A property to thrill
Laura Cartledge finds a property with a tale to tell of iconic architects, futuristic vision and ‘no straight lines’.
Designed so you could drive your Aston Martin right into the property, Tukal, on the bank of Beaulieu River, is a property with a licence to thrill.
“At the end of the month Warner Brothers are coming here to shoot a scene,” reveals current owner Mike Browne. “It’s for their next blockbuster called The Secret Service.”
With futuristic curves and extensive glass walls it is hard to imagine that the family home has not always been so worthy of a close-up.
“When I first viewed it in 2004 it looked horrid,” laughs Mike, “and I didn’t have the imagination so I walked away.”
However the property did have another draw – its location.
Within an hour drive of the M25 and enjoying the stunning setting of the New Forest, with a substantial frontage on the banks of the Beaulieu, there is no doubt the combination is unique.
Thankfully Mike mentioned it to his architect friend Nic Bailey, whose previous work includes designing the capsules for the London Eye.
“We viewed it and discussed its merits and faults,” he recalls. “Nic simply said ‘Mike, you have to buy this house!’
“We spent the whole of 2005 designing, began building in January 2006 and the move in date was 2008,” he says. “Nic did the basic concept and I tweaked it to my needs.”
The result works to balance a contemporary concept with the original vision of gifted architect Seymour Harris.
Seymour, who called the property home between 1962 – 1968, is not only to thank for the Aston Martin ramp, as well as the turning circle and two parking bays on the first floor – which are now a studio – but also the property’s unusual name.
Commissioned by Emperor Haile Selassie to design a city on the shores of Ethiopia’s Lake Tana, Seymour was inspired by the Ethiopian word ‘Tukal’, which means a traditional round dwelling.
The circular nation works perfectly with Nic’s aesthetic.
“Nic doesn’t do straight lines,” Mike grins. “You should see the boat he designed for me.”
Being able to set sail almost from the front door is certainly a huge draw but arguably it is the accommodation itself which has to be the star attraction.
Spread over three floors the layout has an organic feel, with the use of glass blurring the line between inside and out. Reopening the space under the rotunda also allows that part of the house to ‘float’ as originally intended.
In addition to defying gravity and the space having a sense of flow which draws you with it, there is a practical element too.
“I am a wheelchair user,” Mike explains. “But looking at the property I don’t think you would ever guess, I definitely wouldn’t say it is just for a disabled person.
“It is very much a lifestyle property for people who wish for a contemporary lifestyle.
“If you want a country property it is not going to be your kind of house.”
However if you’ve always dreamed of entertaining guests in an all glass dining room, relaxing in your own cinema or soaking away the stresses of the day in a circular pool room it is perfect.
“It is a bit of a blank canvas for anyone who wants to come in,” Mike says. “There is lots of space and I am minimalist in my habits.
“My favourite room depends on the time of day,” he adds. “I follow the sun around the house, quite literally, spending the mornings sat in the pool link – that is where we have breakfast – and the evening up on the rose terrace watching the sun going down.”
The pool link is one of the main new additions to Tukal, fully glazed it works to link the 15m pool to the rest of the house.
Access has also been improved with a lift to all levels and insulation has seen the entire property updated to 21st-century standards of energy efficiency and comfort.
While an aspect which has benefited from time has been the gardens.
Planted by the experts from Exbury garden, just down the road, in the 1960s Mike describes the ten acres as “priceless”.
“It has 500 different trees which are all mature now,” he explains. “No matter how much money you have you can’t buy that, it takes 50 years.
“I am gutted that at some point I will sell it, but I am going to move closer to my children and grandchildren.”
Tukal at a glance:
Three on the lower floor as part of the two guest apartments.
Five on the middle floor, including the master bedroom with garden terrace.
Three WC on the lower floor, one bathroom and one en suite.
Three en suites on the middle floor, one shared and two further WC.
One WC on the top floor.
One on the lower floor and one on the middle floor with breakfast room and utility. There is a breakfast bar in the pool link on the top floor.
Games room, dining room, sitting room and living room on the lower floor.
Large gallery reception hall, studio and swimming pool room with changing rooms on the middle floor.
Open plan dining room to cinema room, study and gallery/studio on the top floor.
Grounds: Approximately 10.31 acres
Extensive ornamental gardens, hot tub, large lake, sheds, greenhouse, 60 ft. jetty and slipway.
Tukal is on the market with Knight Frank, POA. To find out more visit Knight Frank LLP, 14 Jewry Street, Winchester, www.knightfrank.co.uk, or call 01962 850333.
October 22, 2013 Interiors and Property