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Open House London

Updated on September 20, 2011

Open House London is back, offering the chance to dig around inside tower blocks and Georgian gems

If snooping at houses in high definition isn’t intimate enough, you can get even closer this weekend with Open House London, the scheme that flings wide the doors of the capital’s most private buildings. Every September, it gives a unique opportunity to get out and under the skin of London’s amazing architectural landmarks and family homes across the city that will welcome strangers, offering the chance to see exemplary buildings from the inside first-hand. Open House has been running for 20 years and is now mimicked in New York, Barcelona, Rome and Melbourne.

The day-to-day voyeurism enabled by the internet has only boosted the popularity of peeping into real-life spaces that are usually off-limits. The BT Tower, in Central London, has received 27,000 requests for visits this weekend as part of Open House — 480 of the applications will be drawn at random to visit the rotating restaurant and 34th-floor viewing deck, which have been closed to the public since 1980. The Olympic Park, Bank of England and other landmarks will also be accepting visitors.

But as well as being wowed by the towering edifices of power, you can also experience small-scale design work and inspect the tasteful transformation of that Georgian gem you’ve been intrigued by in your neighbourhood. Make the most of this year’s theme, “The Liveable City”, with its emphasis on you as the urban inhabitant, to develop an understanding of what lies behind the opaque walls that delineate public and private.

Every house opening under the scheme will have been polished to perfection — perhaps this is an opportunity for sellers who are unsure of how their home compares with its market competitors to seek inspiration from domestic interiors at the top of the scale. Many of the properties on show are family homes that have been cleverly reworked by architects. If you’re not selling but are considering how to transform your home, perhaps spending one day perusing a shortlist from this real-life portfolio of tried-and-tested architectural solutions will show you more than looking at hundreds of images online.

As homes throughout the city become a network of pop-up exhibitions, you can note down the features you like and then ask the owners where they got them — possibly over a cup of tea.

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