Simon Hedley of Druce Marylebone on the diverse appeal of Marylebone

Interview: Ellie Costigan

Who does Marylebone appeal to?
When I started 30 years ago, there were lots of professionals—lawyers, accountants—but it’s much more entrepreneurial now: tech company owners, chairmen and CEOs of big companies. It’s generally a younger, more dynamic crowd. The other thing we’re finding is that lots of the bigger sales currently involve British buyers. There are still plenty of overseas buyers, of course, but they’re not as predominant as they were a few years ago. The other thing I think is really noticeable is the number of little dogs in Marylebone. They’re everywhere!

That would suggest there are lots of people who have made this their main home. Is that the case?
Marylebone has always been a place where people have their main home. It’s a great place to bring up your children, the schools are really good, families are very happy living here. We also have lots of older clients—often people who lived outside London, but whose kids have left, so they sell the house, they have a lot of equity, and now they can come into town and buy a very nice, luxurious flat, maybe with services which mean they can be looked after to some extent. They come here for a bit of West End living—you’ve got the theatres, the restaurants, the parks, all on your doorstep. It’s just a great life.

What impact has that shift in clientele had on the area?
I think it has fed into the arrival of lots of high-quality restaurants and establishments. For example, Corbin and King opened Fischer’s; Chiltern Firehouse came in; Chateaux Margaux is coming; there’s Clarette. Nobu is opening a hotel on Portman Square. There’s another super hotel coming to the Marylebone Lane / Wimpole Street area. Some of the people behind the Arts Club have recently opened up AOK, which is super cool—it’s got a lovely, floral interior, with gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan offerings, so it’s quite hip. I’ve only had breakfast there, but it was really nice.

What about the properties you deal with—do they cater to a wide range of people?
One hundred per cent. There are seven or eight new high-end developments—Chiltern Place, The Chilterns, Marylebone Square, Park Crescent—and they’re bringing in people with money to spend. But then you’ve got what we have always loved about Marylebone: the fantastic old mews houses and Georgian conversions on Harley Street, Wimpole Street, Montagu Square, Bryanston Square. That mix is what really makes Marylebone.

The old properties still have considerable appeal. The Howard de Walden Estate’s flats are outstanding in terms of their finishes. Twenty years ago, the rental market was a bit tired and creaky—now the general level, but particularly Howard de Walden stock, is very well run and very well presented. And people are demanding that. The flats whose landlords haven’t given them much attention in the past 10 years are getting stuck on the market. You can’t get away with it anymore, you’ve got to be very competitive to attract the people who are moving into Marylebone.

Is the general atmosphere in the area part of the draw?
It’s a safe area, which is important. There’s a lovely, approachable, amenable atmosphere in Marylebone—it’s not like a Mayfair or a Knightsbridge, it feels like it’s lived in. It’s got a locality, a community. If you walk down the street, people seem to know each other. Of course, there are tourists, but it doesn’t seem dominated by the tourist market. There’s a mixture of people: you’ve got people who’ve made apps living side by side with surgeons. It’s a really nice mix. It’s got a bit of kudos, but it’s also fun to be here. It’s got the down-to-earth, as well as very high end. That’s what’s so nice about it.