Overlooking the sea at the point where Brighton and Hove meet is a building which stands out from the others. Embassy Court is a giant Modernist whitewashed block resembling an ocean liner and reminds us of the golden age of travel. This is the view from the 11th floor! I’m really scared of heights but am glad I managed to make it up.
This incredible balcony is known as the ‘sky lounge’ arguably offers one of the most enviable views over Brighton and Hove seafront. Today, it’s mainly a communal space for residents and also the final destination on a tour of this fascinating iconic seafront landmark, which at one point lay rotting after years of neglect until it was restored in 2005.
Embassy Court was designed by ex-pat Canadian architect Wells Coates in 1935 as an architectural experiment in Modernism and was aimed at an upmarket clientele. In the brief pre-war era, it operated it was one of the most prestigious apartment buildings in the UK with occupiers said to have included Laurence Olivier, Rex Harrison, and Graham Greene who was shot to fame with his novel about the area, Brighton Rock.
The 72 flats were initially only available to rent, ranging in price from £155 a year for a one-bedroom flat with a reception room, bathroom, toilet and small kitchen, up to £500 a year for a three-bedroom flat with two receptions, two bathrooms, two toilets and a kitchen – a year’s rent would have bought a whole house in Brighton at the time.
A snoop inside – which you can do on a tour – you’ll see in the lobby noting interesting features such as an old telephone booth and the entrance to the former on-site bank. There’s also a beautiful tiny old passenger lift – in 1936, the building had a staff of 35 including one full time senior caretaker, two others, as well as cooks and cleaners, so occupants would not have carried their own shopping or luggage upstairs.
You also get to see inside an apartment, noting just how much they resemble ships cabins and the tiny kitchens, as people would have eaten out, or in the former ground-floor restaurant. I lost the photos I took on my visit, but I’ve managed to find this two-bedroom apartment in Embassy Court for us to have a snoop around. It’s also for sale!
Oh, before you leave and immediately start planning your move to this apartment inside an ocean-liner-style seaside apartment building, on your way out, take a moment to notice the small exhibition in the lobby and plaque to the right of the entrance. These pay tribute to a Brighton-born man called Edward Zeff, a Jewish undercover allied spy who survived torture at the hands of the Nazis and moved into Embassy Court after the war. Who knew!?
Find Embassy Court at Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2PX. For information on tours, see here.