Hitchcock-linked sanctuary that was once the Somali embassy for sale in heart of London

The elegant Georgian mansion on Portland Place is on the market for £19.75 million

A city sanctuary: Inside a £19.75 million London mansion

A city sanctuary: Inside a £19.75 million London mansion
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Precious commodities and rarities are constantly traded in London. Just ask anyone who works in the City's financial markets or the famous West End auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's.

And for anyone who lives in one of the world's busiest cities, peace, quiet and serenity have a high value.

Throw in a link to film history and the world of diplomacy and you have an available property in Portland Place, just north of the busy shopping area of Oxford Street and a short walk from the splendour of Regent's Park.

Behind one of the imposing Georgian exteriors of this street lies a sanctuary that's for sale for £19.75 million ($25.88 million).

A history of movies and diplomacy

Portland Place is one of London's grandest streets, originally designed as part of the ceremonial route from Carlton House, the London residence of King George IV, to Regent's Park.

The exterior of the house played a staring role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1947 courtroom drama movie The Paradine Case, as the London home of barrister Anthony Keane, played by Gregory Peck.

From the glitz of the movie business, the house later became part of the world of international diplomacy and politics.

From the late 1960s, it was the Embassy of the Somali Democratic Republic, and the London seat of power of President Siad Barre, who came to power following a coup in 1969.

For more than 20 years, the Portland Place townhouse served as Somali embassy as well as the president's luxurious base when he was in London for diplomatic visits, shopping or leisure. But by 1991 the Barre regime had collapsed with Somalia descending into civil war.

The embassy was closed and the Portland Place mansion moved on to begin a new chapter – first as apartments and later as a completely restored single family home.

It has been occupied by the same family for 20 years, who have clearly spent much time blending the elegant and sophisticated with the relaxed and the familiar.

You notice the quiet the second you step into the 8,046 square foot, five-storey, five-bedroom Georgian town house and the front closes behind you.

“You’re in the centre of town and yet you walk in and you’re in a serene, calm place – you don’t hear anything. It’s absolutely silent,” Rosy Khalastchy of Beauchamp Estates told The National.

The sense of serenity is partly down to the fact that the grand town house was built in 1772 using Portland stone, a substantial material that was also used to construct St. Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

Special materials were also used on the 14 sash windows to reduce sound penetration, so you can stand in the exceptional reception room gazing at the traffic on Portland Place, but hear nothing.

“What I love about the house is that you are walking into a very stylish, opulent home, yet you still feel very comfortable in it – you feel at home,” Ms Khalastchy said.

“That is because the people that live here are very stylish, yet very friendly, very cosy, very homely.”

Nowhere in the house is this blend of style and comfort more apparent than in the main reception room with its marble fireplace, exceptional art and soft furnishings.

The interior flow and design of the house is the product of a collaboration by renowned architectural designer Jan Swanepoel and interiors guru Hubert Zandberg.

The pair gave the doorways, architraves and skirtings a upgraded grandeur, while restoring or recreating original plaster mouldings throughout the town house.

The state-of-the-art kitchen with it's Sub Zero and Wolf range cooker lies behind the main reception room, and is also ideally placed to service the formal dining room at the back of the house, complete with guest powder room.

Most unusual for houses in this part of London, a lift can whisk family and guests between the five floors.

Akin to the Dorchester

The first floor is completely given over to the principal suite, with room for a bedroom, two bathrooms, two dressing areas and a study.

“It’s a very indulgent suite,” Ms Khalastchy said.

“There’s a main bedroom area, there’s a study, there’s his and hers bathrooms, a dedicated dressing room for her and a dedicated dressing area for him. It’s like the best suite at the Dorchester hotel.”

On the floor above, there are three further bedroom suites and staff accommodation.

On the lower ground floor, a large family room is ideal for relaxing and entertaining. The level also has a professionally-equipped gymnasium, a treatment room and a guest bedroom suite.

“I think the person that would love being in this house is someone who appreciates the location and the elegance of the house,” Ms Khalastchy added.

“You have a home that’s big enough, it’s sizeable, but yet you are very close to town, you are very close to lots of amenities. Combined, this is the feeling of having a very large home in the centre of town.”

Those amenities include some of Europe's finest and most famous beauty and well-being clinics, several five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and international schools.

But the Portland Place townhouse's main appeal is that when one is cocooned within its elegant and serene style, it feels like another world away from the hustle, bustle and excitement of central London that lies on the other side of the front door.

“It’s a sanctuary,” Ms Khalastchy said. “This house is a sanctuary. You walk in and you’re instantly at peace.

“You can have a terrible day at work, but you walk in and you just feel ‘I’m home’.”

Updated: August 11, 2023, 6:37 AM