When you hear the word mews, the first thing that comes to mind may well be the Royal Mews, which are the Royal Family’s stables at Buckingham Palace. However, the term also refers to a type of house that is often found in some of the prettiest streets in cities across the country. They have also become increasingly popular amongst celebrities and individuals who are on the lookout for a quirky house with lots of character.
There are over 8,000 authentic or inspired mews properties in London alone, with many new properties being built as imitations of the historic original buildings. The unusual style of mews houses has made these seemingly simple properties very desirable, especially to those that prefer older buildings to new builds.
Many mews houses have been recently renovated to contend with the new surge of interest. It may be that you are considering whether you want to buy a mews house to renovate or are looking for a stylish new home that is ready to move into straight away.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the characteristics of a mews house and why so many people are choosing to live on a mews street. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of mews houses and whether they are the sort of property that is right for you.
What is a mews house?
The word ‘mews’ refers to a row of stables or servants’ quarters that have been converted into houses, with the living area located on the upper floors of the house. These houses usually surround a courtyard with quiet cobbled streets and are tucked away from the busy bustle of city life. Most mews houses are found in affluent areas of London such as Kensington, Chelsea and Notting Hill, as well as in other cities such as Bath and Edinburgh.
Many mews houses, otherwise known as carriage houses, are located behind the back of grand houses, as they were used to stable horses and carriages during the 18th and 19th centuries. The popularity of the mews streets fell into decline during the early 20th century, until there was a revival during the 1960s when celebrities and high-status individuals began to buy these properties. Mews houses have since become a desirable living accommodation for individuals wanting to live on a quiet street in the midst of busy cities.
Continue reading to find out what makes mews properties so popular, along with the drawbacks of these stylish row houses. We’ll also look at the expected cost of renovating this type of property, as well as other factors that can help you decide on whether a mews house is a viable option.
What is the architecture of a mews house?
During the 18th and 19th centuries, many grand houses in central London needed a space to store their carriages and stable their horses, as this was the main type of transport. As such, mews’ were built behind the houses, with long driveways to accommodate the carriages. The small buildings had private roads away from the general population, which now lends itself to creating a sense of privacy for those living in mews houses.
Due to the structure of the houses, the living quarters are located on the upper floors, with garages on the ground floor instead of a living room or kitchen. On the first floor, most mews houses have their reception area, kitchen, bathroom, as well as a potential bedroom or study. The second floor is usually where the master bedroom and smaller bedrooms are found, with some mews houses having the third floor with a roof terrace too.
Most mews houses have bare bricks to preserve the original style of the interior of the house, as well as to limit the regular maintenance that would be required. Many houses have lost some of the features that are remnants of the historic use of the building, such as hay lofts and stable doors, which is why the properties that have kept these are so sought after.
To meet the requirements of modern living, some mews houses have also been given extensions to expand the basement areas and rework the structure of the other floors to make the rooms airier and open plan. However, it’s very important to get the advice of trusted engineers and builders when considering the expansion and extension of the basement area, as it could affect the structure of the whole house.
Mews houses traditionally have few windows to the rear of the property, which severely limits the natural light that can filter in. Some house owners don’t need a garage, which means that the garage doors can be turned into floor-length windows on the ground floor. There is the possibility to add glass floors which, whilst letting in more light, can be unnerving to some.
Due to the small size of the houses, mews properties are often a popular choice of singles or retired couples who are looking to downsize. This means that there isn’t usually enough space for families or pets.
What should I consider when buying a mews house?
These fashionable houses were originally built as stables or servants’ quarters, which means they weren’t intended to have the same luxuries that we have come to expect of modern properties. They weren’t usually built with windows to the rear of the property so that the servants couldn’t peer into the gardens of the grand houses that they worked for. These petite houses are therefore more comfortable for single professionals wanting to live in a quiet area of the city or couples that aren’t precious about space.
Mews houses also don’t tend to have much garden space, which can save on maintenance but isn’t so appealing to individuals who want to lounge or plant things in their own patch of green space. Parking can also vary around mews houses as many of these properties have had their garages developed into living areas. Some streets don’t have enough space or don’t allow parking in front of the houses either, which can make it difficult for homeowners who drive.
The mews houses may be located on a street in a conservation area, which means that homeowners have to follow a strict set of rules in terms of what they can do to their properties. Whilst this does have the benefit of keeping the row of houses uniform and neat, it takes away the flexibility that some owners like.
Due to the high demand for mews houses, they can be hard to buy, with many buyers competing for the property which can push the price up. The cost of renovations can also be pricy, especially if it involves restructuring the basement. Many homeowners also choose to add roof terraces to their properties as an alternative to a garden.
What are the pros and cons of living in a mews house?
Mews houses have a good sense of privacy and security as they are tucked away down quiet streets that usually have little to no traffic. These rows of houses usually have a real community feel, which means that the neighbours keep an eye on each other’s houses. Another obvious benefit of mews houses is that they usually have ample room for cars, depending on whether you convert the garage or not. These houses are in close proximity to city centres, which is good for amenities but also means that the narrow cobbled lanes have the tranquillity of a village courtyard.
Due to the original intention for the mews houses, however, they have minimal floor space, along with very little room for storage. The ceilings can also be very low, which is a characteristic of older buildings, but isn’t always a benefit in modern times as they can make rooms seem cramped.
This type of house is also without a front garden or a way around the house from the back garden. Bins are therefore taken directly through the house in order to put them in front of the house. The lack of windows in the house also makes the interior very dark, unless there is ample lighting. This can make the rooms seem even smaller than they are, especially when paired with low ceilings. Some homeowners choose to install skylights in their property in an attempt to brighten the rooms.
As can be expected, mews houses are often affected by noise from neighbouring properties. The houses are usually tightly packed together, which can mean that music or building work can become an unwanted disturbance to those living next door or nearby.
Adding the title ‘mews’ onto a property can also push up the price of a house, which means that the properties can sometimes cost a lot for what they’re worth. These older properties can also require a lot of work, such as significant structural modifications to make the most of the space. However, mews properties aren’t usually listed buildings so they can be renovated without the restrictions that often accompany older historic properties.
It can cost around £2,000 to £3,000 per square metre for mews house renovations, with an increased cost of approximately £5,000 for basement work. The overall cost of a mews house will be higher in London, as is the case with the majority of the housing market in the capital city.
There is often high demand for mews houses due to their desirable status, which means that the prices can be much higher than expected for a house of that size or condition. The prime location of these hidden gems especially for a London mews property can also mean that the overall cost of the relatively small build is raised above expectation.
Properties in London that are a similar size to mews houses tend to be leaseholds, which means that they are sold with an additional service charge. However, as most mews houses are freeholders, buyers will own the property outright, which increases the cost of the property and means that there is less legal paperwork.
Due to their small size and close proximity to neighbouring properties, mews houses can be fairly cheap to heat. This is especially beneficial to older residents who feel the cold more.
The size of mews houses means that they aren’t usually suitable for families. They also aren’t suited to those with pets, due to the lack of space inside and the little to no garden space outside. Mews houses can also have lots of steps, which means that they aren’t a good option for individuals with limited mobility.
Mews houses are also notoriously expensive, which means that they probably aren’t an option for first-time buyers or those shopping with a limited budget. The houses will have a higher price tag in affluent cities such as Bath and London, although they may be more affordable in smaller cities or towns where the living cost is lower.
Mews houses are converted stables and servants’ quarters that have been redeveloped as small houses. They are located within inner cities, having originally been built behind the back of grand houses. This means that the cobbled streets are usually tucked away from the busy city, which gives residents a sense of privacy and security that they may not otherwise get a few streets away.
The structure of a mews house is slightly different to a standard terrace house. The ground level is usually a converted garage, with the living room and kitchen located on the first floor. The second and third floors are often where the bedrooms are, with a roof terrace sometimes found at the top of the house.
Despite their humble beginnings, mews houses are very desirable and often sell for more money than one would expect of a property of their size. Celebrities have helped to build the profile of these houses, with many individuals finding the sense of community and quaint cobbled stones to be very appealing when compared to other properties in the same city.