Clas­si­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics

Berkshire Life - - HOME IN ON DESIGN - WORDS: Sarah Rodi

Berke­leys is an English coun­try house in Bray with a rich his­tory but has been well adapted for modern liv­ing. Own­ers Jim and Lyn Wil­liams share the sto­ries the prop­erty holds for them

be­came Tu­dor House and the main part, Berke­leys, was named af­ter the in­cum­bent vicar in the 1700s. The grain store and the coach house be­came two fur­ther in­de­pen­dent prop­er­ties.”

Charles and Nan Bir­ney pre­vi­ously lived in Berke­leys, bring­ing up their fam­ily here and en­joy­ing the river. Nan Bir­ney wrote Bray To­day and Yes­ter­day, which was pub­lished in 1973 and edited and re­pub­lished in 1998. “It is a very com­pre­hen­sive ac­count of the his­tory of Bray from the ear­li­est set­tle­ment to the end of the 1900s,” says Lyn.

“When we bought it, it was a big project to take on. Al­though we loved it, it took us a year to de­cide whether to buy it or not, as it needed con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment of time and a big bud­get to re­alise the tremen­dous po­ten­tial of an old vicarage in this lo­ca­tion. And we weren’t buy­ing it for com­mer­cial rea­sons – we wanted to cre­ate a home where our fam­ily could grow up.”

In the end, they went with their hearts and bought it. “We moved into Berke­leys in June 1997 and im­me­di­ately got crack­ing on a pro­gramme of work, restor­ing some parts and ex­tend­ing oth­ers. This is a re­peat of ear­lier Victorian his­tory, where the Rev­erend Austen-Leigh ex­panded the vicarage to ac­com­mo­date his fam­ily.

“We re­placed the roof and built a dou­ble garage, as well as the drive­way, and we added a two-storey ex­ten­sion to one side of the house. We added in new win­dows and un­cov­ered an orig­i­nal arch win­dow, which we kept, so you can now see through it into the new kitchen from the din­ing room, and we cleared out the large cel­lar.”

The prop­erty re­tains many pe­riod fea­tures and its re­fur­bish­ment has been done with taste and sym­pa­thy. The ac­com­mo­da­tion now ex­tends over three floors. The lower ground floor con­sists of bed­room, en suite bath­room, kitchen and sit­ting room. And the ground floor has a spa­cious en­trance hall lead­ing on to a de­light­ful sit­ting room, cosy din­ing room with a wood­burn­ing stove and study, each with their own stun­ning views down to the river.

“I love the serene, nat­u­ral light that floods through the win­dows. The re­cep­tion rooms have high ceil­ings and lots of light – this is some­thing we in­sisted upon when re­fur­bish­ing and ex­tend­ing the house,” adds Lyn. Walk­ing from the re­cep­tion hall through the break­fast room, with Lyn’s beloved Aga, you come to the dou­ble as­pect kitchen, which has all the mod-cons, in­clud­ing a

range cooker and ceramic hobs. The con­ser­va­tory’s doors lead out onto the ter­race and river­side gar­den. “This is one of our favourite places to sit and re­lax look­ing down the gar­den to the river and pass­ing boats.

It is beau­ti­ful all year round,” says Lyn.

The first floor is ac­cessed via the oak stair­case. “We put this in,” says Lyn. “And the gal­leried land­ing.” The master bed­room has an en suite with a lovely bal­cony over­look­ing the river. “We have be­spoke sycamore fit­ted wardrobes and dress­ing ta­ble in here, which I love,” says Lyn. An­other dou­ble bed­room with en suite over­looks the gar­den and river with a sin­gle bed­room next door. Two fur­ther dou­ble bed­rooms over­look the front of the house.

“We re­ally brought the house out of the 19th and into the 21st cen­tury, yet re­tained the old fea­tures, while adding the Aga, the wood­burn­ers, re­claimed doors and floors. And we had all new bath­rooms fit­ted, with steam cab­i­nets and Jacuzzi baths,” Lyn says.

“We de­signed the in­te­ri­ors our­selves. We like sim­ple decor with light colours and plain walls. We have porce­lain tiles in the kitchen and bath­room, and the rest of the house has woooden floors, which are in-keep­ing with the look and feel of the prop­erty.

“The large ta­ble in the din­ing room was made by Craig Brown, who got his de­gree in design us­ing our ta­ble and chairs that he’d cre­ated as his show­piece. He also made our be­spoke Tiger’s Eye oak kitchen cab­i­nets and the sycamore bed­room fur­ni­ture. He went on to design and make fur­ni­ture for So­phie Dahl and Jamie Cul­lum. I love the fact this fur­ni­ture is all hand­made and unique to us and I shall miss it when we leave,” says Lyn.

“Af­ter more than 20 years as a fam­ily home, it is sadly now time for us to move on and hand over the prop­erty to some­one else. We have loved liv­ing in Bray. Of course, it is renowned for in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed restau­rants, in­clud­ing the Wa­ter­side Inn and the Fat Duck, but we also en­joy go­ing to Calde­sis, or for lunch at Boul­ters Lock, which we ac­cess via the river on a boat. We can slip through the church­yard for a drink at the Hind’s Head or

The Crown. The Old Butch­ers shop and Pop Up Wine Bar in Cookham is a treat, and there’s also a lovely lit­tle dress shop on Cookham High Street called Vicki Bond. Dur­ing lock­down, we’ve dis­cov­ered Pizza Dreams near Cookham Sta­tion for take­aways. In Maiden­head, Bakedd ar­ti­san bak­ery and café makes won­der­ful cakes and scones as well as bread and does a good cup of cof­fee. And it’s so easy to get to Lon­don from here. You can’t beat a day out at Clive­den and we are spoilt for dog walks along the river or on the heath.

“Now our three chil­dren and four grand­chil­dren are grown up, it’s just the two of us liv­ing here most of the time, and it’s a lot to look af­ter at our age. But it’s been a won­der­ful house; per­fect for en­ter­tain­ing and a happy fam­ily home.”

Berke­leys is on the mar­ket at £3.5m with UK Sotheby’s Internatio­nal Realty. sothe­bysre­alty.co.uk

The modern bath­room

ABOVE: The con­tem­po­rary styled fam­ily room

ABOVE: Modern kitchen BE­LOW: The con­ser­va­tory is a sunny spot

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