Barefoot Beauty


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Nick Churton of Village Properties’ London office finds that he would rather wash up on this Santa Barbara beach than just about anywhere else in the world.

Broker: Village Properties

Agent: Grubb Campbell Group

All good houses move the spirit. But the very best touch all the senses as well. 3353 Padaro Lane, Carpinteria, California does this. I mention the address because those in the know would choose this road ahead of any other in Santa Barbara. This is the road with houses that meet the beach, the road where living with the ocean is a reality rather than a dream and the road where even the simplest home becomes a pavilion of splendour.

This beach house on the Californian Riviera is the stuff of lifelong recollections, where children and grandchildren will return to time and time again – if only in their memories.

The view of the ocean is a light-filled wonder – with pelicans gliding by. The sound of the waves lulls even the most restless soul. The ocean breeze wafts through the open windows gently caressing the skin and bringing with it the smell of the sea and salt that lingers on the lips. This is what heaven tastes like. It is a sensory feast of a house.

This home has the power to inspire and nurture and the power to heal and restore. Great beach houses do this and this is a great beach house.

A wide deck for all day living separates the house from the beach – its slight elevation creating privacy and seclusion. Inside the home the rooms have been perfectly and romantically decorated in effortless castaway chic by a highly gifted homemaker. So cast around no further. This house is way too good to miss.

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California Dreaming


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Nick Churton of Village Properties’ London office wakes up in California to a dream cottage in a dreamy location and now can’t sleep for thinking about it.

Broker: Village Properties

Agent: Jackie Walters

Sometimes, when idly thumbing through House & Garden magazine or Architectural Digest, one happens upon a dazzling little home that really delights the eye and fires the imagination. It is the perfect retreat – the one you have often dreamed about. Often an initial thought is how did the current owner even find such a gem in the first place? The second – with a tinge of envy – is that someone has had the skill to create such an enchanting interior which makes the very best of unique and memorable architectural detail.

Getting the stuff of dreams so right is not easy. It takes great taste and rare opportunity. It also takes skill and time.

So here is a dream that seems pulled from the pages of the very finest interiors magazines. It has it all – comfort, simplicity, charm, finish, detail and opportunity. In real estate when the perfect opportunity comes along, grab it! It is often a one-chance deal.

But I have missed something. Of course! How silly of me – where it is. How could I have left out the location? This little classic is in Montecito, Santa Barbara, California. And that just puts the tin lid on it, for if anyone were to have a remarkable rustic-white retreat between pink and purple mountains and azure ocean then Montecito is the dream to end all dreams.

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Casa Marina


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Nick Churton of Michael Saunders’ London office visits Boca Grande on Florida’s Gulf coast and discovers the perfect getaway property.

Broker: Michael Saunders & Co

Agent: Carol Stewart

Florida’s west coast hosts some memorable and delightful towns and cities. But a jewel amongst these is surely Boca Grande that sits by the Boca Grande Pass at the head of the Peace River between Sarasota and Fort Myers. The railway, originally built to transport the valuable phosphate that was mined locally, became an important route for wealthy northerners who from 1911 came to enjoy the exceptional Tarpon fishing, and more recentely golf, and stay at the built-for-purpose Gasparilla Inn before graduating to homes of their own. This seasonal migration has continued down the years with notable regular visitors including the Bush family and Katharine Hepburn.

To say this place is family friendly is an understatement. Just look at the traffic – or lack of it. Transportation in this town is generally by golf buggy with all but two streets designated as golf cart paths. A good thing too, as there is no filling station in Boca Grande and the whole place is on an island protected against the rest of the world by a narrow bridge. Where else would you want to go? This precious haven is made for fabulous vacations and a very laid back way of life in the sun where going anywhere else is the last thing you would want to do.

Loving where you are going to live is a key part of choosing a home and it would be hard not to love Boca Grande. But finding the right house is another matter. Boca Grande has much to choose from in that department and will serve many tastes. But frankly, 161 Gilchrist Ave should stop your search in its tracks. A palm tree fringe separates the pool area and the 130 ft west-facing Gulf-front beach at the rear of the property. This house is a Spanish casa marina, a glorious Mediterranean style mansion. Approached past a guest cottage and enormous banyan trees the entrance is as good as it gets in terms of arrival. You really think you have reached somewhere very special. And you have. This house oozes sophisticated relaxation. The multi-zoned living is perfect here, giving plenty of opportunity for personal retreat. But then the magnificent reception rooms and outside spaces provide unparalleled entertaining space against the azure sea and coral sunset backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is intoxicating.

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Cheese and Cracker


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Nick Churton of Houlihan Lawrence’s London office visits a lovely area of the Hudson Valley just three hours, but a world away, form Manhattan.

Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

Agent: Katherine Jennings

No visit to Old Chatham, nestled in New York’s verdant Hudson Valley is complete without spending a while at the Old Chatham Country Store and Café. It is a landmark hereabouts, an institution that lends this pretty village centre celebrity status through the simple expedience of being charming and welcoming in a delightfully olde worlde sort of way. It looks as if time has stood still here. But that is just the surface. What is on offer is bang up to date in the taste department. The central table heaves with home made breads, cakes and other delicacies. The counter buzzes with activity. In the large room next door, a giant ancient blackened stove warms the café, its walls covered with work by local artists. A wonderful simplicity belies the polite but constant procession of locals and other pilgrims getting their weekly – or in some cases – daily cake fix whilst reading the papers or chatting to friends. This is how a café should be.

Also on sale are some very fine locally produced cheeses, which brings me seamlessly to the Old Chatham Shepherding Inn just three minutes’ drive away. No prizes for what this beautifully proportioned colonial house used to be. But today it is a wonderful private family home and dairy enterprise.

Dating from the 1790s this sedate home was built when George Washington was president. Some features, like the stone fireplaces and exposed beams, are little changed since then. The layout also reflects the Georgian influence of that age. Period building this may be but like the nearby café, there is so much more going on. The house is surrounded by fenced pastures and fabulous views, and there is a complete barn complex with sheep creamery/dairy ideal for those keen on a great ready-to-go, farm-to-table opportunity. This is after all the home of the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, celebrated for its sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt. The house offers six guest suites with additional office suites, and art studio suitable for conversion to further guest space. Plus there is a tennis court, separate wine cellar, a large greenhouse – I could go on but there is so much to take in. It makes a wonderful family home. But it could be the best B&B ever or a hotel or a retreat or a spa or a… the list is endless. Its a cracker. The best thing to do is retreat to the Old Chatham Store and Café for lunch and think about what a great place this is to live, what a fabulous opportunity it affords and how this could well be the best home you will ever own.

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There may not be Dragons


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Nick Churton of EWM’s London office gets to know a town outside Miami that combines great creature comforts with, well, great creatures.

Broker: EWM

Agent: Alicia Mayz

2947 Lake Ridge Lane, Weston near Miami in Florida is a house on the edge. It stands between a comfortable manmade world and nature in the raw tooth and claw.

From the raised deck the view ahead is the Everglades, that 100 mile river of grass that flows from central Florida and down into the Gulf of Mexico in the south of the state. The view behind is of a magnificent home with pool, summer kitchen, and large entertainment area. It is a glorious juxtaposition with a world-class eco system on the doorstep with flamingos, pelicans, ospreys, turkey vultures, short tailed hawks, deer and bobcats as your neighbours on one side and some very nice human meighbours on the other.

The town is called Weston and it is one of south Florida’s most desirable communities. It’s easy to see why. Just look at the beautifully manicured roadside verges and the public parks of which there are many. Learn about the school system here and you can’t fail to be impressed. This is civic management at the top of its game. It is a perfect environment for families. As perfect as the Everglades is for its rich and teeming wildlife.

This house stands elegantly between these ideal worlds. One is mapped out the other still remains largely untouched and unexplored. There may not be dragons over the fence but there are alligators.

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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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