Have you ever wondered how British royalty, specifically some of the most senior and stylish members like Prince William and Kate Middleton, live today? While the Brits have moved past fairytale fortresses and gold-lined rooms — there are even a few IKEA pieces gracefully shoved in — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s home is still fit for a future monarch. The grand residence in question is Kensington Palace, located in the salubrious London borough of Kensington and just minutes away from Buckingham Palace. Aside from being a palace, the Cambridge’s home also has the royal treat of being nestled amongst the city’s most famous green space, Hyde Park. It’s also a stone’s (or should we say jewel’s?) throw from other major London landmarks like St James’ Palace, Big Ben, and St Paul’s Cathedral, the latter having a major connection to Kensington Palace.
In 1689, King William and Queen Mary purchased the Jacobean mansion, then known as Nottingham House as their country retreat, for £20,000 (about £4 million or $5.7 million today) per Woman and Home. They hired architect Sir Christoper Wren (famed for designing St. Paul’s Cathedral) to expand the “cottage” into a palace. In a bid to move the royal court there before Christmas, the extension was cheaply built using the palace’s iconic red bricks as opposed to the limestone commonly used in other British buildings like Buckingham Palace, per Newsweek. Since its expansion over 400 years ago, Kensington Palace has seen a revolving door of royals take up residence.
Prince William is raising his children in the very home he grew up in
Kensington Palace is as famous for its numerous royal residents as it is with its renovations. The regal red building was where Queen Victoria was born back in 1819 and home to not only Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowden (per Express), but also their lavish celebrity-filled soirees during the 1960s, per Historic Royal Palaces. After Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married, they too moved in and raised Prince William and Prince Harry in the palace. Diana also lived there until her death in 1997, per Woman and Home.
While Kensington Palace is one big property, it’s home to a number of royals including the Prince and Princess of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank. Aside from aristocrats, the palace also houses 39 other residents including military members, staff, and courtiers. And if you’ve ever dreamt of living in a palace, it seems to be possible at Kensington with a few regular families also taking up residence there… to a royally-fitting price tag, we’re sure.
But, of course, Kensington Palace’s most famous inhabitants include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their adorable royal brood who reside in “Apartment 1A.” And no, it’s nothing like the pokey apartments that we are used to.
Kate and William's Kensington Palace quarters are not your typical "apartment"
While the idea of apartment living seems fairly modest, the royals have completely redefined its meaning to a luxe degree. With each residence confusingly called an “apartment,” royal expert and author Christopher Warrick told Marie Claire it’s not to be confused with the “American term,” explaining, “If you think of Kensington Place, in a way, it is built around three courtyards. If you kind of think of them as being these wonderful red brick terrace houses. Because they are all joined but separate houses.” This explains how the various families are able to all live under one roof together.
As senior members of the royal family, Prince William and Kate Middleton presumably live in the biggest residence, known as “Apartment 1A,” which royal author Ingrid Seward described (via Daily Mail) as “enormous.” It has 20 rooms from the basement to the attic including an elevator to take people up its four stories, a gym, several drawing rooms, and large separate office spaces for William and Kate. Apartment 1A also has two master suites — though E! claims the couple has broken royal tradition by sharing the same bedroom — and three additional ensuite bedrooms with his and hers dressing rooms. And when it comes to Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, the littlest royals enjoy both a day and a night nursery, which are adorably Peter Rabbit-themed, as well as their own outdoor playground.
Kensington Palace went through a two-year renovation before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved in
Prior to their wedding, Prince William and Kate Middleton were initially eyeing a number of royal residences. However, the couple received the ultimate wedding gift after Queen Elizabeth gifted them Apartment 1A, the former home of her sister Princess Margaret. Nevertheless, Kensington Palace was said to have been a good fit for the green-thumbed Kate anyway, with royal author Ingrid Seward calling it “like a piece of countryside in London,” per Daily Mail. It features various secluded green spaces including the Italian garden, the cradle walk (an arched arbor), and wildflower meadow. But before Kate could don the home gardening gloves, she and William had to wait another two years until moving in with a number of renovations needed to transform Apartment 1A following Margaret’s death in 2002.
Kate and William spent almost £4.5 million (approx $6.4 million USD), using a mix of public and private money to restore the residence to its former glory. A few safety concerns included some old bomb damage from World War II and an asbestos problem following Princess Margaret’s large-scale renovations in the 1960s, per Us Weekly. Other significant updates included a new roof, wiring, and plumbing, as well as some eco-friendly changes to the heating and hot water system, per Daily Mail. The couple also forked out £170,000 (approx $200,000 USD) of their own money to revamp the kitchen, per The Sun. But when it came to the furnishings and fit-out, Kate took charge.
Kate Middleton even likes to shop at IKEA
Before she was the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton was an accessories buyer for British clothing brand Jigsaw, therefore it’s no surprise Kate was invested in the decorating side of things. A palace insider told E! that while she employed several interior designers, Kate took her own very “personal role,” explaining, “She has staff helping her, but she makes some of the calls herself and visited shops. She’s very professional and organized.” Kate reportedly loaned opulent furnishings from the Royal Collection — including a $50,000 Persian carpet — and an array of prominent artwork. Kate’s eye for design also stems from her History of Art degree from St. Andrews University. She also frequented her old neighborhood, the upmarket area of Chelsea, buying up furniture from the luxurious Chelsea Design Centre, per Daily Mail. The store’s website says it’s home to “over 600 of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands” and “is the largest of its kind in Europe.”
While Kate likes to spruce up her “apartment” with £900 (approx $1,200) lamps and £1,100 rocking horses for the children (which, in fairness, was a gift from then-President Barack Obama, per The Sun), she also fitted Apartment 1A with more affordable brands. Similar to her wardrobe, Kate mixed high-street with high-end, shopping at department store John Lewis and also IKEA. Yes, apparently the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also love the minimalist Scandinavian brand. Ahh, royals, they’re just like us — oh wait, don’t they also have a country mansion in Norfolk?
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