The publican and property developer has transformed the drinking den into an elegant gastropub topped with five design-led apartments.
High above the street below, the parapet on 28 Chilworth Street subtly states “Cleveland Arms, 1852”. A meeting place for locals and visitors alike, this beloved pub has almost 200 years of history. In the last eight of these, it has belonged to Swedish native Maria Tamander.
“It’s such a beautiful building,” Maria says of the five-floor framework that encompasses the Cleveland Arms and three levels of apartments. The pub’s distinguished charcoal exterior complements the brick façade above, where pediment-topped windows add a sense of Grecian grandeur.
Maria’s penchant for property ran in parallel with her career as a film executive. In the 90s, she founded an advertising production company that worked with brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Dolce & Gabbana. The agency also produced music videos including the one for the Spice Girls’ hit Wannabe.
Moving to London in 1999, Maria then freelanced, collaborating with a multitude of directors and photographers. She also began working on property projects. “Eight years ago, it shifted,” she says of her decision to take on The Cleveland Arms and the apartments above it. “So, property became the full-time job.”
The pub was a different affair when Maria took ownership of the building. “I was intrigued because in Sweden, we don’t have pubs,” she says. “But I realised the importance of them in the UK.” At the time, the pub only served wine in plastic bottles and its menu of microwave meals was limited to certain evenings. “The interior was a disaster,” she admits, “but it had huge potential.”
The Cleveland Arms is now an elegant gastropub but has retained much of its old-world charm and many of its regulars. Maria’s guiding principle throughout the renovation was to restore the space to its former glory. This involved extensive research and the help of a historian. “There was an old photograph of the pub which showed a horseshoe bar in the middle,” she recalls. “So that’s something we wanted to recreate.”
Descending the stairs and entering the dining room feels like walking onto a film set. The atmosphere of a mid-century Parisian restaurant has been accurately recreated in modern-day London. But it’s no coincidence that the space has a noticeably cinematic feel. Maria worked with a set designer, who helped source the dining room’s reclaimed wood panelling and wall tiles. Now in a neat herringbone formation, they were Victorian roof tiles in a previous life.
As a producer, you have a picture of something you like, and you have to find someone who can make it.
– Maria Tamander
Maria’s previous life working in film has also played a big part in her ability to bring together a challenging renovation and run a business. “As a producer, you have a picture of something you like, and you have to find someone who can make it,” she explains. “And you’re always sourcing the right people. Setting up a restaurant, it was the same thing.”
Her formative years provided useful skills, too. Growing up in Sweden, Maria’s grandparents owned hotels and restaurants. She funded travels around Europe by working there and learnt how these businesses function.
Prior to the renovation, 17 flats occupied the floors above the pub that now play host to five considered apartments. Maria designed them herself and her light touch can be seen in thoughtful decisions – such as the Swedish hardwood flooring. Apartment One features a voluminous reception room that spans the width of the plot, drawing in sunlight from four expansive southeast-facing windows. Bookended by original fireplaces and crowned with ornate cornicing, this opulent space epitomises the uplifting feel of the five residences.
Ideal short-stay homes, Maria has enjoyed back-to-back bookings. She lives locally with her partner and children and believes the apartments’ financial success is due in part to the location. Caught between Bayswater and Paddington, the boutiques, antiques dealers and restaurants of Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove are all within walking distance. Within even closer reach, Paddington Station is just five minutes away.
Having decided to sell 28 Chilworth Street, Maria is now focusing her efforts on a new project in Estonia. She has taken on an old manor house and dairy farm on the island of Saaremaa. Set in 90 hectares of nature, it will be one of the first mid-size boutique hotels that’s totally off-grid. However, Chilworth Street will always have a special place in her heart. “There aren’t many buildings that are intact as a pub with residences upstairs that haven’t been divvied up,” she adds. “It’s a unique opportunity.”
Chilworth Street is available to buy for £7,500,000