Trevelyan House, Bethnal Green EC2
Grade II-listed apartment block
Architect: Denys Lasdun
Year built: 1958
Although I was a bit underwhelmed by the flat I saw in Keeling House last year (in summary, I loved the building but found the refurbished communal areas a bit naff and the flat itself a bit cramped and expensive), I was very intrigued when a flat came up for sale in Trevelyan House, Denys Lasdun’s original brutalist “cluster block” in Bethnal Green.
Trevelyan House and nearby Sulkin House have the same innovative design and build as their more glamorous younger sibling: the 24 flats are arranged in three separate eight-storey blocks which form a butterfly shape around a central core containing the lift and stairwells. This layout means that only three flats share a communal landing (rather than dozens of flats sharing a long communal walkway) and the flats get plenty of light from several sides.
Like Keeling House, Trevelyan House is constructed from reinforced concrete and brick and has a similarly striking aesthetic. Although the block was Grade II-listed in 1998, the original steel windows were replaced at some point with cheap-looking uPVC and the fact that the block is still used as social housing means that it isn’t quite as well maintained as Keeling House, which was converted into a “luxury” development in the early 2000s. There is no flashy lobby and concierge here: once you get past the main gate, the communal areas are as basic and concrete as they come.
The flat on the market that we viewed was a two bedroom, split-level maisonette on the second and third floors of the block. Layout-wise, it was very similar to the one that I saw in Keeling House with the living room, balcony and kitchen on the lower floor and the bedrooms and bathroom on the upper floor.
Despite the rather depressing decor and aforementioned uPVC windows, I actually thought the flat was superior in a number of ways to the one in Keeling House. It seemed to be larger for starters: whilst the Keeling House flat squeezed a compact open plan kitchen into the living room; the Trevelyan House had a similarly sized living room and a decently sized separate kitchen in addition.
Upstairs, the landing area, bedrooms and bathroom also appeared to be slightly more generously sized in the Trevelyan House flat. In addition, the views from the balcony and windows of the Trevelyan House flat were better (not that you could see anything through the yellowing net curtains). The key difference that made the Trevelyan House flat more appealing, however, was the price. Whilst hardly cheap at £435,000 for an ex local authority flat “requiring modernisation”, it was more than £150,000 cheaper than the Keeling House flat.
This beautifully remodelled but otherwise identical flat that I found online gives an idea of what can be achieved with the space with a bit of structural work (the bulk of the effort appears to have gone into reconfiguring the kitchen into a cube which opens out into the main living area).
The work cost £80,000 which means that if I bought the flat that we viewed and renovated it to a similar standard, it would work out as being significantly cheaper than buying a decrepit flat in Keeling House. Unfortunately I came to the decision that I wasn’t ready for such a big project and passed on making an offer (though if the remodelled one came onto the market, that would be a very different story).