The ul­ti­mate in de­clut­ter­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Once upon a time, it was as­sumed that when you moved into a house, the pre­vi­ous own­ers would have stripped the place of ev­ery­thing but the light fit­tings. That’s no longer the case. In fact, an in­creas­ing num­ber of ven­dors are pre­pared to sell you not just their house, but its con­tents: ev­ery­thing from sculp­tures to so­fas, from car­pets to cur­tains. “We’ve lived here for nearly 20 years, and we are mov­ing to a smaller cottage,” says Mike Thomas, who with wife Mau­reen is sell­ing the lovely, sixbed­room Mil­ton Lodge, in Buck­ing­hamshire, which is on the mar­ket for £1.395 mil­lion (01494 731950; sav­ills.co.uk).

“We’ve spent all this time col­lect­ing things that suit the house. Our dining-room ta­ble seats 12, we’ve a big col­lec­tion of po­lit­i­cal me­mora­bilia, and in the hall, we’ve 78 Hindu draw­ings of ev­ery­day life in In­dia, in 1849.

“We’ve cast-iron gates that were made in Ker­ala, and in the gar­den we’ve two rose­wood pil­lars we found in a junk­yard in Sin­ga­pore.

“On top of which, we have a vast hay loft stacked with yet more stuff. We are na­ture’s hoard­ers, no doubt about it. I trace it all back to the time my mother sold my train set with­out telling me!”

The good news is that both Mike and Mau­reen know what they want to take with them. The even bet­ter news is that po­ten­tial buy­ers of their house get the chance to choose, from a price list, which fix­tures and fit­tings they want, and which the Thomases have spent two decades amass­ing.

There is a huge range to choose from, too: or­na­ments, paint­ings, cur­tains, blinds, clocks, mir­rors, stan­dard lamps and even gar­den chairs.

“A lot of the stuff is go­ing to be too big for our next place,” says Mau­reen. “Which means we have a pretty clear idea of what we do want to take with us. Things that mean some­thing to us, and which we can fit into our next home.”

The ques­tion is, how much can you ask for a dining ta­ble or set of 19th-cen­tury il­lus­tra­tions that phys­i­cally won’t fit into your new home? That’s a sub­ject cur­rently be­ing mulled over by Ed­mondo di Ro­bi­lant, founder of the Dover Street Art Gallery, in May­fair.

He and his wife are sell­ing £5.95mil­lion Wood­bor­ough Lodge, in Put­ney (020 8778 9900; sav­ills. co.uk), a vast, seven-bed­room man­sion with a large gar­den and a sep­a­rate flat in the grounds. Since it was built in 1895, the di Ro­bi­lants are only the third fam­ily to have owned it.

The cou­ple have two other prop­er­ties that could house some of the fur­ni­ture and an­tiques they have ac­cu­mu­lated over the years. Even so, they still can’t ac­com­mo­date all their an­tiques and art­works.

Which means there’s only one so­lu­tion. What­ever the new buy­ers don’t want to make an of­fer for, the di Ro­bi­lants will cat­a­logue and sell at auc­tion with Christie’s.

“At the same time, part of me wants to send a card out to all our friends, telling them to come around, choose what they want, and agree a price with us,” says Ed­mondo.

Some­times, of course, that’s eas­ier said than done. If you buy Blae Grove House, at Up Nately in Hamp­shire, you might spend £3mil­lion on the house and out­build­ings (01256 350600; knight­frank.co.uk) and at the same time make the owner an of­fer for one of the lovely clas­sic cars sit­ting in his garage (you can choose from yel­low, red or blue).

If you’re the buyer, how much do you of­fer? The go­ing rate, or the I’ll-take-it-off-your-hands rate? And if you’re the seller, do you ac­cept a knock-down price just be­cause you want to sell the thing, or do you hold out for the kind of value you might get at an open auc­tion?

Such math­e­mat­i­cal ex­er­tions aren’t al­ways nec­es­sary. For ex­am­ple, if you de­cide to buy (for £1.75mil­lion) an­other Knight Frank prop­erty, Bos­ryn, at Port Navas be­side the Helford River in Corn­wall, you get (at no ex­tra cost) a three-year-old Scor­pion rib boat (value new £85,000), plus ca­noes and an in­flat­able dinghy (01392 423111; knight­frank.co.uk).

And when you put your de­posit down on Is­land Barn, at Brans­ford in Worcesters­hire (01905 723438; knight­frank.co.uk), you don’t just get a 3,000sq ft house, you get your own pri­vate, un­in­hab­ited five-acre is­land in the mid­dle of the River Teme.

Then again, if you pre­fer to stick to dry land and buy Spread Ea­gles at Mel­bury Ab­bas in Dorset (£525,000, 01747 850858; jack­sons­tops.co.uk), in­cluded in the deal is a Grade-II listed house, views over un­spoilt coun­try­side – and a fully work­ing train set in one of the up­stairs rooms.

Mean­while, 748-acre Kilmelford Farm, near Oban in Ar­gyll, has seven bed­rooms, two staff cot­tages, three hol­i­day cot­tages, a boathouse, pier and views out over Loch Melfort (£2.25mil­lion, 0131 718 4592; strut­tand­parker.com). And if you’ve still got a bit of change left over, you can put in a bid for three row­ing boats, a trac­tor, 300 sheep and 12 tons of ready-chopped logs.

An even more prac­ti­cal course of ac­tion, though, is to buy the fur­ni­ture al­ready in the prop­erty. Not only will it suit the house, but the chances are, you’ll get it at a rea­son­able price; the peo­ple living there are – more likely than not – go­ing to be get­ting fur­ni­ture that suits their new home.

In­deed, rather than load­ing it all

on to the back of a lorry and get­ting a dis­ap­point­ingly low re­turn at auc­tion, the cur­rent own­ers will be far hap­pier sell­ing it to you, know­ing that their lov­ingly picked-out chat­tels will be not so much go­ing to a good home as stay­ing in one.

On top of which, hav­ing cup­boards, chairs and ta­bles that al­ready sit com­fort­ably where they are is a big boost to the new own­ers, sav­ing them end­less week­ends scour­ing the coun­try for fur­ni­ture that fits.

Mind you, some­times you get rather more thrown in than you bar­gained for. Any­one, for ex­am­ple, who buys Bridge Cottage at Rat­ford, near Calne in Wilt­shire (£1.495mil­lion, 01249 444557; hum­berts.com), gets four bed­rooms, a pri­vate chapel, nine acres of land, fish­ing rights on one bank – plus an en­tire flock of geese.

Un­like flat-pack fur­ni­ture, th­ese birds need no com­pli­cated as­sem­bly in­struc­tions. You just feed them and, in re­turn, they honk and add at­mos­phere. It’s the per­fect ar­range­ment.

Mike Tay­lor is sell­ing a col­lec­tion of art and mem­o­ra­bilia with his house (top); clas­sic cars are avail­able with Blae Grove House, Hamp­shire (above)

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