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House of the Month: An Edwardian gem in Hadley Green

PUBLISHED: 08:31 23 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013

House of the Month: An Edwardian gem in Hadley Green

House of the Month: An Edwardian gem in Hadley Green

Richard and Jane Dessar tell Pat Bramley why only the best was good enough for their five-bedroom family home

Richard and Jane Dessar tell Pat Bramley why only the best was good enough for their five-bedroom family home


If you were in the business of assisting wealthy clients renovate a property to the ultimate level of contemporary style and luxury, you probably wouldnt compromise on quality should you be embarking on a similar task for yourself.
Thats why Richard Dessar says he was only interested in seeking out the best of the best for everything that went into the total overhaul of a handsome Edwardian house at Hadley Green which he and his wife Jane bought for themselves and their twin boys after they moved out from Hampstead in 2007.
As a former estate agent and now freelance project manager specialising in top end building and renovation contracts, he not only knows what buyers look for when shopping around for a new home but he also has the inside track on manufacturers around the world who are producing cutting edge designs for fixtures and fittings.
Having previously remodelled their London flat into a three-bedroom two-bathroom contemporary showpiece and sold it complete with the furniture for a handsome profit, they made the decision to look for a house further afield out in Hertfordshire. They reasoned that out here they would get more house for their money and by choosing the right property, the potential could be even more rewarding.
The flat was ideal, Richard comments, but being on the first floor of a Victorian house we knew wed have to move after the twins were born. There was no separate outside access, no parking. For the first year of their lives it was fine but once the boys were on the move it wouldnt have been child-friendly.
What attracted Richard and Jane to Hadley Green was the location.
The Dessars house is on a corner plot in the local conservation area, the front faces the green with acres of common and heathland where you can forget youre only a few miles from London, the local shops in the next road serve everyday needs and you can walk to High Barnet station in ten minutes couldnt be more perfect for a professional couple with two energetic young sons.


The house was extremely tired when we first saw it but I saw behind the mess



But buying the property was only the first step to achieving their idyll.
In the year that followed they lived in rented accommodation while first there was a long wait for council consent to alter the existing planning permission for an extension and then, despite being able to call on his hand-picked team of reliable builders he has worked with for years through his project management contracts, it still took an age for the house to be ready.
Fortunately they werent clobbered with huge bills for storage because most of their furniture had been bought by the purchaser of the flat.
The couple have no doubt the upheaval was worth it. The lengthy building works and the no-expense-spared strategy were the price they were more than ready to pay to end up with a home they could picture themselves enjoying for years and years.
Richard recalls, The house was extremely tired when we first saw it but I saw behind the mess. There were plenty of changes that could be made. The previous owners had consent for an extension but we wanted to use the space differently.
I was an estate agent for 20 years, most of the time working in Hampstead. You get very used to seeing fine properties. With this one, we wanted to retain the Edwardian character but give it the same high spec you find in the best houses in London. We took it back to the shell.
One of the features which distinguishes a fine house, says the design expert, is the size of the entrance hall. You want a house to feel spacious when you come in, you want the rooms to feel large. This is where the high ceilings of the Edwardian period score in the two principal ground floor reception rooms the elegant architraves are new as are the gleaming wood floors and the skirting boards but the original ceiling height, slightly lowered to accommodate the downlighters and Mode computerised lighting system, provides an elegance often missing from modern domestic architecture.
To emphasise the scale of the ground floor layout, the replacement internal doors and door frames were purposely made wider and higher than those that were there before. The new chrome handles are from a range by architect Sir Norman Foster.
The original wooden window frames were rotten. I wanted double glazed windows to try to keep some heat in the house, Richard reports, but I ran into major problems with the council.
Eventually I was allowed to change the existing windows. The new ones had to be custom made with wooden frames and double glazed units to match the original Edwardian design. To look at them from outside, you wouldnt know they are new. The hand built New England shutters make a nice finishing touch.
All the principal rooms are wired for a Bang & Olufsen media system and of course theres Category 5 cabling and the even more futuristic Cat 7 concealed in the walls throughout to keep the place tuned into whatever high tech advances revolutionise the home entertainment and data communication systems.
Back in the newly enlarged entrance hall with space stolen from the previous model of the side entrance porch, the staircase had to be changed, along with everything else, because the earlier one was large and dark.
Although the new owners liked the way the bedrooms spread out either side at the top of the stairs on the first floor landing, down in the hall the staircase encroached too much on the space. The new white version has open treads and a glass balustrade and follows the contemporary theme.
The fabulous new kitchen and the three new bathrooms are all the work of Keith Atkins at Alternative Plans. Richard says he was delighted with his collaboration with Keith, not a feeling extended to a firm of architects who drew up plans for the extension into the loft.
I had the ideas for the kitchens and bathrooms and Keith converted them to drawings with a few ideas of his own, says the client.
The kitchen units with the central island and breakfast bar are from a top quality range by Boffi, the frightfully posh Milan-based firm. The sleek line of cupboards are side by side with integrated appliances by Miele, Sub Zero and Sholt , all names which resonate with those with loads of money.
The Dessars kitchen and dining area extend the width of the house and link in an open plan arrangement with the playroom. Richard points out, We can be cooking in the kitchen and still be able to see what the boys are up to.
Once Gideon and Jamie, celebrating their fourth birthday in June, have gone to bed the playroom can be closed off and the parents can retire with visiting friends to their spotless lounge and adjoining TV room.


In the two principal ground floor reception rooms the architraves and gleaming wood floors are new


As in many multi-million-pound new houses, the utility room in the remodelled Edwardian house has purposely been accommodated in the layout upstairs. Its main function is as a laundry room which makes good sense especially if you have children. There are no unsightly piles of clothes downstairs waiting to be washed or ironed. Its all done upstairs.
The arrangement of rooms on either side of the stairs in the recently extended property was deliberately designed so that when they were older, the boys would have their own bedrooms and bathroom creating a separate wing on one side of the property while their parents occupy a five-star suite on the other side of the first floor.
Richard and Janes bedroom and en suite bathroom and dressing room are at the front of the house overlooking the green. You can lie in the bath and look out onto the green, Richard observes with a satisfied grin.
The Agape free-standing bath is made of resin which keeps the water hot much longer than usual baths. When Richard bought the bathroom suite, the bath alone would have cost 8,000. Its another of the bright ideas he had with his friend Keith from Alternative Plans.
The design of the top floor caused a whole lot of headaches which ditched a firm of architects whose solution to the layout would not have provided Richard, the perfectionist, with a natural continuation of the staircase from the ground floor which he felt was essential to the integrity. The experts had shunted off the stairs into a corner.
I wanted the stairs to the second floor to feel like theyd always been there, insists the project manager. We spent months working out the best design to accommodate the stairs, storage, the guest suite and space for the Megaflow (water tank). We played around with the layout until we got it right. I was here every day. We couldnt change the outside of the house. It took months.
Finally, with the upper floor design resolved, the interior furnished by Gerald Moran Interiors of Hampstead and the gardens designed by landscape gardener Mark Enright, the Dessars house in Hadley Green was finished.
But guess what? Theyre selling. Richard and Janes house is on the market through Savills in Barnet for 1.95m. He says hes looking for another house to do up.
Some people must enjoy having the builders in. Maybe you would too if theyd become friends.

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