It’s safe to say that around the world, viewers are addicted to TV shows about property. The long-running British program “Grand Designs” offers viewers a glimpse into unusual and often elaborate building projects. This house, in the cathedral city of St. Albans about 20 miles northwest of London, was featured on the show in 2017. Host Kevin McCloud described it as “part Japanese, part medieval cloister, part Roman villa,” but to American eyes, the interiors bear a definite echo of Frank Lloyd Wright. Known as Abbey Orchard House, the architectural mashup is on the market for $6.8 million via Nick Ingle and Hugh Maconochie at Savills. Set on two acres of riverfront land, there are five bedrooms and five bathrooms in 5,175 square feet.
No matter the inspiration, Abbey Orchard House is undoubtedly one of the most individual residences built in England in recent years. And in fact, the site in medieval times was the orchard for the Abbey of St Albans. The owners worked with architect Rogan Gale-Brown to develop the site. The interiors, full of built-ins and amazing woodwork, all in maple, were created by a company that specializes in custom interiors for yachts and high-end homes.
Nick Ingle says, “The owners have created a truly breathtaking home that combines superior design and bespoke interiors—drawing on Japanese traditions and styles to connect with nature for a wonderfully calming ambience.”
A visitor enters the property through a Japanese style gate. A jasmine-clad pergola is overhead as one crosses a stone bridge, above flowing water, to enter the house. The 90-foot central atrium connects the two wings of the house. A massive wood-burning fireplace centers the enormous room, with one side on the living space, and the other the dining. The kitchen and adjacent dining room blend seamlessly together, as does as a breakfast area. There is also a den—what the British call a “snug”—with seating for ten, intended to capitalize on the morning sunshine.
Other notable rooms are the home theater, with an Epsom HD projector, surround sound and electronic blackout blinds. This room also offers plenty of storage. There are two large bedroom suites: one includes large doors opening to private terraces leading to the orchard planted with fruit trees, which also offers a fantastic view of the 11th century Norman tower of the Abbey Church. The suite also has a sitting room and elegant bathroom, as does the other large bedroom suite. The second suite also features huge glass doors with views to the river and gardens. It also boasts a large woodburning fireplace as well as a custom Japanese bath and huge walk-in shower.
With a mind toward the future, the house is also eco-friendly, with efficient heating and hot water systems and fittedsolar panels, which keep running costs to a minimum.
Nick Ingle adds, “Abbey Orchard House is a contemporary masterpiece in the heart of the city—undoubtedly one of the most individual and outstanding architectural houses I’ve had the privilege to be involved with. It’s a piece of art in its own right and the level of craftmanship and attention to detail is second to none.”