I am a property finder and people pay me to source them very good homes – so I am picky, more than picky, I am flaming awkward. I view and discount thousands of homes for my clients, they pay me to weed out the chaff and to deliver to their taste. In essence I am long in the tooth and I’m not easily impressed.
I have been asked to take a look at a new Cala home in leafy Ascot. I like Ascot, I like the neatness of the high street with everything you need day to day, amazing schools and some splendid restaurants and bars. Not to mention the pick of some of the worlds greatest golf clubs on your doorstep, (criteria number one for him indoors).
I like the excitement of race days when the streets are over run with ladies in their finery tottering from the station in their high heels then hobbling back in their flip flops and worse for wear fascinators
Nice place Ascot, particularly as it is enveloped in the lovely green folds of Windsor Great park with stunning walks and royalty around every corner.
However I am a bit funny about new homes. I’ve seen more than my fair share and I still harbour memories of cheap paper houses with half finished skirting boards and walls so thin you can hear your neighbours scratch. Not to mention rooms too small to swing a hamster with miniature furniture designed to fool you. So it is with a suspicious eye that I swish through the electric gates and do one of those cool one handed turns to park in front of the porticoed entrance. Very James Bond – I’m on a mission.
Having introduced myself to the consultant I was delighted to be left to mooch around on my own, I can’t bear being followed around. Viewing houses is about soaking it all up and you can’t do that being harangued by a pushy sales person – thankfully no fear here.
The first thing that hits you is the cavernous entrance hall, it is rather heavenly in its marbley-ness and soars thirty foot plus, divine for showing off seriously large artwork and the best feature chandelier ever. Not to mention shouting out for the largest Xmas tree in Royal Berkshire.
But being an awkward sort I have a bit of a check list to go through. Firstly it’s about quality and secondly it’s about how it works for a family. So many new houses are designed for show as opposed to how todays familys live. And that is key. Will I be won over by the luxury and can I see a family living and growing up here, or is it really just a ‘show home’.
It’s silly things that warm my cockles and in this case it’s an oft overlooked room, the cloak room. Bigger and better than you’d find in the best West London hotels, a wonderful bank of bespoke cupboards, ample space for a posh puffa in every colour and leading to a toilet area large enough to practice your Strictly moves. If they haven’t skimped here it bodes well for the rest, I muse.
There’s a great office off the hall which I like, I am not a fan of studys being stuck three flights up in an overlooked area. We all access our computers all times of the night and day so it is great to be in the thick of it.
The reception room overlooks the grounds, elegant but not overly ostentatious and a dining room with double doors faces you as you walk in, lovely positioning so you get to view a beautiful dining suite with the garden beyond as you walk into the house.And probably enough space to feed thirty.
These are all well and good for entertaining in your glad rags but I want to see where the family will live. Have they screwed up and the kitchen is an after thought as is so common these days?
Blooming heck it is a bit fab, L shaped and huge. I can see the family living here all day long. A sofa area overlooking the garden where you’d curl up with the kids to watch TV. On the other side an area for a huge dining table for informal and lets be honest 350 days of the year friends and family dining a la Jamie Oliver, (not a turkey twizzler or fizzy drink in sight).
And then there’s the kitchen.
I like kitchens, it’s my thing and I am awfully particular. Big doesn’t mean better, it is all in the detail. Yes I want a swathe of work surface to spread out on (that’s more than covered here), it even has little shiny bits in the granite which I sadly always find exciting. However, what about that detail?, those things that give you a feeling that you’re dealing with quality not just ‘what they can get away with’?
Firstly the lighting is a big give away. Many developers try to get away with a bit of lighting under the top cupboards and a central light. Not here. The lighting has been designed, properly designed. Layer upon layer of feature lighting, true painting with light, so that when the main lights are off the dark wood kitchen is a sculpted in light. Then the cupboards and drawers, They have that wonderful feeling of quality, opening and closing with a gentle swish. Classy. Behind the kitchen is the utility, accessed from a side door so muddy dogs and children can be deloused before coming into the glossy haven. An absolute godsend.
It’s not the largest garden, it won’t suit those wanting acreage but Dad can get his goal posts out for a proper Dad V Son match and Mum can overlook from the lovely wide ‘gin and tonic’ terrace with something chilled in hand – or maybe that’s just my ideal.
Time to head upstairs and up the magnificent curved stair case. Unusually for a new build it has a rather beautiful turned mahogany balustrade sweeping curvaceously to the first floor rather than an off the peg metal job that I see so often. This is seriously worthy of some Mary Poppins sliding down the banisters moments, only in my dreams mind, because frankly marble doesn’t make a very bouncy landing.
And so onto the master suite and the killer question; does it work? Is it the go to sanctuary that a luxury home really must offer Mum and Dad? So often they aren’t. Unusually here you enter into a very grown up sitting room through double doors with views onto your piece of Royal Berkshire landscape and beyond. To the right is the bedroom with views out over green and to the left a dressing room seriously worthy of any of the top echelons of the Kardashian tribe – with a marbled bathroom to luxuriate in for hours.
There is no let up in well thought out design with the other four bedrooms either. All with their own en suite bathrooms and bags of storage – in fact ‘bags of storage’ sums up this house. No tripping over suitcases and ski stuff here, there’s more than enough space for even the most hideous hoarder to squirrel away their stuff neatly.
Finally there is an exciting little addition, (I don’t mean little!) that my clients are always absolutely desperate for – above the garage with it’s own entrance is a self contained studio flat. Designed perfectly for the au pair or for keeping the in-laws at a decent distance.
As I said, I am terribly suspicious of new homes – the small rooms, the shoddy workmanship and the lack of understanding of how familys now live.
But Hurlingham delights. It has one of the best master suites I can remember seeing. And the detailing that many developers just don’t bother with, such as the hand made balustrade, the incredible lighting in the kitchen and the practicality of the second entrance and the boot/utility room. Plus the bonus of the separate ‘guest’ accommodation. It all adds up to a big bundle of well thought out quality. In two words- it works.
So if a client comes to me who wants to live in a home fit for a King, near to the sport of Kings and frankly near plenty of Kings – but they want (as most do) a true home to bring up their family, then I will be marching them in, as this is a right royal home indeed.
As Jamie might say, through a mouthful of quinoa and freshly squeezed kale juice. ‘It’s pukka!’.
Footnote: More details can be found about this home (Hurlingham, Brockenhurst Road) and other Cala homes here – but before I managed to get the ink dry on writing this it was reserved – it wasn’t just me who liked it…