Spectacular and surprising
Laura Cartledge finds Christmas Cottage is a property for all seasons, eras and times.
Pubs and great ideas are longstanding partners but very few of the latter see the light of day.
The number which end up inspiring a house remodel must be even fewer, but that is what happened for John and Diana Abbott.
“One day we were having a meal in Poole at the King Charles II. They have a medieval room and my wife said ‘I love this place. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have somewhere that looked like this?’.
“I said, ‘right, I will build you one’,” recalls John. “I put out scaffold boards to work out if it would be big enough and we went for it.”
That was two decades ago now.
The project which transformed the ‘small thatch cottage’ in Sherfield English, near Romsey, took the best part of three years to complete.
“Nothing could be bought. Everything in the building is handmade – the windows, all the doors and the ironwork.
“The guy who made our railings made the Queen’s gates in London,” John reveals.
“We had half a forest cut down for the oak floors and we had to sponsor ten for every tree felled.
“The door frames alone are all carved from stone, they weigh a ton.”
There’s no doubt it was a mammoth undertaking, but thankfully John had plenty of experience to call on.
“I am a building historian. This is what I do,” he smiles.
“To this day I have worked on three palaces and we did a casino in Monte Carlo when I was 19, I was part of the design team.”
So how did Christmas Cottage compare?
“I’ve never had more fun in my life. I wasn’t asked to be sensible,” replies John. “I could come up with something unusual.
“We have probably made it three times bigger than it was,” he adds. “At that time is was just the front and went back no more than 15 feet I suppose.
“There was just a couple of rooms and a lean-to kitchen, and that was about it.”
The couple had been looking for somewhere to stay and be near their yacht at Lymington and spotted the cottage in an estate agent’s window.
“It said it was sold so I said if you have something similar let me know,” says John. “We got a call the next day to say it had fallen through.”
Now, with accommodation spanning numerous levels, you can’t help but feel fate was playing its part.
As a result of the couple’s hard work and vision the extensively refurbished property is generous, versatile and brimming with both period character features and bespoke contemporary touches.
There are six bedrooms, four of which are in the original part of the property including one on the ground floor.
The older section also boasts an open plan kitchen/dining room with walk-in pantry, cosy living room and two halls.
A glass atrium that connects the oak framed wing is simply stunning and while John jokes ‘the best way to clean it is to throw a grenade in there’ the intentionally rustic aesthetic radiates grandeur and elegance due to a spectacular open fireplace and exposed timbers.
“The guy who inspects property for English Heritage walked in here and just said ‘gosh, do what you like’,” admits John.
“He asked ‘who would build a place like this now?’ And I said ‘me’.
“They like each property to be different but in-keeping with the area,” he continues. “I think we managed that.”
The added section includes a galleried landing which leads to a suite comprising of a bedroom with access to a wrap-around balcony and offering views of the grounds.
Downstairs there is a further bedroom/lounge, shower-room and separate kitchenette.
Plus an oak spiral staircase to a basement level used as a games room fit with built in bar.
And if this wasn’t enough the garage has a studio above it with has been a blessing for Diana.
“My wife is an artist and she has painted a lot here, it is the sort of place that inspires your imagination,” John explains.
“It is such a magical place, it is perfect for people who like peace and quiet.
“Between us and Whiteparish and Romsey there is nothing and that is what I love about it,” he enthuses.
“However in 35 minutes you can be sitting on Bournemouth beach or in Winchester or Southampton – it is all absolutely there if you want it.”
Which seems like a very fitting way to describe this spectacular, and surprising, property.
Christmas Cottage is on the market with Fox & Sons, 2 Market Place, Romsey, for a guide price of £1,950,000. Call 01794 513085 or visit www.sequencehome.co.uk for more information.