over its neighbors. The tower is a remnant of bygone firefighting efforts: Local knowledge says that in Victorian times, a fire chief used the Chelsea home as a lookout point to spot smoke many miles away.

Now the house is burning the real estate market on fire. The approximately 7,100 square foot house has sold for $ 27.5 million after a multi-year renovation. It was listed for $ 28.6 million in November 2020.

“This was an extraordinarily unique home with a fun story that was rebuilt from scratch,” said the home’s buyer, venture capitalist Walter Kortschak.

The sellers were Anthony and Pat Mascolo, according to property records. Mr. Mascolo is a member of the family behind the salon empire Toni & Guy. He co-founded the hair product company TIGI, which manufactures Bed Head products and was acquired by Unilever in 2009.

When Mascolos bought the house in 2010, the original tower had been demolished and the house had not been touched for decades. They spent years doing a multimillion-dollar renovation, looping and rebuilding the house with architect Max Broby from BrobyDNA and OLF Construction.

The sellers dug about 62 feet underground to expand the living space.


BrobyDNA Ltd./OLF projects

The renovation involved expanding the structure from three floors to five by excavating approximately 62 feet underground, Broby said. “We couldn’t go higher because of conservation rules, so we went down as wide and long as possible,” he said. They added two underground floors, each with 13-foot-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. To get natural light and air in, they dug a light well around the house and designed fall gardens and terraces.

To access the tower, they installed a stepped staircase with cranks.


BrobyDNA Ltd./OLF Projects / Grasshopper

Mascolos also rebuilt the tower. To access it, they installed what Mr. Broby described as a “New York-style fire escape” in a nod to the tower’s original use. A downstairs staircase works with a “big, old-fashioned handle you win,” said listing agent Robert Green of John D Wood & Co. At the top is a small room with 360-degree views. Sir. Broby said the place is one of the highest lookout points in the area.

The house has four bedrooms and a guest apartment as well as a detached garage. There is a skylight in the middle of the house. Just below it, a metal lattice holds ball-like light fixtures that hang in an atrium above the central staircase. The staircase has wide landings, which Mascolos treated like a gallery showing everything from a motorcycle and a piano to a T-Rex skeleton that was not sold along with the house.

“The exterior looks very traditional,” Broby said, adding that the entire house was rebuilt brick to meet local conservation requirements. “But within that and below that, we could then have fun.” A stone staircase is the only piece of the original home left, he said.

The central staircase has wide landings, which Mascolos treated as a gallery showing everything from a motorcycle and a piano to a T-Rex skeletal head.


John D. Wood & Co./Alex Winship Photography

In the new basement, Mascolos installed a stainless steel basin for an indoor pool, but then changed his mind. Broby built a home gym over the pool, which is still there in case a future owner should wish for a pool.

Mr. Green said his customers decided to sell because the house no longer suited their needs.

When Mr Kortschak, 62, and his wife, Marcia, saw the house, they had looked at about 80 properties in London from a distance and about 10 in person. Kortschak, a former CEO of private equity firm Summit Partners, now serves as CEO of SignalFire, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm. After years in Palo Alto, California, the Card Chessmen now live primarily in Aspen, Colo. They also own two penthouses in London’s Fitzrovia district as well as property on Kauai.

They began looking for a larger London home last year, Mr Kortschak said, to house larger family gatherings and serve as a “base for operations” while visiting his parents in Geneva, where he grew up. The card chess players have two grown children and wanted a place that was suitable for longer stays for their son, a film producer in Los Angeles who has collaborated more with partners in the UK

There are several terraces.


John D. Wood & Co./Alex Winship Photography

They were looking for a turnkey property that did not need to be remodeled, as renovations from overseas would have been challenging, said Henry Sherwood of Buying Agents, who represented Kortschaks in the deal.

Mr. Kortschak said they were attracted to the location of this home on Carlyle Square, in a part of London known for its manicured gardens and bohemian roots. They liked the village feel of Chelsea and the unique character of the property, which mixes traditional and modern design elements.

Inside the house, he said the stairs were ideal for entertainment. “There’s definitely a sense that you could mix floor to floor,” he said. They also loved the home’s private garden. The basement level has glass doors to the outside, and in the kitchen opens a glass wall of steel frame up to the garden. “The terraces have elements of an Italian villa,” he said.

An entertaining space in the underclass.


John D. Wood & Co./Alex Winship Photography

The Kortschaks have listed their London apartments for $ 10.4 million in total or $ 5.2 million and $ 5.1 million pieces with Alex Ross of Savills and Richard Douglas of London House.

In Hawaii, they own a compound of about 18 acres as well as a ranch of about 3,000 acres, where Mr. Kortschak said scenes from the franchise “Jurassic Park” were filmed. The couple listed the Hawaii lineup for $ 35 million in 2018, but they ultimately decided not to sell.

They plan to continue sharing their time between Aspen and London, he said with trips to Hawaii in cooler months. “There is certainly a method to the madness,” said Mr Kortschak. “Having a place in the mountains, near the sea and in the city is very conscious.”

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