“We were taking a Sunday afternoon stroll along Portobello Road, when we came across the new homes being built. Before that we didn’t know anything about the scheme – ‘When did this happen?’ we thought! – but talked about it over a cup of coffee at a nearby café and thought it could be just the place for us.”
It is in the very same café – Bluebelles on Portobello Road – that Cristina Haraba is talking to Here & Now, telling the story behind how she and her husband Nelson came to be among the latest residents at Portobello Square. Having arrived in April after buying a new two-bedroom apartment in Hudson Mansions off-plan, the two of them are enjoying their new home and getting to know the neighbourhood better.
“We used to live not far away, in a one-bedroom garden flat on Chepstow Road,” she continues, “but we never really used the garden and needed more space so started looking around. We’ve always loved Notting Hill and wanted to stay in the area, but it didn’t take long to realise that there wasn’t much out there that would fit our criteria. We thought we’d have to compromise – perhaps move towards Shepherd’s Bush – until we found out about Portobello Square.”
But they had to wait a bit first. The block they saw under construction was the sold-out Orwell Mansions and Munro Mews, and it quickly transpired that all the apartments in Hudson Mansions, construction of which was just about to start, had already been reserved. But then, a stroke of luck: a couple of the purchases fell through and a two-bedroom apartment became available.
Says Cristina: “We had a meeting with the sales team at 1pm, but knew there was another couple coming in after us, so we wasted no time and put our deposit down straight away. And it was great to be able to make decisions over things such as the kitchen fittings, for which we went with the same dark blue colour as had been used in the show apartment. It makes such a difference to put your own stamp on things.”
Originally from Romania, Cristina moved to London 12 years ago to study and is now an actress, while Nelson is an academic at Imperial College in South Kensington. Buying a home at Portobello Square has enabled them to stay in the area they love, in a home that fits their criteria. More than that, it means that Cristina now has the space to rehearse and prepare for auditions, something she previously had to make do without.
“We didn’t consider new-build properties to begin with, as they can sometimes look out of place, but Portobello Square is different – the design is really sympathetic to the rest of the area and uses lovely materials rather than the glass-and- steel frontages that spoil lots of new developments.
“Our old flat was like living in a cave, with virtually no direct light and the occasional leak. Now we have so much light – the apartment is on the corner of the building, so we get light from two sides through the full-height windows. It’s made such a difference to move into our new place in Portobello Square.”