How to Choose the Right Flat

Terrace Flats

  • Studio
  • One Bedroom
  • Two Bedrooms
  • Three+ Bedrooms
  • Garden Flats
  • Maisonettes
  • Penthouses

What is a ‘studio’

In a studio flat you live and sleep in the same room. The old fashioned word for such a flat was ‘bed sit’. (‘Bed-sitting-room’ is the technically correct word and spelling, but In University slang, it was shortened to bed-sitter, bed-sit, and eventually to plain ugly ‘bedsit’.) Most people nowadays prefer ‘studio’ – with its overtones of the Paris South Bank and La Bohème – whereas ‘bedsit’ suggests coin-operated gas meters and greasy plates.

North Barbican

Most of the studio flats in the Barbican are in the north Barbican, in Breton House, Bryer Court, John Trundle Court, and Blake Tower. The few in the south Barbican are almost all in Thomas More House.

Breton House

Breton House has large and small studios. The larger Type F2A studios sit back- to-back, facing east or west. The Type F1A studios are much less deep than the F2A flats because the lift and stairwell take up an equal amount of space between them. There are 66 Type F2As and 33 Type F1As.

John Trundle Court

John Trundle Court is the same. The larger back-to-back studios are Type F2A and Type F2B flats (which are three inches deeper and with its window on the side, not the front). The smaller flats on either side of the lift are Type F1As as in Breton House. There are 74 Type F2As, 38 Type F1As and five F2Bs.

Bryer Court

Bryer Court is different. It’s a shallow building and its studios run from front to back. The Type F1D flats on 1st to 5th floors are typical studios. On the 6th floor there are Type F1E flats which lose a piece of the front room. The 7th floor penthouse flats are Type P1D studios which are similar to the F1Es but with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. There are 40 Type F1Ds, eight Type F1Es and eight Type P1Ds.

Thomas More House

Thomas More House has 13 studio flats at upper garden level. There are 11 Type 13s, and one each of Types 12 and 14).

Frobisher Crescent

Frobisher Crescent has several studio flat Types: 7.3, 7.6, 7.9, 7.10, 8.3, 8.3A, 8.3B, 8.6, 8.9, 8.10.

Other buildings

Other scattered studios are: Andrewes House, two Type 78s; Gilbert House, a Type 73; and Seddon House, a Type 44 and a Type 45.

Size comparisons

All original Barbican Estate studio flats have the same frontage width – 16′ 9″. The difference is mainly in the depth. These are the City’s figures: F2A – 19’3″, F2B – 19’6″, F1A – 10’6″, F1D – 18’0″, F1E – 18’0″, P1D – 18’0″, 13 – 20’3″. The figures are the ‘maximum’ depth, so they ignore the bite out of the F1E and P1D types. They seem to be measured from the window to roughly the kitchen and bathroom area (which are not part of the measurement).


Andrewes House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 23 (18), 16 (17), 76 (14), 57 (6), 58 (6), 22 (2), 60 (2), 80 (2) 1 bedroom, living room, study (3 rooms) 20 (54) 1 bedroom, living room, dressing area (3 rooms) 79 (2)

Ben Jonson House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) F2C (66), M2C (2) 1 bedroom, living room, dining area (3 rooms) M2B (44), M2A (42)

Brandon Mews

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 118 (7), 119 (6)

Breton House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) P2A (12)

Bunyan Court

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) F2C (18) 1 bedroom, living room, dining area (3 rooms) M2B (16), M2A (14)

Defoe House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 23 (18), 57 (12), 58 (12), 60 (4), 50 (2), 53 (2), 49 (1), 52 (1) 1 bedroom, living room, study (3 rooms) 20 (59) 1 bedroom, living room, dining room (3 rooms) 61 (2)

Frobisher Crescent

1 bedroom, living/dining room (2 rooms) 7.7, 7.8, 8.7, 8.8, 9.2, 9.5, 9.6, 9.7, 9.8, 9.9

Gilbert House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 71 (6), 72 (2), 74 (1), (72 and 74 have roof patios.) 1 bedroom, living room, dining area (3 rooms) 31 (27), 26 (18), 70 (12), 32 (3), 27 (2) (70 has a dressing room.)

John Trundle Court

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) P2A (15), P2B (1)

Mountjoy House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 24 (6), 37 (1), 38 (1), 34 (1), 33 (1). 37 and 38 have roof patios. 33 and 34 have L-shaped living rooms. 1 bedroom, living room, dining area (3 rooms) 31 (15), 26 (10), 29 (6), 32 (3), 27 (2), 28 (6).  28 and 29 have L-shaped living rooms.

Seddon House

1 bedroom, L-shaped living room (2 rooms), roof patio. 46 (1) 1 bedroom, living room, dining area (3 rooms) 31 (21), 26 (14), 40 (6), 28 (5), 29 (5), 32 (3), 27 (2)

Speed House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 23 (12), 84 (9), 58 (6), 22 (1), 60 (1) 1 bedroom, living room, study (3 rooms) 20 (36) 1 bedroom, living room, dining room (3 rooms) 86 (1)

Thomas More House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 16 (24), 23 (16), 22 (2) 1 bedroom, living room, study (3 rooms) 20 (48)

Willoughby House

1 bedroom, living room (2 rooms) 90 (16), 91 (16), 100 (12), 92 (4), 93 (4), 94 (2), 95 (2), 98 (2), 114 (2) 1 bedroom, living room, with dining/study area (3 rooms) 101 (12) 1 bedroom, living room, lounge/study (3 rooms) 110 (8), 108 (2), 99 (2), 111 (1), 112 (1)


Andrewes House

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). 54 flats. Type 21.

2 bedrooms, living room, study (4 rooms). 13 flats. 12 flats are Type 19, and 1 flats is Type 81.

Ben Jonson House

2 bedroom, living room, dining area (4 rooms). Various flat types. (How many flats of each type is shown in brackets.) Types M3B (22), M3A (21), M3D (2), M3E (2). Types M3A and M3B have roof patios.

Brandon Mews

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). 13 flats or houses. 7 flats are Type 120, and 6 flats are Type 121.

Bunyan Court

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). 3 flats. Type F3C.

2 bedroom, living room, dining area (4 rooms). Various flat types. (How many flats of each type is shown in brackets.) Types M3B (8), M3A (7), M3D (1), M3E (1). Types M3A and M3B have roof patios.

Defoe House

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). 48 flats. Type 21.

2 bedrooms, large living room, dining area (4 rooms). 6 flats. Type 51.

Frobisher Crescent

2 bedrooms, living/dining room (3 rooms). Types 7.2 and 8.2.

Gilbert House

2 bedrooms, living room, dining area, study (5 rooms). 6 flats. 5 flats are Type 39. 1 flat is Type 41.

Mountjoy House

2 bedrooms, living room, study, dining room (5 rooms). 5 flats. Type 25.

2 bedrooms, living room, study, dining room (5 rooms). 1 flat. Type 30.

Seddon House

2 bedrooms, L-shaped living room/study area, 2 bathrooms (4 rooms), roof patio. 2 flats. 1 flat each of Types 41 and 43.

2 bedrooms, living room, dining area, study (5 rooms). 5 flats. Type 39.

Speed House

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). 36 flats. Type 21.

2 bedrooms, living room, study (4 rooms). 6 flats. Type 19.

2 bedrooms, living room, dining area, reception area/study (5 rooms). 6 flats. Type 85.

Thomas More House

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). 48 flats, Type 21.

2 bedrooms, living room, study (4 rooms). 12 flats. Type 19.

Willoughby House

2 bedrooms, living room (3 rooms). Various types (How many flats of each type is given in brackets).  96 (16), 97 (16), 103 (6), 104 (2), 113 (2), 115 (2), 106 (1), 107 (1). 107 has a store room.

2 bedrooms, living room, lounge/study (4 rooms). 8 flats. Type 109.


Ben Jonson House

3 bedroom, living/dining room, store room (4 rooms), roof patio. 1 flat. Type M3C.

3 bedroom, living room, dining area (5 rooms). 2 flats. Type M4A.

Bunyan Court

3 bedroom, living room, dining area (5 rooms). 1 flat. Type M4A.

Defoe House

3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5 rooms). 11 flats. 6 are Type 54, 5 are Type 56.

Frobisher Crescent

3 bedrooms, living/dining room (4 rooms). Types 7.1, 7.4, 7.5, 7.11, 8.1, 8.4, 8.5, 8.11.

3 bedrooms, living room, dining room (5 rooms). Types 9.1, 9.3, 9.4, 9.10.

Gilbert House

3 bedrooms, living room, dining area, (5 rooms), 2 bathrooms roof patio. 10 flats. 9 are Type 35, 1 is Type 36.

Lambert Jones Mews

3 bedrooms, living room, dining area, general purpose room (6 rooms), integral garage. 8 flats or houses. Type 10.

Mountjoy House

3 bedrooms, living room, dining area, (5 rooms), 2 bathrooms roof patio. 6 flats. 5 are Type 35, 1 is Type 36.

The Postern

4 bedrooms, living room, dining room (6 rooms), store, 2 bathrooms, roof terrace, integral garage. 7 flats. Type 67/68.

4 bedrooms, living room (5 rooms), double roof terrace. 1 flat. The type is called ‘Maisonette’ in the original Barbican listing.

Seddon House

3 bedrooms, living room, dining area, 2 bathrooms (5 rooms), roof patio. 8 flats. 7 are Type 35, 1 is Type 36.

3 bedrooms, L-shaped living room/study area, dining area, (5 rooms), 2 bathrooms roof patio. 1 flat. Type 42.

Wallside

4 bedrooms, living room, dining room (6 rooms), 2 bathrooms, cloakroom, roof terrace, integral garage, store. 14 flats. Type 63/64.

Willoughby House

3 bedrooms, living room (4 rooms). 8 flats. Type 105.


Garden or sub-podium flats

These are flats which are below the podium level on which the building stands. They may face out onto one of the estate’s gardens or onto the lake. ‘Sub-podium flats’ is the more accurate, but boring, description for them. No flats actually have direct access to the gardens and some face only the lake, so ‘garden flats’ is a little misleading, but it is a lot more inspiring. These are the facts about garden flats.

Towers

No tower has garden flats.

South Barbican blocks

Only four of the terrace blocks have garden flats: Defoe House, Thomas More House, Andrewes House and Speed House. This is because they front onto the sunken lake and gardens (Speed Garden and Thomas More Garden).

They are a feature only of the South Barbican area. The North Barbican blocks (north of the Barbican centre) have no flats below podium level because there is no sunken garden.

Access to the gardens

No flats have direct garden access. (Some Lambert Jones Mews houses have doors opening straight onto Thomas More Garden, but they are proper houses not flats.) The nearest thing to direct access is that Thomas More garden flats can reach the garden via communal stairs and entrances. Defoe, Speed and Andrewes flats are closer to the gardens (or in Andrewes’ case, the lake) in terms of enjoying the view than the other flats in their bocks, but have to use the same access to them as the regular flats above the podium.

Lower and upper garden flats

There are lower garden flats – the same level as the garden or lake. And there are upper ‘garden’ flats – at upper floor level (as judged from the garden or lake), but still below the podium.

Thomas More and Andrewes Houses contain upper and lower garden flats. Defoe and Speed Houses have upper garden flats but no lower garden flats.

Andrewes House

Andrewes House has 15 lower level garden – or lakeside – flats (Type 76), and one storey of 15 upper level flats (Type 16) on top of them. They are all one-bedroom flats. The flats’ living rooms face north across the lake.

Thomas More House

Thomas More House has 13 lower level garden flats, which are all studio flats. (11 Type 13 and one each of Type 12 and Type 14). On top, there are two storeys (12 flats each) of one-bedroom flats (Type 16). The flats’ living rooms face north across Thomas More Garden.

Defoe House

Defoe House has a more eclectic mix with three types of upper level, one-bedroom, flats (Types 49, 52 and 53) and a two-bedroom maisonette flat (Type 51). The flats’ living rooms face south across Thomas More Garden.

Speed House

Speed House has nine upper level garden flats (Type 84) which are one-bedroom maisonettes on two floors. The flats’ living rooms face south across Speed Garden.

Choices to make

  • If you want a two storey garden maisonette, Speed House and Defoe House have such flats.
  • If you want the closest you can have to immediate garden access, Thomas More House is your choice.
  • If you want to be at lakeside and watch the ducks, you need a one-bedroom flat in Andrewes House.
  • If you want a separate bedroom, Defoe, Andrewes, and Thomas More Houses can accomodate you. You may find a lakeside one-bedroom flat in Andrewes House, but you have to accept upper level flats in Defoe and Thomas More Houses.
  • If you want a studio flat, Thomas More and Defoe Houses have them.
  • If you want to be at genuine garden level, you need a studio flat in Thomas More House.

Mews and other house types

Brandon Mews properties are treated as houses, but seen from the lake and garden they are maisonettes at sub-podium level, overlooking the lake and/or Speed Garden, so there is not much difference and I am including them here.

Lambert Jones Mews houses are more definitely houses and nothing else. But I mention them again as having views over Thomas More Garden, mainly from first floor picture windows, and in some cases direct access to the garden via a back door.

Wallside houses have picture windows overlooking the extension of the lake and the bits of City wall so I am including them for completeness. (The houses at the southern end of The Postern also have a view over the lake extension and City wall.)

North Barbican maisonettes

Ben Jonson House and Bunyan Court contain the North Barbican maisonettes. The are very similar. Both have maisonettes of Types M2A, M2B, M3D, M3E, and penthouse triplexes of Types M3A, M3B, M4A. Types M2A and M2B are the main maisonette types, and Types M3A and M3B are the main triplex penthouse types. (Ben Jonson has in addition two Type M2C maisonettes and two M3C triplex penthouses.) Breton House has 12 one-bedroom penthouse maisonettes of Type P2A.

John Trundle Court and Bryer Court don’t have maisonettes.

All the flats on the 9th floor of Frobisher Crescent are penthouse maisonettes with at least one extra bedroom up internal stairs.

South Barbican maisonettes

Gilbert House, Mountjoy House and Seddon House have Type 35 and 36 duplex penthouses, taking up all most of the 6th and 7th floors. The ends are single level penthouses, except for Seddon House which has one Type 42 and one Type 43 duplex penthouse at the ends.

Willoughby House has a lot of different maisonettes – Types 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99. Types 90 and 91 are the basic one-bedroom types and Types 96 and 97 are the basic two-bedroom types; others are mainly variants of these. It has a lot of duplex penthouses too – Types 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 115. The most frequently encountered duplexes are 110 (one-bedroom) and 109 ( two-bedrooms).

The four blocks round the gardens, facing east-west – Andrewes House, Defoe House, Speed House and Thomas More House – don’t have maisonettes. The exception: Speed House has nine Type 84 sub-podium (or garden) maisonettes.) The correct spelling is ‘Maisonnette’ – that’s how Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, the Barbican’s architects, spelt it in their reports – but the second ‘n’ has generally fallen out of use.

Towers

The original towers, Lauderdale, Cromwell and Shakespeare Towers, each have three duplex or triplex penthouse maisonettes (Type 4A, 4B, 4C).

The garden- and lake-side blocks

The four blocks round the gardens – Andrewes House, Defoe House, Speed House and Thomas More House – have very similar penthouse arrangements.

The 7th floor of each block has barrel-vaulted one-bedroom penthouses, which are generally smaller than the flats below as they lack the usual ‘study’ section of the living room, such as a Type 20 one-bedroom flat would have.

They all have Type 23 penthouses. Defoe and Speed Houses have a few Type 60s, with a slightly larger bedroom, and a larger flat at either end of the block which takes advantage of the side window wall to have a larger living room and a separate dining room (Type 61 in Defoe House and Type 86, with the room layout inverted, in Speed House.)

The other South Barbican blocks

Gilbert House, Mountjoy House and Seddon House have Type 35 and 36 duplex penthouses taking up most of the 6th and 7th floors. The ends, however, are different. Gilbert House has single level penthouses of Types 72, 73 and 74. Mountjoy has larger one-bedroom penthouses of Types 33, 34 37, and 38.

Seddon House’s end flats are larger again, with duplexes of Types 42 and 43, and penthouse studios (Type 44 and 45) and an odd-shaped one-bedroom flat (Type 46).

Willoughby House has a lot of duplex penthouses: Types 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 115. The most frequently encountered one-bedroom duplex is Type 100, and for two-bedroom duplexes it is Type 101. There are single-storey penthouses, Types 113 and 114.

North Barbican blocks

Bunyan Court and Ben Jonson House both have penthouse triplexes, mainly Types M3A and M3B, with one M4A. (Ben Jonson also has two Type M3C triplex penthouses.) Breton House and John Trundle Court have similar, one-bedroom, penthouse maisonettes of Type P2A (and John Trundle Court has one flat of Type P2B).

Bryer Court has studio penthouses of Type P1D.

All the flats on the 9th floor of Frobisher Crescent are penthouse maisonettes with at least one extra bedroom up internal stairs.

Towers

The original towers, Lauderdale, Cromwell and Shakespeare Towers, each have three duplex or triplex penthouse maisonettes (Type 4A, 4B, 4C).

Tower Flats

  • The flat types
  • Room Problems
  • Blake Tower

Things to bear in mind from the start

  • Tower flats physically always come in threes: three flats off a central lift lobby on every floor, and each roughly takes up one face of the tower.
  • Flat types reflect that. They are always treated as part of a trio. Flat Types 1A, 1B, and 1C are an interlocked group of three flat layouts. Flat numbering carries on the theme. The flat number always ends in 1, 2 or 3, meaning respectively an A, B, or C flat type. The preceding one of two numerals tells you the floor – No. 172 is a ‘B’ flat on floor 17.
  • All three original towers are oriented slightly differently. No tower’s flats face in quite the same direction as those in any other tower. So every flat is unique; even if two towers have two flats of the same flat type on the same floor, they don’t face in quite the same direction.
  • All the flats are fairly similar. But Lauderdale and Cromwell Tower flats are more similar than Shakespeare Tower flats.
  • Don’t get too hung up over room numbers and bedroom numbers. A three-bedroom flat is not necessarily any smaller than a four-bedroom flat of another flat type. See ‘Room problems’ to understand about this.

Typical flats in Lauderdale and Cromwell Tower (Flat Types 1A, 1B, 1C)

These three flat types make up the trio of flats on most of the floors of Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower.

Type 1A

Type 1A accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room, breakfast room (6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One of the three standard layouts.

Type 1B

Type 1B accommodation: 4 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5/6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One of the three standard layouts.

Type 1C

Type 1C accommodation: 4 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5/6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One of the three standard layouts.

Typical upper floor flats in Lauderdale and Cromwell Towers (Flat Types 2A, 2B, 2C)

These three flat types make up the trio of flats on many of the upper floors of Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower. They have a larger living area and one less bedroom.

Type 2A

Type 2A accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living/dining room (5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. The separate dining room was omitted from the standard 1A layout to give a larger living room.

Type 2B

Type 2B accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (4/5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One bedroom was omitted from the standard 1B layout to give a larger living room.

Type 2C

Type 2C accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (4/5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One bedroom was omitted from the standard 1C layout to give a larger living room.

Typical flats in Shakespeare Tower (Flat Types 8A, 8B, 8C)

These three flat types make up the trio of flats on nearly all the floors of Shakespeare Tower.

Type 8A

Type 8A accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living room, breakfast room (5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One of the three standard layouts.

Type 8B

Type 8B accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (4/5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One of the three standard layouts.

Type 8C

Type 8C accommodation: 3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (4/5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. One of the three standard layouts.

Penthouses (Flat Types 4A, 4B, 4C)

These are the less frequently encountered types of flats.

4A, 4B, 4C penthouses

These are the types of the three penthouses in each of the three towers.

4A 4 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5 rooms) kitchen, utility room, 2 bathrooms with WC, 1 shower room with WC, roof terrace, conservatory, balcony
4B 5 bedrooms, living room, dining area (6/7 rooms), kitchen, utility room, 2 bathrooms with WC, 2 shower rooms with WC, roof terrace, conservatory, balconies
4C 5 bedrooms (one with en suite bathroom and dressing room), living room, dining area (6/7 rooms) kitchen, utility room, 3 bathrooms (including the en suite), 1 shower room, roof terrace, conservatory, store room, balcony

‘Lost shower room’ flats (Flat Types 3A, 3B, 3C, 9A, 9B, 9C)

3A, 3B, 3C, 9A, 9B, 9C lost shower-room flats

There are the types of the flats on every 10 or so floors in Cromwell and Lauderdale Tower. It’s the standard layout, but with the shower room reduced to a WC to make space for a tank room.

3A 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room, breakfast room (6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC.
3B 4 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5/6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC.
3C 4 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5/6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC.

There are the types of the flats on every 10 or so floors in Shakespeare Tower. It’s the standard layout, but with the shower room reduced to a WC to make space for a tank room.

9A 3 bedrooms, living room, breakfast room (5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC.
9B 3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (4/5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC.
9C 3 bedrooms, living room, dining area (4/5 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC.

Occasionally different flats (Flat Types 5A, 6B, 7C)

5A, 6B, 7C

Type 7C replaces 3C on some floors. The others appear in some very few places in the towers.

5A 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room, breakfast room (6 rooms) kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. (I am not absolutely certain about the rooms following the kitchen.)
6B 2 bedrooms, living room, dining area (3/4 rooms) kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, shower-room and WC. (I am not absolutely certain about the rooms following the kitchen.)
7C 4 bedrooms, living room, dining area (5/6 rooms), kitchen, utility room, bathroom and WC, separate WC. It’s the standard 1C layout, but with the shower room reduced to a WC.

Is it a 4th bedroom or a dining room?

The fourth bedroom versus dining room issue

The Type ‘A’ flats in Lauderdale Tower and Cromwell Tower – 1A, 2A and 3A – differ from the ‘B’ and ‘C’ flats in the following respect. The ‘B’ and ‘C’ flats are laid out so that there is a respectable dining room between the galley kitchen and the balcony. The dining room is in fact part of the living area but can be separated off by a sliding partition.

The architects ran into a problem with the ‘A’ layout. The position of the entrance door into the flat meant that there was not enough room between it and the balcony for the usual utility room, kitchen, and dining room. They kept the utility room and kitchen exactly the same size as in the other flat types – to make it easy to install standardised fitments. That meant that what was left over was no longer big enough to be called a dining room, and they called it a ‘breakfast room’. You don’t need as much elbow room for cornflakes.

Now there was a problem. Obviously no self-respecting banker in their tower flat could be expected to live without a dining table – TV dinners had not yet been imported from America – so a child had to go. The fourth bedroom of the ‘B’ and ‘C’ layout – the one nearest the living room – was re-labelled as the ‘dining room’.

So all ‘A’ flats in Lauderdale Tower and Cromwell Tower appear to have one less bedroom … and therefore to be smaller than the others. In reality, the ‘dining room’ is the fourth bedroom. The only thing which has really changed is that the dining area off the living room has been squeezed. What the actual overall areas of the respective flat type are, I don’t know precisely. The major difference in my opinion is at the other end of the ‘A’ type flats, where the master bedroom is more awkwardly shaped but larger than in the other types.

This is a potential problem when you come to buy or sell an ‘A’ flat because of the English obsession with the number of bedrooms in a flat, as opposed to the obviously far more rational approach of the overall area of a flat.

So my message is this: Don’t be misled into thinking the type 1A, 2A or 3A flats are smaller by a bedroom than the other flats in Lauderdale Tower and Cromwell Tower.

(The ‘fourth bedroom versus dining room’ issue doesn’t apply in Shakespeare Tower. In Shakespeare Tower’s ‘A’ flat types – 8A and 9A – the fourth bedroom had already been partitioned between a larger living room and a larger third bedroom.)

4 bedroom flats are not necessarily bigger than 3 bedroom flats

The ‘three bedroom’ versus ‘four bedroom’ issue.

If you quickly glance at agents’ particulars, you will see that some tower flats have four bedrooms and some have three, and you may think that some flats are bigger than others.

A moment’s thought will reveal that this is not the case – but as A E Housman pointed out, thought is irksome and a moment is a long time. So let me explain.

The most numerous flat types in the towers are 1A, 1B and 1C. These all have four bedrooms plus the living room along the exterior side of the flat.

(As explained in “the fourth bedroom versus dining room issue”, the fourth bedroom in Type 1A was labelled a dining room by the architects, but it’s no different from the same room in the 1B and 1C types, which are bedrooms, so we’ll treat it that way.)

The flats on the lower floors of Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower are all four-bedroom flats.  Upper floors in Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower, and all the floors in Shakespeare Tower, contain three-bedroom flats.

In Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower, the fourth bedroom has simply been removed, and all the space added to the living room. The rest of the flat remains unchanged from the standard layout.

Shakespeare Tower has its own standard flat types – 8A, 8B and 8C. In these flats the space where there could have been a fourth bedroom is split to give a larger living area and a larger third bedroom.

So you will appreciate that the floor space itself is not reduced, just because there are three bedrooms rather than four. This shouldn’t even be an issue except for the fact that we instinctively divide properties into different value categories in our minds according to the number of bedrooms.

How many rooms does a tower flat really have?

How many rooms does a tower flat really have?

In our tables we tell you how many rooms a tower flat has. When the City of London built the Barbican Estate, they calculated the number of rooms in each flat type. That is what we are following – and repeating to you. But their counting system is a bit counter-intuitive.

Kitchens, bathrooms, shower rooms, utility rooms, WCs … basically any room with a tap in it … is excluded from the room count. So a Type 4B penthouse with two bathrooms and two shower rooms has ‘6/7 rooms’, and the Type 4C penthouse with only one shower room is also ‘6/7 rooms’.

A dining room with a door on it (like Type 1A) is a room. So 3 bedrooms, a living area, a breakfast area and a dining room are treated as ‘6 rooms’.

But a dining ‘area’, formed by pulling a sliding wall to separate the living area, is treated as something which is not quite a room. So 4 bedrooms, a living room, and a dining area were designated as ‘5/6 rooms’.

Whenever you see the room count as ‘4/5’, or ‘5/6’ or ‘6/7’ it just means that there is a sliding door which turns the living area into a smaller living area and a dining area for as long as the door is slid.

Take a ‘5/6’ room flat. Before you pull the sliding door you have a 5 room flat. Once you pull the sliding door across, you have a 6 room flat. It is a bit like Schrodinger’s Cat. The number of rooms is in an indeterminate quantum state until you look to see if the sliding door has been pulled.

It would make so much more sense if we abandoned altogether talk of the number of rooms, or what they are called, and just talked about the net internal area of a flat, and the price per square foot or metre.

Blake Tower

Blake Tower is very different from the three original towers: Lauderdale, Cromwell and Shakespeare Towers. The original three were built to house similar flats (although subtly different from one tower to another). Blake Tower was built at about the same time – but to provide a gym and accommodation for the YMCA. Now it has been converted into flats, and it joins the other three as a Barbican residential tower. But its flats are very different. Where the original towers have large flats, Blake Tower has studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom flats.

Studios

The six studio flats in Blake Tower are all in the middle of the east-facing halves of floors 2 to 7. In Blake Tower, the studio designation is really about size rather than absence of a bedrooms, because these studios do have a bedroom area marked off with a sliding door.

One bedroom flats

There are more one-bedroom flats to choose from than any other configuration in Blake Tower. One-bedroom flats from floor 8 to 13 are almost always a uniform 48 m² in area (except for two on floor 11 which are a square meter or so bigger). They are equally uniform on floors 3 to 7, each floor having a 51.6 m² flat and a 53.8 m² flat. From floor 2 downwards, sizes of one-bedroom flats vary enormously. For example, there are two on the ground floor: one is 49.4 m² and the other is 70.01 m². There are two very big ones on floors 14 and 15 (71.9 m² each).

Two bedroom flats

Blake Tower has 23 two-bedroom flats. They are almost all on floors 8 to 13 (with the exception of floor 11). There are two per floor, each 108 m² in size. On other floors they vary in area, but the most standard size is 71.8 m².

Three bedroom flats

There are four three-bedroom flats on floors 14 and 15 – two on each floor. One of each pair is 102 m² and the other is a wopping 137 m².

Houses

  • Mews Houses
  • Mews/Maisonettes
  • Big Houses

Lambert Jones Mews

The only ‘pure’ mews houses in the Barbican Estate are the houses of Lambert Jones Mews.

On the mews side, there is an integral garage which takes up some of the ground floor of the house. Next to the garage, there is a separate entrance off the mews, and a study on the other side of that. At the back, is a bedroom and a combined shower room and WC.

The piece de resistance is the living room which is double height and has floor-to-ceiling windows onto the garden. There is also a garden door, so that the privileged inhabitants can stroll in the garden.

On the first floor, there is a gallery round the double height living room, which contains a dining area, kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a separate WC.

Above that, there is access to a roof terrace. The roof terrace is quite small and is placed next to what looks like a brick garden shed larger than the terrace itself. But these terraces are much-used in the Summer, even thought they are overlooked by people going up the steps to Defoe House, or standing on the podium there. But it is a small price to pay and it’s a sure bet that other residents are overlooking them with envy. They also have window boxes on the mews side.

Brandon Mews

Brandon Mews is not exactly a ‘mews’ in the usual sense of a terrace of little houses, built to house horses and adapted to house humans.

Viewed from Willoughby Highwalk the properties are little houses in the sense that they have their own individual front doors which you reach by going down some steps.

Viewed from Speed Garden or the lakeside, they are more like two-storey maisonettes – they are built into the side of a block with windows overlooking the garden and lake, much like the sub-podium maisonettes in Speed House do.

Let’s not get hung up on labels though. They are desirable properties.

There are 26 two-level houses. Once inside, you go down stairs to the living area and the kitchen, which are on the lower level.

In the outer houses 1 to 10, and 23 to 26, the staircase between the two floors is a traditional one, and the living room is split level. Most of the floor, including the back half of the living room, is elevated above ground level, but you take a few steps down to the front half of the living room nearest to the lake outside. These split level flats have a storeroom below the living room. (Most owners have converted these storerooms into extra bedrooms, with the Corporation’s permission).

The middle units, 11 to 22, have a spiral staircase, a single level living room and no storeroom.

Every house from 1 to 26 has a bedroom at the front overlooking the lake. The even numbered houses in addition have an extra bedroom at entrance level, at the back. The “evens’” extra bedroom is achieved by stealing some of the “odds’” space next to the entrance corridor.

Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 23 and 25 have one split level, living room with a storeroom underneath, and one bedroom (Type 118). Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 24 and 26 are the same but have two bedrooms (Type 120). Nos. 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 have one normal living room and one bedroom (Type 119). Nos. 12,14,16,18, 20 and 22 are the same but have two bedrooms (Type 121).

There is no direct access onto the garden or the lakeside.

Wallside

Wallside has 14 terrace houses which have entrance doors onto Square, so they partly face out of the estate. Inside the estate, they have doors at the top of the house onto the highwalk.

Type Accommodation
63/64 4 bedrooms, living room, dining room (6 rooms), 2 bathrooms, cloakroom, roof terrace, integral garage, store

The Postern

The Postern has 7 houses which similarly have street entrances and highwalk entrances.

Type Accommodation
67/68 4 bedrooms, living room, dining room (6 rooms), store, 2 bathrooms, roof terrace, integral garage