Take a peek at this bright family home
PUBLISHED: 09:05 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:06 29 November 2016
After tackling a renovation and expansion of a traditional town property, a couple became more ambitious with their second home project - a contemporary new-build on the edge of woodland. Pat Bramley visits Caerloen in Broxbourn
Chartered surveyor Alan Baldwin and his wife Antonietta, an Italian-born interior designer, have created two family homes for themselves by successfully pooling the experience and skills built up over the course of their careers.
‘The first house we did was a refurbishment and extension of a very traditional property in Enfield,’ says Alan who has spent 30 years providing a property-based service for clients. ‘We really enjoyed doing the house so we looked around for another to improve. That’s how we came to build this one in Broxbourne.’
The choice of where to focus their search for a family home was strongly influenced by a desire to live near family. Italians are renowned for being family orientated, a characteristic shared by many Brits as well. Both extended families have lived in the Hertfordshire/Middlesex area for many years and now the Baldwins’ two grown-up children and their young families are nearby too.
Antonietta was born in Rome but has lived in England since she was three, for much of that time – 30 years – in Enfield. Alan was born in Tottenham, then his family moved to Broxbourne where he lived for 25 years before he took off only to return recently.
‘Mum still lives here,’ he says. ‘I’d always liked the private lane where we found our present house, Caerleon. You walk up Norris Grove past five one-off detached houses and you come to Broxbourne Woods. It’s a lovely spot. It offers the best of both worlds – it’s on the edge of open countryside but there’s a fast train service into London nearby.’
So good for the location, As for the house they found, he admits there were only two features they really liked.
The couple had already agreed that their next project, after Enfield’s traditional one, would be a contemporary property. The intention was to create their dream home. ‘This time we wanted a modernist house but a design that was also cosy and homely, and it had to blend in with the wooded environment here. You can’t put a new house in an area where it will be out of place. It must look at home in its surroundings.’
Those two features they admired – a curved stairwell, originally part of the exterior wall, and a double-height living room – they kept. Much of the rest was demolished.
‘We knocked down about two-thirds of what was here originally,’ Alan says. ‘The house wasn’t large, not much more than 1,100 square feet. We extended it massively. The one we built is 4,800 square feet. We intended to live here for a long time. We didn’t cut any corners. We put in underfloor heating as well as designer radiators to give us flexibility. Everything is high quality.’
Caerleon now has five bedrooms and four bathrooms including a master suite that takes up the whole of the top floor. Downstairs is a vast kitchen/breakfast room that flows into the 33ft dining/family room which in turn opens on to the sitting room. Also on the ground floor but separate from the open-plan area are a games room and study. Perfectionists in their design, there isn’t an item in the house which hasn’t been examined from all angles to make sure it’s the best choice. The feel is certainly contemporary and bright - all clean lines with white walls and ceilings – as well as floors and furniture throughout much of the ground floor.
The couple sought out a local architect to draw up the plans for their new home. ‘We wanted someone who understood the area and would produce a design in that context. He was on our wavelength. We wanted a living area with rooms which flowed well but an environment which was homely and comfortable at the same time.’
The open-plan living area is broken up into a series of zones. The Baldwin’s say the design works just as well when there are two of them at home as when they have a houseful of guests. The dining room forms an L-shape with the kitchen/breakfast room. At another angle it creates a capital T where it crosses the top of the 26ft long sitting room with its original double-height vaulted ceiling.
‘Open-plan is a great concept,’ Alan enthuses, ‘But it needs areas of separation for times when you want to be on your own. When the grandchildren come, they go into the games room, shut the door, and can play pool and watch TV and make as much noise as they like while the rest of us congregate in the sitting room. We purposely haven’t put a TV in the sitting room. We call it the chatting room, it’s where we sit and chat with a glass of wine before dinner after getting home from work.’
Both the games room and the dining room have bi-fold doors out on to the garden where astro turf has been used for the lawn. ‘People talk about gardens being another room, that’s certainly true here,’ Alan says.
There’s another set of bi-fold doors in the kitchen where Alan eplains it took 12 men to lift the granite top for the central island into position. ‘It’s the biggest slab of granite I’ve ever seen.’
I suggest that some homeowners decide against bi-fold doors because of the space lost to the bunched doors when they’re pushed back. ‘Ah,’ says the surveyor, ‘they work brilliantly when they are included in a new-build design, not so well if you use them to try to improve a three-bed semi. Ours are designed to be out of sight. There’s a Mediterranean feel to the back of the house. We have 4.7 metres of glass doors folded back against a wall. You don’t notice them. In two rooms they go to the right-hand side, one set goes to the left.’
To flood the interior with natural light, and to emphasise the feeling of flow, there’s a line of six skylights in the ceiling running from the sitting room to the dining room. The symmetry is accentuated by pendant lights of all the same length with shades in matching crackled glass of various shapes.
‘Crackled glass reflects the light with a softer glow than clear glass,’ Alan explains. ‘It’s also why Antonietta chose off-white tints for the walls throughout the house. Each room is a slightly different colour. Brilliant white is fine for ceilings but it produces too much glare on walls.’
The only space in the house where the wall colour has been chosen for greater impact is the curved staircase, which the owners fell in love with at first sight.
Under their direction, the stairwell, which rises to the first floor, has been incorporated into an enlarged entrance hall and painted a soft grey. The colour contrasts with the wall – the colour of a Mediterranean beach.
Inspiration for the bedrooms and bathrooms came from breaks at luxury hotels. The master suite on the top floor opens on to a balcony. ‘It’s lovely to sit there with a bottle of wine in the evening or coffee and croissants in the morning and look out over the garden to the valley beyond. We wanted to feel we were waking up in a five-star boutique hotel.’ Three of the bedrooms are ensuite. Two share a bathroom in a Jack and Jill arrangement, while the bedroom below the master suite has a Juliet balcony.
The Baldwins finished their ambitious Broxbourne project just over a year ago. While the plan was for it to be their long-term home, now, with semi-retirement on the horizon, they’ve rethought their plans and have decided to downsize. ‘We want to travel more and explore other opportunities,’ they say. Caerleon can now become the dream home for someone else.
Caerleon in Broxbourne is for sale through Dreampad with an asking price of £1.5m.