Property of the month: In with the new

PUBLISHED: 12:03 18 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013

Saffrons, Rickmansworth

Saffrons, Rickmansworth

When Jimmy and Amy Singh spied a move to Rickmansworth, they set about creating a modern penthouse-style home from a 1970s building. Pat Bramley takes a look at the finished product...

WANTING the best education for their kids, Jimmy and Amy Singh took the decision to give up their house in London and move out to Hertfordshire.

It was a wrench to leave behind the lifestyle theyd enjoyed in Highgate for 20 years but they had their hopes set on getting their children into league topping independent single sex day schools.

By then their son Kurran was already secondary school age. Daughter Aneeka was four years younger but they knew it would only be a year or two before theyd be in the same quandary over her. They were adamant on one point and still are. We didnt want the children to board. We want them with us.

What complicated the plan was the lack of any houses which appealed. We looked in Chorleywood and Rickmansworth all around that area, (the lure being the Royal Masonic School for Girls on the Chorleywood Road) there was nothing contemporary available.

Admittedly the couple are not your average househunters, even at the top end of the market.

Jimmy is a director of London Residential Land, a company which finds, builds and/or furnishes homes for high net worth individuals.

His list of clients has included names from The Times Rich List, foreign royalty, premier league football tycoons, Formula 1 celebrities, people with a sense of style who arent working to a tight budget.

After 18 years in the property business at the top end he knows what works and what doesnt, where to go for the finest products, whats the latest technological advance in any area of building or interior design and, perhaps best of all, the mobile numbers for craftsmen whose work cant be bettered.

Against that background, he and Amy couldnt find anything on the market that came anywhere near matching their specification. What they wanted was somewhere in Rickmansworth or thereabouts with the spec of a Central London penthouse.

When they finally gave up the search as a fruitless cause they bought a 2000sq ft, by their standards very ordinary, circa 1970s des res on a quarter-acre plot in a prime position, and thereupon set about giving it the works.

Jimmy recalls: At first we thought well put a small extension on the back, then we said well add a little bit to the side, then lets dig down to create a basement, then we decided to go into the loft.

We got planning permission for all of this without any problem but then we thought it might be better to knock the house down and start again but we couldnt face going through planning all over again so we stuck with our original idea to extend.

Theyve now been in the finished house just over a year.

In an area of mainly pretty substantial houses of various styles and periods, theirs doesnt look particularly amazing at first glance. Like many of its neighbours, especially further along, its set back from the main road but its only at the back that its true eminence is revealed.

The front elevation of Jimmy and Amys house with its porticoed entrance and deep porch is fairly imposing. It sits behind high wrought iron gates in a new type of gravel drive. The fine stones are set in a resin bond which means the surface is smooth and solid the gravel doesnt get trodden inside or into the car and it doesnt stain.

Once youve got beyond the porch through the contemporary front door made of steel reinforced solid wood, as heavy and as well engineered as a door on a bank vault (the door is from the Chesham firm Urban Front), you come into the hall and heres where you really think Oh Wow.

The hall is as impressive as the foyer of a boutique hotel in Mayfair with its white polished porcelain floor but the real star of the show is the curved cantilevered staircase with glass balustrade sweeping up in a wide arc to the floors above.

The open treads are clad in white porcelain painted with a non-slip coating. The staircase cost 150,000 alone, Jimmy admits with a grin. With so much glass to collect smears, his wife says she always has Windowlene wipes in her pocket.

Forty-three-year-old Jimmy, son of a foundry worker who came to England from the Punjab in the Fifties, has always had a love of theatre. He says he only steered his artistic bent towards property development and interior design because he couldnt make enough money after training to be an actor.

His love of drama translated into architecture and interior design is evident throughout the house but especially at the back where the central curved glass bay window rising up through three floors from the lower ground floor spa and leisure suite, through the dining room to Kurrans bedroom on the first floor is the dominating feature.

Tracking down a company in this country capable of manufacturing curved double glazed windows in one unit on that scale took weeks of research. A single curved glass window unit is easy to manufacture but we couldnt find a firm producing one double glazed.

Eventually we discovered Euro Glass in Park Royal. Theyd just acquired a machine which could curve glass but not double glazed. They had to send the panes abroad to get the unit double glazed with Argon gas in the middle. The frames of the semi-circular glazed look-out match the contemporary black aluminium frames of the windows in the rest of the house.

Apart from the polished porcelain floors in the hall and kitchen, the rest of the floor in the main living area is walnut, so are most of the doors, either walnut or glass.

The double sliding doors dividing the dining room end of the drawing room from the kitchen are made of opaque glass curved in a shape resembling a wave on the edges which meet in the middle. The two sides slide silently together automatically when they reach the closing few inches.

The kitchen has a wow factor too. Instead of an extractor hood to attract dust, Jimmy and Amy have an automated glass downdraught extractor which is as impressive as it sounds. At the press of a button, it rises up from the Corian island like an old fashioned cinema organ rising up from the orchestra pit in the days of silent movies, the only difference being that Jimmys pop up extractor doesnt play Land of Hope and Glory as it appears out of its slot.

The Corian worktop is another feat of engineering, extending four and a half metres in one piece without a join.

Back in the dining room the wide bay window gives a birds eye view over the countryside. Its here that a polished wood spiral staircase leads down to the lower ground floor spa and the garden landscaped by a Chelsea Gold medallist.

Jimmy likes to work out at home.

We wanted our spa to be like a spa in a hotel where you can work out in the gym, then plunge into a pool to cool off and afterwards have a drink in the hot tub.

Jimmy and Amys leisure suite has all that and more, or it will do when they install the sauna in the room set aside for it.

The pool, below a reflective stretch plastic ceiling, is lined with blue mosaics. The guys who did the tiling placed each mosaic individually with the result that the water level doesnt vary by the depth of a single tile.

The couple admit they have been blown away by the standard of workmanship throughout the house. The walls of the family room, main reception area, hallway, landings and bedrooms are papered with textured Italian wallpapers costing between 300 and 500 a roll. My advice to anyone who embarks on a project like this is be prepared to pay as much for the labour as you do for the materials. The standard of the craftsmanship is crucial to the end result, Jimmy maintains.

He is particularly proud that his wallpaper has been hung so well you cant see a join. Not only that. The raked out mortar technique the brickies used to lay the red bricks on the external walls of the house means each brick has its own profile, the wall isnt just a red bass every job in the house is the work of highly skilled craftsmen.

The bespoke lacquered wardrobes in the bedrooms supplied by the interior designer Alexander James are the best money can buy, though not the most expensive.

We built this house for ourselves, Jimmy emphasises until were ready to go back to Hampstead, Amy chips in but they both agree the house is a success.

The children are both at the schools they hoped for Kurran, now 15, is doing well at Haberdashers Askes in Borehamwood and Aneeka is happy at the Royal Masonic School for Girls, almost opposite where they now live.

One year on, the Singh family along with their Westie, Mason, are happy with their surroundings out in the sticks in Hertfordshire.

Only Jimmys widowed mother is yet to be convinced that he is sensible to go to such trouble and expense to achieve perfection in a house. She says Im nuts, groans her son.

* London Residential Land is completing two further houses in Rickmansworth with a specification similar to Jimmy and Amy Singhs. They will be on the market through Savills in Rickmansworth, each priced at 2.5m.

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