What would Ca­pa­bil­ity do?

Three mod­ern houses in a land­scape by Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown and Humphry Rep­ton, ad­join­ing a house by Soane, are mak­ing waves. Eleanor Doughty re­ports

Country Life Every Week - - Property News - Edited by An­nun­ci­ata Wal­ton

AS artis­tic pedi­grees go, this Ox­ford­shire es­tate is ex­em­plary. With a hand­some Grade Ilisted house re­mod­elled by Sir John Soane and 600 un­du­lat­ing acres of land­scape that bear the stamp of both Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown and Humphry Rep­ton, Ayn­hoe Park epit­o­mises the finest fash­ions of ages ush­ered in by wealthy own­ers. Now, more than 300 years af­ter its cre­ation, and in the 300th year since the fa­mous land­scape ar­chi­tect’s birth, a cor­ner of this 17th-cen­tury es­tate is be­ing re­born.

In 2003, art col­lec­tor and prop­erty de­vel­oper James Perkins bought Ayn­hoe, which had, by then, been con­verted into a se­ries of flats. In the fol­low­ing years, he un­der­took an enor­mous restora­tion, re­main­ing true to the pre­vi­ous ar­chi­tects’ vi­sions, which in­cor­po­rated Ja­cobean, Pal­la­dian and Baroque el­e­ments, but in­ject­ing his own imag­i­na­tive sen­si­bil­ity. To­day, as well as be­ing a fam­ily home, Ayn­hoe is a world­class events venue, filled with ev­ery­thing from taxi­dermy to mod­ern art.

Now, Mr Perkins, an ar­dent col­lec­tor of sculp­ture—a 10ft-tall statue of Her­cules, in­spired by Canova’s Napoleon as Mars the Peace­maker in Apsley House, Lon­don W1, stands at the bot­tom of his stair­case—has even big­ger plans.

The lat­est of these is a trio of new houses, most un­usual for a tra­di­tional coun­try es­tate, says Damian Gray of Knight Frank (01865 987666), the joint agent with Sav­ills on the project. ‘It’s rare to even be able to build in such a his­toric set­ting, and rarer still to be able to build such mod­ern and in­no­va­tive prop­er­ties.’

These new houses, named af­ter Ayn­hoe’s most fa­mous con­trib­u­tors, Ca­pa­bil­ity, Soane and Rep­ton, are far from the tra­di­tional Cotswolds cot­tages one might ex­pect. De­signed with rub­ber walls, they will each form a jaunty cross shape over an 8,650sq ft area. As they are yet to be built, it is the plots, not fin­ished houses, that are for sale and buy­ers will have the op­por­tu­nity to build the prop­er­ties to their own spec­i­fi­ca­tions, within an ap­proved ex­te­rior de­sign.

This is no Grand De­signs project, all white walls and acres of glass. ‘We took the essence of what makes an English coun­try house and put it into these houses, think­ing about the way we live to­day,’ en­thuses Mr Perkins. In­side each, there’s room for six bed­rooms, a boot room, a kitchen and even a dog room for muddy labradors. Up­stairs, Mr Perkins has de­signed his and hers bath­rooms for the mas­ter suite. This mir­rors Ayn­hoe it­self, where there are doors sign­posted ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gen­tle­men’.

In­side the ladies’, a gi­ant Re­gency mir­ror tow­ers over vis­i­tors; the whole place is a work of art. This spirit, Mr Perkins hopes, will be in ev­i­dence in the new build­ings. ‘What I want [from each buyer] is a per­son who un­der­stands it—some­one who has a love of ar­chi­tec­ture and art.’

Ni­cholas Rudge, head of Sav­ills’ Ban­bury of­fice (01295 228002), imag­ines that this project will ap­peal to Lon­don­ers rent­ing in Ox­ford­shire while they look to buy. ‘If you’ve got a bud­get of £3 mil­lion, you might think “ac­tu­ally, we can build and de­sign our own house here”.’ There is a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to do so, too—in sell­ing plots with plan­ning per­mis­sion (for £1.45 mil­lion each) rather than com­pleted houses, which would be val­ued at ap­prox­i­mately £4 mil­lion, there is a Stamp Duty sav­ing. ‘It’s quids in,’ says Mr Rudge sim­ply.

Ayn­hoe’s fashionable lo­ca­tion should also ap­peal. Soho Farm­house, the pop­u­lar mem­bers’ club-cum-coun­try­house ho­tel, is just 20 min­utes away, the Bam­ford fam­ily’s farm shop at Dayles­ford is a 30-minute drive and Bices­ter Vil­lage, the high-end dis­count-shop­ping out­let, is just 10 miles to the south. Lon­don is com­mutable, too: it’s 90 min­utes by car via the M40 and an hour on the train to Maryle­bone from Bices­ter North.

The air­port at Ox­ford is also con­ve­nient for quick get­aways, but Mr Rudge isn’t ex­pect­ing a huge up­take in in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est. ‘Buy­ers are likely to be Lon­don-cen­tric peo­ple who have come out to the coun­try to in­dulge in Dayles­ford and Soho Farm­house. They’ve caught the train and re­alised that it’s ac­ces­si­ble.’

As for Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown, on whose land­scape the new houses will rest, Mr Perkins strongly be­lieves that he would ap­prove. ‘He’d think it’s fan­tas­tic,’ he smiles. Mr Perkins’s pas­sion for Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture is also ev­i­dent; the houses will in­cor­po­rate Soane­like arches with light wells in the ceil­ings. ‘I’m sure that, if the Ge­or­gians could have thought about hav­ing a roof ter­race, they would have,’ he adds.

Most im­por­tantly, the one thing Mr Perkins is do­ing that the Ge­or­gians did not is sell­ing these prop­er­ties—and, in do­ing so, a size­able chunk of his es­tate. ‘We all have to live in the mod­ern world,’ says Mr Rudge philo­soph­i­cally. ‘These big houses don’t run them­selves. Why not let oth­ers share in what Ayn­hoe has to of­fer?’

Ayn­hoe Park: each of the three new houses planned on the Ox­ford­shire es­tate will cover 8,650sq ft. Rep­ton (House 1) will sit in four acres of pri­vate gar­den, Ca­pa­bil­ity (House 2) in 3½ acres and Soane (House 3) in 31∕3 acres. The plots with plan­ning per­mis­sion are for sale at £1.45 mil­lion each with Knight Frank (01865 987666) and Sav­ills (01295 228002)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.