Bang on the Money

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Nick Churton of Smith & Associates’ London office discovers the story behind one of Tampa’s most celebrated residential areas and a house that is pick of the bunch.

Broker: Smith & Associates

Agent: B-G Holmberg

In the early 1920s Tampa native, D P Davis, a developer who had prospered in the Miami property boom, masterminded the conversion of mudflats and three small islands near the mouth of the Hillsborough River in Tampa. His vision was an idyllic island community to be called Davis Islands. He hired the four largest dredgers available and ran them 24 hours a day in order to remove from the bay the 89 million cubic feet of sand necessary to realise his dream. It was a big dream.

When the sales office doors were opened on the day the island home plots went on sale there was pandemonium. Prospective buyers had waited in long queues and the streets near the sales office were congested with traffic. Within the first three hours, all 306 of the first phase plots were sold. Mr. Davis had been showered with checks and entered the record books for sales in a new subdivision.

Now, nearly one hundred years later, things maybe a little calmer on Davis Islands. But the homes are just as popular. D P Davis’s dream has become a reality and the islands have fulfilled their early promise by becoming one of Tampa’s most exclusive and sought after residential areas. Now the estate is so well regarded it is listed on the National Historic Registry.

A perfect example of why these homes are so popular is in Bosphorous Avenue. Back in 1926 number 190 was one of the first homes to be built on the Islands, Now known as Washington House the gated property occupies a fine double corner plot and is one of the most pleasing and distinctive homes on the Islands. That distinction continues inside. The house has been beautifully maintained but also refurbished into a modern and elegant home that has lost none of its innate character.

It would be impossible to argue that D P Davis’s vision was not bang on the money back in the 1920s. Close to Tampa’s top amenities this area has it all for those that want style with convenience – which makes it bang on the money today too.

Please form an orderly queue.

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Nature Meets Nurture

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Nick Churton of Smith & Associates’ London office goes bird watching in the Great Bayou by Port Richey, Florida. One really caught his eye.

Broker: Smith & Associates

Agents: Larry & Janet Mendez

Most homes have something that makes them stand out individually, but every now and then a house comes along which is a complete original, a one-off that somehow links a creative human imagination with the Creator.

Well I have found one of the latter. There is something both elemental and ethereal about the Bird House in Port Richey, Florida. To say this house is in Port Richey or Florida for that matter somehow grounds it in a way it never should be grounded. In many respects it could be in southern Asia or the Australian Outback. But travel through the neat, well-ordered streets and roads of bounteous Port Richey with its comprehensive range of fabulous facilities and turn off onto Limit Drive. The change is immediate and astonishing. Before very long you are in another bounteous world altogether, a world of coastal hammock, salt marshes and mangrove swamps. In the mangrove waters snook, redfish, trout, tarpon, shrimp and crabs thrive, creating a happy hunting ground for an astonishing variety of bird life drawn to this perfect habitat.

Built on stilts, the Bird House acts like a giant live-in hide. From the wrap-around balcony views extend across the Big Bayou to the coast. Your bird list will include spoonbill, heron, ibis, pelican, osprey and bald eagle plus hundreds of others. Drinking a Sundowner on this veranda will make the taste that little bit sweeter as the sinking sun disappears beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is nature in the raw but it is a rawness tempered by being only ten minutes’ drive from a great prime rib at Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse. Delicious is even better when linked with convenience.

But the Bird House is no temporary hide. It is a very permanent hideaway, built beautifully by a master craftsman in iron-hard Honduran mahogany, cypress wood and reclaimed heart pine. In the UK we would call the decorative style, Arts and Crafts. Art deco style stained glass windows add a flourish.

So buy a kayak, dust down the fishing rod, polish your binoculars and head to the Bird House. This place is something very special indeed. It is where nature meets nurture.

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The Perfect Candidate

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Nick Churton of Hayman-Joyce’s London Office finds a perfect home for Americans heading to the English Cotwolds.

Agent: Hayman-Joyce

There is speculation that some Americans may be thinking it’s high time to head back to the old country. Election jitters perhaps, but so too the very favourable value of the pound against the US Dollar in the post-Brexit period.

Americans heading to the UK have long favoured the Mayfair area of central London. They are also attracted to Wentworth and Sunningdale in Surrey where there are many excellent large houses, several very fine golf courses and an extremely good American school.

But one rural area of the UK that has consistently hit the spot with Americans is the Cotswolds. This region of rolling hills and pretty valleys with picture postcard cottages in honey coloured stone draws American visitors and home buyers like no other of England.

And the Cotswolds has perhaps benefited from Americans like no other region in England. Since the beginning of the twentieth century Americans have played an important part in the revival of important country houses in the area.

Consuelo Vanderbilt married the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895 and brought a fresh injection of cash to Blenheim Palace. Lawrence Johnson settled into Hidcote Manor in 1908, building an influential garden there, and celebrated Virginian and iconic interior designer, Nancy Lancaster, transformed Ditchley Park and Haseley Court in the 1930s. But these are only the tip of the iceberg. Over the years many Americans have been seduced by the romantic Cotswolds vernacular, large or small.

So what might tempt an American in the Cotswolds today? In the pretty village of Broadway, estate agents Hayman-Joyce have the perfect answer – a wonderfully restored late 18th century house. It has it all, yellow sandstone elevations, a canopied entrance door, dressed and carved limestone fireplaces, oak flooring and sash windows with window seats. It is such an important house that it has been nationally registered as being of special Architectural and Historic Interest. But it gets even better. While many Americans in earlier days had to fully update their homes as they were often in dire condition, the current owners of this house have beautifully restored and refurbished the property. It has been cleverly adapted to today’s living requirements while retaining many original period features.

Set in about a quarter of an acre of delightful landscaped gardens the house has a reception hall, drawing room, sitting room, kitchen, garden/dining room, utility, cloakroom, master bedroom with en-suite, four further bedrooms and two bathrooms.

So whether it is an escape from politics, a currency/property investment or simply the answer to a lifelong dream, this impossibly beautiful house in an impossibly beautiful location is the perfect candidate.

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Lazy River

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Nick Churton of Robert Paul’s London office enjoys visiting a beautiful house full of wonderful craftsmanship in an enchanting Cape Cod riverside location.

Broker: Robert Paul Properties

Agent: Kathy Deerman

Slide down the lazy Bumps River just short of its confluence with Scudder Bay near Osterville on Cape Cod and on the starboard bank is a fine house in three acres of rolling lawn and fine specimen trees. You can sneak a peek from the river although it is more difficult to see from the road.

What sets this home apart is the seamless transformation from traditional Cape Cod home to more contemporary Cape Cod showpiece.

The interior is full of signature craftsmanship. Just look at the amazing Chippendale-style chinoiserie staircase – the master carpenter who built it may modestly say that it was all in a day’s work, but I think it is genius.

But it is of course the setting here which is so very thrilling. An expansive paved terrace provides a wonderful amenity for entertaining or just sitting with a book and occasionally watching that lazy river slipping by towards the Atlantic Ocean.

This place is in a world of its own. But when the time comes to leave that special place for a while then it is only a short drive to the wonderful world of Osterville. There you have it. The best of both worlds.

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An Affair To Remember

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Nick Churton of Robert Paul Properties’ London Office visits 77 Chestnut Street, a very stylish town house in Beacon Hill, Boston.

Broker: Robert Paul Properties

Agents: Paul Grover and Brian Dougherty

Oh I liked this. I was in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. We pulled off narrow and leafy Chestnut Street and swept, presidential style, into a private and generous covered parking court with herringbone brick and marble floors, and a grand open entrance area leading into the house. It was a Thomas Crown Affair moment (the original movie). A wood panelled lift glided between the five floors of this elegant, grown up town house. Up on the roof a deck, gallery and media room topped this top home.

Those very much in the know reckon this is a one-of-a-kind home close to some wonderful shops, galleries and restaurants in the center of Boston. Many well-known business, show business and senior politicians make this neighborhood their home. And yes, the Steve McQueen character in the movie had his home just a few of blocks away in Mt. Vernon Street.

Beacon Hill has three sections: the south slope, the north slope and the ‘Flat of the Hill’, which is where this beautiful house is situated. It is a neighborhood of Federal-style terraced town houses and is rightly famous for its pretty gas-lit streets with brick pavements.

Genteel, spacious, sophisticated, enviable and possessing great panache, this is simply one of the most gorgeous and refined places to live in Boston – one of the world’s great cities. Now that is an affair to remember.

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Cape Cod Adventure

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Nick Churton of Robert Paul Properties’ London office gets a little misty eyed and romantic about this fabulous waterside Cape Cod home that is just perfect for family adventure.

Broker: Robert Paul Properties

Agent: Paul Grover

Cape Cod is a playground for the seriously young at heart. It is about memories and making memories. It is about friends and family, summers by the water and winters by the fire. It is about glorious restorative solitude if that is what you need – and most of us do need that from time to time.

Cape Cod provides the ideal backdrop to these romantic dramas where the stars are you and your loved ones and the adventure is set in your home.

Location in life, as in art, is important. Which is why 275 Ice Valley Road, Osterville provides the perfect place to play out some very important years. Memories are made of this.

Childhood memories would come from having your very own island – Cat Island – for exploring, camping, cooking and hiding. In England we would liken this to Swallows and Amazons – see the new movie trailer.

Adult memories would be made at the house and grounds with direct access to Nantucket Sound. On an estate of almost six acres where the North Bay meets the Marstons Mills River in an east coast realm of relaxed sophistication – this is a place where enjoying the company of friends is enhanced by well-planned entertaining areas.

But this is no fantasy adventure drama. This is real. All you have to do is begin this next chapter.

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Sixth Sense

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Buying a home should involve all the senses – not just sight. It should also include sound, smell, feel and taste. I was reminded of this in Uncle Marks Way in Orleans. I am not sure who Uncle Mark or Marks was – perhaps I should be. But I imagine he became the namesake of this great little thoroughfare on which number 28 stands proudly.

The gentle summer breeze off Nauset Harbour rustles the garden leaves and grasses; the smell of the sea lingers in the nostrils and bare feet touch cool tile, warm paving, smooth timber and soft grass. There is salt on the lips.

But in buying a home there should be another sense – a sixth sense. This is the sense that something is right, the sense of opportunity and the sense that there is unfinished business which, with a little fresh flair and imagination, could create something very special indeed.

This house already has magic. It also has the bones. The windows and doors are in the right places. The rooms are of superb sizes and proportions. The gardens, decks, pool and cabana want for little. The view wants for nothing. It just needs a knowing touch. It needs a special buyer with that all-important sixth sense.

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Federal Ownership

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Nick Churton of Halstead Property’s London office visits a fabulous Manhattan, West Village town house – with its own carriage house – that has not changed much over the years – while all around it has.

 Broker: Halstead Property

 Agent: Wendy Gleason

You can often recognise architects’ own houses. There are little telltale signs – like the way light is used, books, placement of objet d’art and style of furniture. They are as much a giveaway today as an architect’s bow tie was yesterday.

This house in Manhattan’s West Village screams architect. But it screams so much more as well. It screams history. This is an imposing Federal-style three-bay town house with brick facade and its original carriage house. There can’t be that many complete examples like it left in this part of the world.

Beside the wide stone steps that lead grandly to the front door there is another door. This leads to an alley under the house where horses were brought to and from the carriage house and stable at the rear. Back in 1834 when the house was built there was a mews for carriages and horses at the back of the property. This has been built over now but the house, its annexe and inner courtyard remain, giving witness to a time when Andrew Jackson was president and there were anti-abolitionist riots in New York City.

In some ways not a great deal has changed in the house. The layout remains much as it has always been. Just the worn stair treads mark the passage of time. What has changed is the area. Today the West Village is one of the most vibrant and fashionable places in which to live in New York.

This is a property packed with enormous possibilities. The carriage house provides great extended family, guest or staff living. The courtyard is beautiful but a landscape enthusiast could have a field day back there. The family who currently own the property – and have done so for four generations – have clearly enjoyed every moment in it. I think you would too.

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Stop Dreaming, Start Living

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Nick Churton of Robert Paul Properties’ London ofice visits a home in Orleans, Massachusetts that represents the pinnacle of  Cape Cod living and lifestyle.

Broker: Robert Paul Properties

Agents: Robert Kinlin and Fran Schofield

Say you have long yearned for a perfect Cape Cod lifestyle. You’ve made some enquiries about the best broker in the area to help make your dream come true. This, by common consent, is Robert Paul Properties. It turns out that they might have just the thing for you. But you are sceptical because you know that you will be a very demanding buyer. This purchase is very important for you and your family. You are in search of the almost impossible.

The location would have to be breathtaking. You don’t want to be on show but you don’t want to be isolated either. And you want direct ocean access but from a sheltered position. A private beach would be a must for the family – two would be better – but the house would have to be set in an elevated position to enjoy sensational year-round views. Of course the house would need to be bang up to date in the glorious Cape Cod style – no point in having the dream without living it. But then you dont want to have all this done. It takes far too much time. You have enough to do. You want it now.

A pool would be an essential part of the package of course, with a great outdoor kitchen and beautifully landscaped gardens.

You’d want to be able to reach Cape Cod’s most exclusive resort in less than five minutes in a fast boat and a blur of spray. When this rocket ship was not in use it would need to have its own boathouse along with a deep-water mooring.

When you had a look inside the house you’d want to know – just know for certain – that the interior had been put together by people who had miraculously anticipated your every Cape Cod desire and produced it, not only in the most beautiful and complete manner, but better than even you had ever imagined possible.

Yes, this is a tough set of demands. But I’ll tell you what, this house spits in the eye of those wishes. It fulfils all of them with ease and still offers more.

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The Future Now

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Nick Churton of Turpin Realtors’ London marketing office peeks into the future at a beautiful new development in Bernards Township, New Jersey.

Broker: Turpin Realtors

Agents: Molly Tonero and Nadine Coffey

I have seen the future. I have walked through it. It was okay. In fact it was more than okay: it was superb.

Property buyers in New Jersey might be surprised when their agents urge them to go and see the homes at Mine Brook Farm at Bernards Township. It might not be quite what they imagine themselves living in. But this is not just any run of the mill new development. It is an agriculturally and ecologically inspired community development – so it is doubtful many would think to ask for it in the first place. But what does this term mean? Well it means lots of excellent eco stuff that all sounds very cool, and green and now. It involves meadows and bees, farm-to-table living and other virtuous natural benefits that all of us should like and applaud. Who doesn’t want to be greener nowadays? But it is the design for living which so impressed me.

These houses are not just in touch with nature they are in touch with the zeitgeist.

Potential buyers may well be unprepared for what they discover here. Before they go through the doors they may be sceptical, as they will be faced with strikingly contemporary looking farmhouses or barns. These are not the norm. Inside are interiors that will confound their preconceptions about living. But slowly they might realise something they didn’t know before, that these interiors are how they really want to live today.

Old-fashioned multi-zone living has been swept away here. New concepts in how families live today have been recognised. Things will never be the same again. When these viewers go back to their own homes they will realise how dated things look and feel. Like trading in a ten-year-old car for a brand new one. Living at Mine Brook Farm is like living in an Audi. All is sleek, incredibly well thought out, beautifully designed and exquisitely finished. An Audi is a finely engineered and brilliantly designed machine for driving. Mine Brook Farm is a finely engineered and brilliant machine for living.

There are no gyms in these houses. There is a community gym in the community barn. Why pay for the equipment and extra space that you don’t use all the time when you can share it? Same with the tennis court. There are no dining rooms. Do you really need a room that you probably only use twice a year? Why waste that space when you can use it for every day of the year living. Want more space for big family and friends get-togethers every now and then? Then use the community barn party room with adjacent catering kitchen. Invite everyone and don’t mess up your own place.

At Mine Brook Farm the developers figured out how people want to live today and then created it. It is courageous speculation but it is right. Buying one of these twelve all-different homes might seem a bold step today, but believe me it really isn’t because tomorrow when you move in you will find it’s perfect for living in the here and now. Welcome to the future.

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