The Airbnb phe­nom­e­non

Berkshire Life - - Front Page - WORDS: Claire Pitcher

Berk­shire beau­ties

The Airbnb phe­nom­e­non has meant that an in­creas­ing num­ber of us are turn­ing our homes into hol­i­day lets and a quick look on the web­site shows some of these Berk­shire-based bolt holes can of­fer high end quirky stays. Here are some of the home­own­ers who’ve trans­formed their spare space into in­spi­ra­tional in­te­ri­ors.


Ann Lacey and part­ner Tim Self bought Church House in Fe­bru­ary 2016. Book a stay here and you will love the state-of-the-art, bright and spa­cious con­ver­sion of a Grade II Listed chapel. There are four be­d­rooms and plenty of unique orig­i­nal fea­tures. “We felt it would make a very spe­cial hol­i­day let,” says Ann.

This wasn’t a sim­ple con­ver­sion: “The roof is en­tirely new, we had to cre­ate a floor struc­ture and es­sen­tially it is a brand new house built in­side the walls of a Vic­to­rian church. Not only did we con­struct a new house with un­der­floor heat­ing and me­chan­i­cal ven­ti­la­tion, it has a smart-home sys­tem that con­trols mood light­ing, se­cu­rity, ac­cess, heat­ing, shad­ing, win­dow open­ing and en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems. We used the old church roof slates on the barn-style garage and had ma­jor land­scap­ing to do.”

Free­stand­ing baths, mood light­ing, open plan liv­ing, sump­tu­ous be­d­rooms and out­side en­ter­tain­ing space, guests stay­ing at Church House re­lax in lux­ury, but what’s Ann’s favourite thing about her hol­i­day let? “We love the light­ing. It en­ables the cre­ation of dif­fer­ent moods and the abil­ity to high­light spe­cific as­pects of the fab­u­lous ar­chi­tec­ture, like the pul­pit and stained glass win­dows. The be­spoke fea­ture light above the din­ing ta­ble cas­cades three floors. The ex­ter­nal light­ing cre­ates a tex­tured wash across the flint right to the top of the bell tower, ac­cen­tu­at­ing the but­tresses and the re­cessed win­dows.” It’s cer­tainly an in­spi­ra­tional prop­erty with lots of take away de­sign ideas. “One of the most com­mon com­ments we have from guests is that if they were to play the lot­tery and win, they want to buy Church House,” says Ann. Church House can sleep up to 12 and costs £500 per night.

Some very quirky prop­er­ties are now wel­com­ing vis­i­tors to Berk­shire, so we went to meet the peo­ple who gave im­mac­u­late at­ten­tion to their fab­u­lous con­ver­sions


This hol­i­day home is small but per­fectly formed. This cute cot­tage be­longs to Caro­line and Sean

Lynch who moved into their much larger de­tached house nearly 30 years ago. “Within the gar­den there is this lovely lit­tle Vic­to­rian cot­tage. We dis­cov­ered from cen­sus records that the build­ing had been used in the early 20th cen­tury as a small pri­vate school­room run by two spin­ster schoolmistresses who lived in our house.” At the time it was a games room/granny an­nexe and the cou­ple turned it into a sound­proof mu­sic stu­dio and filled it with mu­sic equip­ment. It re­mained as such for 25 years.

“In 2017 the roof needed re­plac­ing and we de­cided to take out the record­ing equip­ment and re­turn the room to how it had orig­i­nally been.” It was a huge un­der­tak­ing re­mov­ing all the lay­ers of sound­proof­ing and then re-plas­ter­ing the walls and vaulted ceil­ing. “At the same time we re­placed the WC and also put in a shower cu­bi­cle and re­newed the kitch­enette with new units.”

They ren­o­vated the room with a new wood floor, skirt­ing and ar­chi­traves and even man­aged to re­store the orig­i­nal cast iron fire­place as a dec­o­ra­tive fea­ture. “It was at this point we de­cided to fur­nish the room with the pur­pose of let­ting it as short term Airbnb overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion and set about de­cid­ing ‘the look’.” ‘In­ter­est­ing and quirky’ is how you would de­scribe this bolt­hole built for two. They mixed up a com­bi­na­tion of old and new and threw in some vi­brant colours too. “We also added dif­fer­ent styles of wall art, in­clud­ing our much loved ab­stract por­trait of David Bowie.”

Above all it’s about of­fer­ing their guests a com­fort­able stay: “We’ve had noth­ing but lovely com­ments from our guests who have been great. We re­ally en­joy meet­ing all sorts of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and dis­cov­er­ing why they want to stay in the As­cot area. They love the build­ing, and nearly ev­ery­one com­ments on the decor and style, which they seem to like. It’s been de­scribed as cosy, beau­ti­ful, stylish, pri­vate, and a lit­tle gem.” The Old School House sleeps two and costs £79 per night.

‘It’s been de­scribed as cosy, beau­ti­ful, stylish, pri­vate and a lit­tle gem’


Hol­i­day­ing on the wa­ter… what could be bet­ter than mess­ing about on the Thames for a few days? The Houseboat ‘Haul­fryn1’ was pur­chased by Haul­fryn Group around 18 months ago and has been moored at Wil­lows River­side Park ever since. “It was only in April this year we de­cided to start rent­ing her out on Airbnb,” says owner Chris Welch. “The Houseboat was sit­ting do­ing noth­ing with the po­ten­tial of bring­ing in ex­tra in­come, so we thought why not start us­ing it as a self-con­tained lux­ury rental prop­erty?”

The house part it­self is a park home that’s been spe­cially con­verted to be more spa­cious with the open plan lay­out, max­imis­ing stor­age space with­out com­pro­mis­ing liv­ing space. Sleep­ing up to six peo­ple, the in­te­rior is dec­o­rated in white with mod­ern splashes of colour on the soft fur­nish­ings and grey oak floor­ing. It’s fit­ted onto a be­spoke boat hull spe­cially made to take the lux­ury of the home above. This is all pow­ered and fully nav­i­ga­ble via the 90bhp out­board en­gine.

If bob­bing about isn’t enough, this home from home has lovely views onto the river thanks to bi-fold doors: “They open out onto the deck which faces the sun­set across the river. It was a strate­gic part of the plan­ning and its moor­ing lo­ca­tion,” points out Chris.

Thanks to its quirky lo­ca­tion and su­per lux­u­ri­ous in­te­ri­ors, The Houseboat is a pop­u­lar choice for hol­i­day­mak­ers: “Nor­mally they say the best thing about the boat is its lo­ca­tion on Wil­low River­side Park and how ac­ces­si­ble ev­ery­thing is around us. But ev­ery­one is al­ways taken back by the size in­side The Houseboat and the high stan­dards of the fur­nish­ings. The most re­peated com­ment has to be ‘it’s ex­actly like the pic­tures and such great value’.”

The Houseboat sleeps six and costs £200 per night.

Bathe in style at Church House

Ann Lacey and Tim Self have care­fully con­verted a Grade II listed chapel

ABOVE: Church House: an amaz­ing prop­erty to stay in BE­LOW: The con­ver­sion at Church House mixes the likes old wes with mod­ern styling

ABOVE: The Old School House: coun­try cot­tage cuteA cosy and invit­ing spot at the Lynches’ As­cot hide­away


Caro­line and Sean at The Old School House

Boat owner Chris Welch de­cided to put Haul­fryn1 to good use Views straight out on to the river from The HouseboatThe Houseboat at Wind­sor has a high stan­dard of fur­nish­ing

All the kitchen equip­ment you need is wait­ing on The Houseboat

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