Versailles on One Acre

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The House: 3812 Willowick Road Houston, Texas

The Broker: John Daugherty Realtors

The Agent: Debbie Hartstern

Nick Churton of John Daugherty Realtors’ London Office discovers a passion for French design in Houston, Texas.

Perhaps it is understandable that some Texans enjoy French design in their homes. After all, France did have some influence hereabouts from 1685 to 1762.

This was before the French Revolution when French tastes and designs were de rigueur in the best society all over the developing world. The French – and the British – colonialists are long gone, but their influence remains in many houses.

If French design is to your taste and a chateau is your dream – but regular transatlantic air flights from the US seem a bore – then look no further than Houston where there is the perfect answer. Number 3812 Willowick Road, in the highly desirable River Oaks area, brings a touch of French classical élan to this already beautiful neighbourhood, which is a national model for community planning.

There is an ambassadorial quality to this home with an interior that shows off what traditional French design is all about. It looks amazing. If Marie Antoinette were to wander down the grand foyer or be seated in the dazzling dining or drawing rooms, one would hardly be surprised.

This is a house full of surprises. I loved the second-floor loggia that overlooks the classically styled pool and rear garden. I was also delighted with the fabulous home-theatre and wine room with tasting area – ideal for storing some of the best French vintages!

But perhaps the most pleasing feature of this beautiful home is the front elevation that acts as a perfect backdrop to a delightful formal garden. Within it are so many elements of beautiful French style. No wonder this look remains popular in Texas, – even two-and-a-half centuries after France released its grip on its American territories.

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Reluctant To Leave


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The Property: 526 West Wesley Road, Atlanta, Georgia

The Broker: Harry Norman Realtors

The Agent: Rebie Benedict

Nick Churton, of Harry Norman Realtors’ London Office, visits an Atlantan home that possesses off-the-scale individuality and style.

Whenever I walk into an Apple or Ralph Lauren store, I have the distinct and pleasurable feeling that I am entering someone else’s dream. There is a particular style about those spaces – a clear vision that tells the shopper they could not be anywhere else.

I had the same feeling when I visited 526 West Wesley Road in Atlanta. Not only is there a distinct style, but also it is a style unique to this property. Interior decoration comes in many guises. One is an often-bland, magazine-led contemporary version, putting together safe, fashionable colours, textures and furniture styles. It is all very agreeable but predictable. Another version blows away the expected and creates a vision that enters the realm of breathtakingly unpredictable. The owners here have achieved this spectacularly well and fashioned a space that is never quirky, funky or avant-garde but is endlessly exciting, provoking, cultured and comfortable.

To walk through this home is to journey between rooms, each one different but at the same time, in harmony with its neighbour. Then there are the surprises. Every home should have several of these. Here they come in the form of garden room, upper floor logia and enchanting wine cellar.

The journey and surprises continue outside in the garden. Here a group of beautifully orchestrated garden ‘rooms’, are distinct but connected. A woodland walk leads to an orangery – ideal for intimate candle-lit suppers, afternoon tea or just a good read. Elsewhere there are water features, parterre-hedging and shady corners.

A mark of a good house is that one is reluctant to leave. I went beyond reluctant. I didn’t want to leave – ever – and almost had to be dragged out. Do take a look if you are shopping for a home in Atlanta. I guarantee you will never be in any doubt that you are in the unique space that is home, that you could not be anywhere else – nor would ever want to be.


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Old Country Style


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Nick Churton of the Houlihan Lawrence, London office admires some Georgian architecture and impressive landscape gardening at a home in Connecticut, close to its border with New York.

The House: Mole’s Hill Farm, 201 Millerton Road Sharon, CT

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: John Friend

There’s no getting round it, if you want the best in British and Irish design then it is best to hire someone who’s British and/or Irish. That way you get the real deal.

So when the owners of Mole’s Hill Farm in Sharon, Connecticut looked across the Atlantic for a certain look and feel to their home, they engaged architect, Sir Anthony Denny Bt, and doyen of garden designers, Penelope Hobhouse MBE.

The unmistakable mark of Denny can be seen in distinctive archtectural features. The most noteable of these is the dramatic obelisk standing proudly at the top of an arrow straight, wide, grassy ride or avenue that slopes gently to the skyline topped by this handsome eyecatcher.

Within the 95 acres of grounds, Hobhouse’s green-fingered touch is apparent in the series of garden areas including walled kitchen garden, rose garden and enclosed pool garden with twin pepperpot brick pavillions. These gardens give the house a strong sense of place with added surprises such as deligtful pond, an enchanting Russian dacha styled summer house in a woodland setting and a rustic stone bridge that reminded me somewhat of the Swilcan bridge over the burn on the Old Course at St Andrews.

But now let’s wipe our feet and come inside to the house’s magnificent Georgian styled interior – and you really can’t get more Anglo-Irish than Georgian. Inside this home is elegant, spacious and airy and embellished with fine pediments, palisters, fireplaces and friezes.

But despite all the grace and taste this is also a modern home ready for a large family. A finely proportioned and beautifully appointed and fitted kitchen acts a focal point for family life while both formal and informal reception rooms provide a wonderfully adaptible living space.

A barn – perfect for parties – tennis court and three bedroom guest house adds to the versitility of this remarkable property.


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Back to Front

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The House: 100 Chicago Blvd, Sea Girt, New Jersey

The Broker: Diane Turton Realtors

Nick Churton of Diane Turton Realtors’ London office finds great value in this front line, back line home on the New Jersey shore.

Front line to the sea attracts a premium price in most places, especially in Sea Girt, New Jersey. Houses in front line positions fetch more than those located in back line locations. It’s as simple and as understandable as that.

But 100 Chicago Blvd, Sea Girt, New Jersey is a home one block back with a front line view, so offers great value as well as a good outlook.

The current owners have really done a great job in creating a family beach house only a step away from the beach but also those extra high-season crowds.

It is a clever option for those wanting so see the sun rise over the ocean from their beds and enjoy a quieter life.

The house comes as a very pleasant surprise indeed. Down in the well-appointed basement is a wet bar and excellent wine cellar. Then there are five charming bedrooms and a great family area with a professional grade kitchen.

If value is as important to you as the view, then this must be a real contender.

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Water World

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 The House: 942 Barnegat Lane, Mantoloking, New Jersey

The Broker: Diane Turton

Nick Churton of Diane Turton Realtors’ London office finds somewhere homely and handsome close to Barnegat Bay that for action or relaxation is hard to beat.

What makes the ideal second home on the New Jersey shore? Some will yearn for a big family home on the beach. But others will dream of a charming bay side cottage full of warmth and style.

942 Barnegat Lane, Mantoloking, New Jersey is the latter but with several really good and important features and attractions. The house is a two-story family house maintained to an excellent standard. Its style reflects its waterside location. But what makes this house extra special is the pool and dock making it the perfect for water lovers.

It only takes a few minutes from the dock to reach the extensive waters of Barnegat Bay. It’s ideal for the active. The pool is no miniature play area but a decent size for serious exercise. There is also a wide covered deck for entertaining and al fresco living.

The interior is ideal for those preferring to relax. It is as perfect for summer days as it is for cosy winter nights. A four-season retreat beats a two-season retreat any day for value and convenience and a four season only seventy miles from Manhattan is better still.

This delightful home is well worth a visit.

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Hit Refresh


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The House: 24 Meadow Lane, Greenwich, Connecticut

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: Amanda Miller

Nick Churton of the Houlihan Lawrence London office falls in love with a Greenwich beauty.

It takes love and flair to take a traditional, gracious, Greenwich residence and improve it without missing a beat and, in so doing, creating an exciting, modern home, in touch with the moment,

Inside and out, 24 Meadow Lane, Greenwich, Connecticut looks as fresh as a daisy. It probably hasn’t always appeared like this. There may have been years since it was built in the 1930s when it slowly became out of step with the zeitgeist.

Not now. Now, behind the elegant exterior, it is contemporary. It has fizz and sparkle and zing. A lively mind and talented hand has conjured up time travel here. A Greenwich grande dame has become a debutant again – and not just any debutant, but the belle of the ball.

I urge you to mark this down on your dance card when you are viewing Greenwich properties. This one’s a keeper.


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Bay or Ocean 2


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The House: 964 Lagoon Lane South, Mantoloking, New Jersey

The Broker: Diane Turton Realtors

Nick Churton of Diane Turton Realtors’ London office takes a walk on the calm side at this excellent home overlooking Barnegat Bay.

It can be a hard choice but many buyers along the New Jersey shore in Mantoloking, New Jersey pick the bay side rather than the ocean.

They decide for a calmer view, one where cormorants sit on poles perusing their next meal or preening their feathers, where the sunset reflects off the bay’s glassy surface and where boats take a leading role with one’s own ready to go from one’s own private dock.

If this is your chosen lifestyle then the perfect choice may well be 964 Lagoon Lane. I loved this house. It is clean crisp, spacious and follows a waterside aesthetic that is, at once, comfortably familiar and individually notable.

The architect delivered a wonderfully proportioned home. And the interior designer put together a contemporary, comfortable and restful space full of invention and charm. The third floor is perfect and I wont spoil the surprise but the other floors are really just as good.

964 Lagoon Lane is a bit of a showstopper. If you have been looking for the ideal bayside house then I think your search stops here.


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Bay or Ocean 1


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The House: 1007 East Avenue, Mantoloking, New Jersey

The Broker: Diane Turton Realtors

The Agent: Suzanne Van Schoick

Nick Churton of the Diane Turton Realtors’ London office visits a fabulous beachside house on the New Jersey shore.

Bay or ocean? It is a question many buyers along the New Jersey shore in Mantoloking ask themselves. It’s an important choice: in one direction is the restless Atlantic and in the other is an altogether calmer bay view.

For those that have made their decision for the ocean, choosing a suitable house can be a great deal easier. In fact one would really have to look no further than 1007 East Avenue in Mantoloking. Here is a house built for beach side family living.

Constructed in 1995, it has everything most require from a beach house. Above all is the view. Wake up to the sun rising in your bedroom. Enjoy views along the sandy beach in a location where it is uncrowned even in high summer. In autumn or fall and in winter enjoy bracing, ozone soaked walks beside the breakers.

Owning a beach house adds another lifestyle dimension. But some beach houses can be difficult to get to along congested and narrow roads. Not here. Here it is only about 70 miles from Manhattan via the Garden State Parkway and I-95 North. Better still, it is only seven miles from Bay Head station with a fast and frequent rail service to Penn Station in New York City.

Take a look at the photos. The current owners have nailed it. They have made a multi-generational family beach house that is individual and universal at the same time.

Life can be a real beach sometimes.


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A Tudor Rose

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The Property: 212 Osborn Road, Harrison, New York

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: Lisa Murphy

Nick Churton of the Houlihan Lawrence London office feels right at home in this distinctive Harrison house only one hour’s drive from New York City.

They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle. But of course everyone’s home is his or her castle. It’s just that some homes look more like castles than others.

212 Osborn Road, Harrison, New York looks pretty castle-like to me. In the US this style is called Tudor. Various European nationals may look at it differently. The part-timbering to the elevations certainly does suggest the timber framed buildings of 14th and 15th centuries in England, but so too do they resemble the French rural vernacular. Not only that but the dramatic roundel with distinctive slated, conical roof has echoes of both eastern and western European domestic design. If anything it is the real elevation that owes more more to English architecture with its hipped and catslide roof and very handsome high Tudor style chimney.

But let’s not get too picky. There is no need, because through whatever national lens you look at it, this is an incredibly pretty house that wraps its strong arms around its family within – providing a safe, secure and highly livable space packed with the sorts of lifestyle features that you won’t find in any old English castle or French chateaux.

There are lots of things to think about when choosing a style of home. Choosing castle-like strength is always a safe way to go – ask an Englishman!


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Pride of Place

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The House: 41 Binney Lane, Old Greenwich, Connecticut

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: Ellen Mosher

Nick Churton of the Houlihan Lawrence London office enjoys visiting a wonderful house in an amazing location overlooking Long Island Sound.

If 41 Binney Lane, Old Greenwich, Connecticut where standing for political office its mantra would be, “it’s the view stupid”.

So get an eyeful of this!

The house stands on a one-acre, rocky-aproned promontory on 235 feet of Old Greenwich shore. It is enough of a spit of land to give the attractive house extra visibility of the surrounding coastline and over the Long Island Sound to Long Island itself.

The position is maximised by an 85-foot private pier to a deep-water mooring and swimming platform. For a less salty bathing option there is a pool and spa on the elevated terrace.

Elevation is important in this part of the world. Being set well over sea level gives ample protection from adverse weather conditions and patterns.

On this rocky dais stands a magnificent home designed to take full advantage of its dominant position. It’s very comfortable with six bedrooms, sunroom, wet bar, triple aspect library and staff wing.

If you could ever drag yourself away it is only a short walk from the village.

For the more adventurous it takes about three hours to paddle cross Long Island Sound in a kayak. So you can work out how long it would take to reach a suitable Long Island waterside restaurant in a jet-powered Hinckley sport boat at 52 mph.

Make no mistake, this is a once in a generation chance for a serious piece of iconic real estate.

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