Home of the month: Brayside Farm in Clay Hill, near Enfield
PUBLISHED: 13:03 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013
Spying their dream home through the trees, Patrick and Kerry Gray wasted no time buying it and turning it back from three homes into one, as Pat Bramley discovers
IT was the stable block and 21 acres which first attracted Patrick and Kerry Gray to Brayside Farm in 2003. Taking account of the size of the grounds and the advantage of having an established riding school next door, they decided it would make the perfect childhood home for their four-year-old daughter Kaya.
Patrick had worked on a stud farm in the south of Ireland in his early years before he came to England and carved out a career in business.
It was working at the stables that gave him his love of big open spaces and children riding horses, Kerry recalls. He always said to me, no matter what else they do, any children of ours will learn to ride.
The Grays believe Brayside was built in the 1930s. Its set in Green Belt in a conservation area in the hamlet of Clay Hill on the northern edge of one of the most rural areas of Enfield.
Handsome country houses thereabouts are mainly listed but fortunately for Patrick and Kerry when they arrived on the scene six years ago, the farmhouse doesnt have a listing.
At that time, the original house had been extended and divided into three to make separate living quarters for two generations of the same family.
The previous owners had lived at the farm for 30 years but by then there were just three of them: son and daughter and their widowed mother.
Kerry remembers, The owner was a really nice lady who loved this house but she realised it needed some tlc which she wasnt able to give it. She wanted us to have it because she knew we planned to spend money on it.
Initially Kerry wasnt keen to buy because she was put off by the amount of work it would entail. But she was swayed by Patrick. My husband saw the potential. He wanted a bigger garden. I came round to the idea eventually. I did think it was beautiful.
I just like having an open space, agrees the former stable boy who went on to build up a successful plant hire and scaffolding company. He comments, To have 21 acres in Enfield, this is so unique from that point of view. Friends cant believe it when I tell them.
Their previous home was a 1970s house which theyd renovated in Cuffley. Patrick explains, The farm was on my route into work from Cuffley. I saw the agents board go up. When the leaves are on the trees you cant see the house. Thats what attracted me.
He wasnt deterred by the scale of the task ahead. Ive been in the construction industry for 35 years. My wife is very good on the design side of things. Im very good at knocking things down, he laughs.
Before they embarked on any changes, they lived in the farmhouse for the best part of a year to get the feel of it.
At that point it was a mock Tudor style house. They planned to remodel it inside and out, keeping the character but creating a classic contemporary design with light and space the predominant feature.
We employed an architect to submit drawings and get planning consent from the council. He did the paperwork and came up with a few ideas but most of them came from us. he knew what we wanted.
The building work took eight months which was pretty good going considering the extent of the project. At one stage, pretty much all that remained of the structure were the side walls and the front part of the roof.
Early on, they scrapped their original intention to subdivide the house to make two. It wasnt working out, they agreed, so they bought a mobile home and lived in that until the job was done. We had a very cold winter in it and a very hot summer. Its still here. Its a nice beast in itself, Patrick remarks.
He had to give up going into his office every day to project manage the rebuilding job on his home turf.
They employed a local firm as the main builder but brought in their own craftsmen to do the specialist work. A huge amount of what went into the remodelling of Brayside was bespoke.
The one and a half acres of formal gardens were landscaped by Vince Giardina. Within a week of meeting us, he sent through hand drawn designs of his suggested scheme. He was excellent from start to finish, say the Grays.
It certainly helped that Kerry has a passion for design. Ive never had any formal training. Ive always been creative. I dont want to blow my own trumpet but I am good at it. I always have a camera with me, even when Im not renovating a house, so I can take a photograph if I see something I like.
The dominating feature of the 33ft living room is the log-effect fire with central floor-to-ceiling smoked glass chimney. She took a snap of the prototype when it was exhibited by Boley Fireplaces, a Dutch company, at the Ideal Home Exhibition three years before they bought the farm.
It was a new model which had just appeared in their brochure. Ours was the first they had built for a client. It was a one-off they created for the space.
The kitchen units came from Israel. Again Kerry had spotted the manufacturer at the Ideal Home show five years before she contacted them to build a kitchen for her.
They sent a designer to measure up. Kerry had her plan in her head and then she found the company to make it up. She always does that. The space we used for the kitchen incorporated what was previously the garage and another ground floor room.
The living area of their five bedroom home extends to an impressive 4,700 sq ft. The 29ft master bedroom, created from what had been a games room, overlooks Whitewebbs Park and still has the wood panelling and period chimneypiece from the old farmhouse. The difference is that the fire doesnt make dust and the contemporary wardrobes are space age. In front of the central door in the wardrobe line-up theres a pressure pad which automatically opens the way through to the five-star en suite bathroom.
At 32ft the double aspect guest bedroom, also with views over the park, is even larger than the master bedroom and could be divided to make two.
At the front of the house, the cathedral style window has replaced a stained glass window. There was a lot of colour, Kerry explains, blues, orange and reds, they werent our cup of tea.
All the doors in the house are solid wood and custom made by a Turkish company called Imaj. Again, Kerry first discovered the manufacturer at the Ideal Home Exhibition. Says her husband, The outside doors have steel plates running down the middle and an American multi-locking system with a sequence of heavy bolts which slide into the door frame.
The hall gets added light from two vertical glass panels either side of the front door. The idea for them came to Kerry in a dream. I woke in the middle of the night and drew what Id worked out while I was asleep. In the morning I showed the drawing to Patrick and then took it to the guy who had made our windows by then we had a really good relationship. He said he couldnt do it.
Accepting defeat wasnt an option for this client. The dreamer adds with a laugh, He knew what my look said and that meant thats what Im going to have. He did it.
The couple designed the ground floor of their reworked farmhouse to be a wonderful space for entertaining.
Although most of the time theres only three of them to enjoy what they have created, Barbados-born Kerry frequently has family to stay. The house is quite often full, she says.
The Grays spend every Christmas in the Caribbean and in future, theyll be there much more. For eight months of the year theyll be living close to Kerrys family in a new house theyve almost finished building. Patrick has always wanted to retire to Barbados, she says. The business will run itself, she reckons. Hell be semi-retired.
Their daughter is now nearly ten and the proud owner of Piglet, her pony. Kaya will go to school in Barbados until the sixth form and then board in England. In short, the Grays are pretty sure theyll enjoy everything theyve had at Clays Hill but with the added bonus of sunshine and more time to travel.
Brayside Farm is for sale through estate agent Hetheringtons in Broxbourne for 2.85m.