Living Canvas

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Nick Churton from the Houlihan Lawrence London office joins the hunt for the perfect rural home only a couple of hours drive from New York City.

The Property:    Lithgow Farm, 33 Lithgow Millbrook, New York

The Broker:        Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent:          John R. Friend

I have tried six times to start this blog. It should write itself – such is the subject matter. But it is hard sometimes to describe somewhere so profoundly personal.

Most homes reflect their owners. Pictures, objects, books, collectables, travel mementos and decorative taste in furniture and rugs all combine to mirror the curator.

Dating back to 1758, Lithgow Farm in Millbrook is a case in point. Le Corbusier described a house as a machine for living. Lithgow Farm is a canvas for living. The current owners have painted their canvas perfectly. It suits them. It suits me. It may well suit you. But the thing with Lithgow Farm is that it is such a good house that, once its beautiful and fascinating contents are gone, it will re-become a wonderful blank canvas for a new owner. As we say in the trade, the house has good bones.

And if you think the house is special, then take a walk in the garden. It will be a long walk. It is a large garden. Or take a four-wheel drive to the highest point on the 200 acre estate where the sensational views go on forever in any direction. There is also a lake with Pagoda Island, a wild swimming pool, woodland and landscaped areas and vistas. I could go on.

Millbrook is one of the finest places in the US to follow country pursuits such as hunting, shooting and fishing. The renowned Millbrook Hunt, established in the 1890s, is one of the premier hunts in North America. Horses, rather than people, set the pace hereabouts – and the pace can get pretty fast – in pursuit of quarry! Institutions are important in Millbrook – such as the nearby Tamarack Preserve, a hunting and fishing membership club – think Ralph Lauren-like clubhouse décor.

Believe me, if you are moving to Millbrook then Lithgow Farm, one of the most important and historic houses in the neighbourhood, and set in the heart of this welcoming community, is the place to be.

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Seat of Learning

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Nick Churton from the Houlihan Lawrence London office takes a lesson in the importance of geography to property and education.

The Property:     48 Porter Street, Lakeville, Connecticut

The Broker:        Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent:          Marc Maclean

If you don’t know Lakeville, Connecticut, then let me introduce you to this bucolic place. Tucked away in beautiful hills in the northwest corner of the state – between the Hudson River and the Berkshires – Lakeville is a small town with a big impact. Why live here? There are four good reasons: schools, beauty, community and the lake – Wononskopomuc Lake to be precise, but we’ll stick to calling it, ‘the lake’!

Schools are such a draw for parents buying homes and Lakeville has three of the state’s premier private high schools – The Hotchkiss School, Salisbury Boy’s School and Berkshire School.

Lakeville is a peaceful area – except on match day! I can’t begin to imagine the sporting and academic rivalry between the schools here. If you want your child prepared for the hurly burly of modern post-education life, then Lakeville is a pretty good place to start.

But on non-match days Lakeville returns to peace and serenity. It is a far cry from the frenzy of New York City only three hours away. That’s a little over 100 miles, so very doable for the weekend.

And what about the wonderful house I went to see? First, there is nothing to improve. Its done, and to a very high standard. It is spacious, tasteful and occupies a magnificent elevated position with a glorious view of the lake to wooded hills beyond. In autumn, it is an indescribably beautiful palette of colour. I feel I don’t need to describe it here. Just take a look at the video – what on earth is there not to like?

So, if you like peace, beauty and preparing your offspring for adulthood, then this is the ideal seat of learning for masterminding operations.

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Top of the World

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Nick Churton from the Houlihan Lawrence London office has his head in the clouds but feet on the ground with a spectacular penthouse apartment with New York skyline views.

The Penthouse:   1 Renaissance Square, PH2EGF

The Broker:        Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent:          April W. Saxe

New York means the world to millions of people. To live on top of this world, one might look for a lofty apartment in Manhattan. But that will come with a very lofty price tag.

There is an alternative. White Plains is within sight of New York City. By train it is only thirty minutes away. At the top of the splendid Ritz Carlton, Westchester is a fabulous penthouse with 300-degree views to the New York skyline and Long Island Sound. It is well worth a look. In fact you don’t just look at a place like this, as much as try it on, because penthouses wrap themselves around one like a comfortable and extremely chic cloak.

Penthouse living should come with deep-pile luxury as standard, and it doesn’t get more deep-pile than here with all the sumptuous, white glove facilities of the hotel on tap. These include full service spa, fitness centre, steak restaurant and housekeeping services.

But let’s head into the apartment. Good penthouses hold an exciting place in the real estate world. They feel special from the very start. They immediately suggest a hushed luxury and sophistication with a dash of élan.

With lustrous bespoke wood panelling and cabinetry, the apartment seems to reference glossy and glamorous Hollywood movies. It may be me, but when I closed my eyes I could swear I saw a cardigan clad, Carry Grant, holding a Martini glass, and then Jack Lemmon with, of course, his gap-toothed grinning, valet, Terry Thomas. But this is what penthouses, like movies, are all about – they conjure up glamour!

This is sophisticated high life living within easy reach of Manhattan. In fact White Plains railway station is only a few minutes walk away, so getting to and from Wall Street or a Broadway show is a doddle. So, try it on. You will soon realise that the movies don’t have the monopoly on glamour – you’re wearing it!

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Hen’s Tooth

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Nick Churton from the Houlihan Lawence, London office, feels the presence of a master architect at a magnificent home overlooking Long Island Sound.

The Property: 217 Hommocks Road, Larchmont, New York

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: Katie Becker McLoughlin

You tell your agent that you want a special house in Larchmont, New York, one with presence and style. Then you add that it must be on the water. That’s the kicker because there are, of course, waterfront houses and waterfront houses.

Some houses need a beautiful waterfront position to give them added appeal, and some waterside locations need a fine house to give them a strong focal point. Very rarely, however, there is a balance between house and watery location. Both add to each other in equal measure. When this happens there is an alchemy that produces a home of rare and incomparable brilliance and desirability. These are like hen’s teeth. You have almost more chance of being stepped on by a dinosaur than finding one of these houses.

So this, dear reader, is where I urge you to pay extra attention, because when your agent suggests you view 217 Hommocks Road with 400 ft. of shoreline, you should drop everything and jump in your car. For this is a hen’s tooth.

I’m not going to list all the many great features here, nor am I going to outline the fabulous benefits either. There is not enough room and anyway I don’t need to: when you visit you will understand.

Although there is no evidence that celebrated architect, Stanford White, designed this house, it has all his hallmarks. This is a wonderfully laid out home that has been delightfully updated and decorated by the current owners. Like the waters of Long Island Sound outside, this home shimmers. It is outstanding.

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And the Sandwich Comes Free

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Nick Churton from the Halstead, London office, loves the village of Sag Harbor, New York and discovers a fabulous waterside condo with a lower-cost way of ownership.

The Property: 68 West Water Street, Sag Harbor, New York

The Broker: Halstead

The Agents: John Scott “JT” Thomas and Robert J Stearns

Let’s face it; The Hamptons is not the cheapest place on earth in which to live. It is a highly popular A-list destination with buyers – not just from within the US but also internationally. The property prices are, accordingly, above-the-norm, so too are the property taxes and, in the case of condominiums, the monthly management costs.

So, what makes this two-floor condominium with balcony and water views in highly popular, Sag Harbour, such a great buy? Well, apart from the space, layout, facilities, convenience and the outlook, it is the rental income. Based on the last few years’ figures, vacation rental return from June, July and August, alone, would pay for the annual taxes and management costs. Imagine that, cost-neutral living in the Hamptons! Not only that, but you may even make enough extra to pay for an extended European vacation yourself while your tenants are in residence.

Looked at like that, it’s a no-brainer. So check out this duplex with nautical style interior. It’s only a short walk from Main Street and all the great Sag Harbour restaurants. While you’re there, try the delicious bar snacks at the American Hotel – they do these great little fried cheese and bacon sandwiches. At the rate of the condo’s rental return, they will probably be cost-neutral too.

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Stick and Ball

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Nick Churton from the Halstead London office, takes a look at a contemporary house set in the heart of the Hamptons, New York.

The Property: 200 Guyer Road, Bridgehampton, NY

The Broker: Halstead

The Agents: Ani Antreasyan and Timothy O’Connor

If the Hamptons are the place to live, then the Southampton Polo Club and the Atlantic Golf Club are the places to play. So, where better to have a house than a golf buggy ride to both course and practice ground.

But sport isn’t the only reason to live in the magnificent 200 Guyer Road, Bridgehampton. This shingle-clad house with iconic roundel may look like a traditional Hamptons home. But, hiding in plain sight, is a breath-taking, contemporary interior with big sky windows and the highest specification.

From the windows, one can see the polo field, the handsome golf clubhouse and the attractive course stretching into the far off tree-fringed horizon.

The Hamptons is a high profile place to live. But the irony is that the people who choose to reside there prefer to live more low profile lives. Which makes this home, set in almost two acres of grounds with a matching guesthouse and beautiful pool, so perfect. It couldn’t be more discreet. It is secluded without being isolated and only really visible to like-minded people.

So if you like striking balls with a club or mallet, it is hard to think of a better place to live in the Hamptons. But if, to you, a round of golf is a good walk spoiled, or striking a moving object from a galloping platform is beyond your hand/eye co-ordination, please do not despair. This house will still be a big hit.

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Nick Churton of the Chase International, London office, dips his toes in the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe. He soon becomes crystal clear about the charms of a beautiful lakeside family compound.

The Property: The Pines, 1820 Highway 50 Glenbrook, NV

The Broker: Chase International Real Estate

The Agent: Trinkie Watson

There is nothing quite like Lake Tahoe. Snow-capped mountains surround a sparkling lake of unimaginable beauty. In the summer the lake attracts all sorts of water sport enthusiasts while in the winter the mountain slopes offer world-class skiing and snowboarding at Heavenly Valley. It is all a bit heavenly.

But what sets Lake Tahoe apart are the fabulous homes – often screened by lofty pine trees – that discreetly stud the lakeshore. Like their owners, these home don’t make a noise. Lake Tahoe is like that: if you want bling and brash and open display, you will choose somewhere else.

Landmark homes around the lake are highly sought after and then become famously hard to wrestle away from their owners. When they do come available, it is best to strike while the iron is hot.

Such a prize is now on the market. The Pines is a family compound comprising principal residence, guesthouse and second guest or caretaker’s house. In front are a white sand beach, a great jetty and an excellent boathouse. Behind is a three-hole golf course with practice green, swimming pool and spa, waterfalls, covered bridge and trout ponds.

So it is clear as crystal that there really is no reason to ever stay at a Lake Tahoe resort again. This is a Lake Tahoe resort – but the ultimate, private one.



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An Eagle of a House

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Nick Churton of the Carmel Realty Company, London office, explores the slopes above Pebble Beach, California, and discovers a home that leaves his head in the clouds.

The Property: 3381 Laureles Lane, Pebble Beach, CA

The Broker: Carmel Realty Company

The Agent: Judie Profeta

It is a mark of disdain that one says of another that the lift – or elevator – doesn’t quite go all the way up to the top floor. Well here is a highly intelligent home where the elevator most certainly does: it stops at each of the wonderfully appointed three levels of this remarkable house.

Perched high on the slopes above Pebble Beach and overlooking the beach at Carmel and down to the point near Big Sur, Lodged Away is a unique home in an exceptional location.

Over 6000 sq ft of superb accommodation offers the highest standard of living. Included, are a living level, upper level and separate guest house/suite. Media room, 600-bottle wine cellar and fabulous outside decks are star attractions of the house. But the real show stoppers are – what I shall call – the landscape rooms. The vast windows of the living room and adjacent dining room stretch the eye over the ocean towards Big Sur and upwards to the big sky. The galleried living room is incredibly impressive but manages to be hugely comfortable at the same time. Lodged Away is a very intelligently designed house that makes full use of its situation.

But a great Pebble Beach address is not all about the house. Beneath Lodged Away, are the four major Pebble Beach golf courses – five if you include the nine-hole, Peter Hay course. Among these is the Pebble Beach Golf Links, voted the number one public course in America by Golf Digest magazine. They’ve all played there over the years – Woods and Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, Hagen and Hogan. And you can too from only a golf cart ride away.

Lodged Away soars above Pebble Beach like a mighty bird. Indeed if the house were a championship course golf hole, it would be an eagle.

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Succour Punch

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Nick Churton of Village Properties Realtors’ London office is floored by a Montecito house that packs a very powerful punch.

The Property: 808 San Ysidro Lane, Montecito, California

The Broker: Village Properties Realtors

The Team: Riskin Partners Estate Group

You could visit a hundred houses in Montecito – all much larger and certainly more expensive than 808 San Ysidro Lane – but I doubt you will find, among them, a more agreeable one.

It is the relationship between the charming house, the delightful garden and the sensational mountain views that make this home so special.

The interior is full of architectural interest. The walls are painted in lovely earthy tones that suit the house perfectly – although I am sure the interior would be just as well dressed in the correct shade of white.

There is a strong feel of an Arts and Crafts house from the English Cotswolds about the interior rooms and the exterior elevations. But that is where any similarity ends, as the view with its dramatic mountain backdrop could only be Santa Barbara.

It’s always difficult to put into words the feeling one gets when everything about a house feels right somehow; when the sense of belonging is palpable, and the soothing embrace provides instant comfort, support, shelter and even succour. However you choose to describe it, this home fosters all those feelings.

You could find bigger and more expensive homes in Montecito, but I am confident you could never find anything that packs a bigger or better succour punch.

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Big is Beautiful

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 23.24.24Nick Churton of Ebby Halliday Realtors’ London office gets the measure of a newly constructed lakeside home between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.

The Property: Bella Luce Manor, Quail Hollow, Westlake, Texas

The Broker: Ebby Halliday Realtors

The Agents: Marcontell & Gilchrest Group

Texas is great at many things, but one thing it is especially good at is constructing new communities. Of course, they have space. This is a big state – the biggest. But they also have big ideas.

One big idea is Bella Luce Manor at Quail Hollow, Westlake, between Fort Worth and Dallas. It is big in vision and big in execution. In fact, it’s huge. Weighing in at an impressive 15,390 sq ft, this astonishing home is now in the latter stages of construction.

There is a guard on the gate of this exclusive new community – hardly surprising as the residents here put great store in their privacy. 92 houses will share this 188-acre haven with a beautiful lake at its centre. Only a few houses will enjoy direct lake frontage. Bella Luce Manor is one of them.

I won’t run through the exhaustive list of rooms and features. It is best to look at the website. But I feel I must mention two things. First, the closet in the master bedroom suite: I have seen whole houses fitted into less space. Second, the garaging: a four-car garage caters for day-to-day runabouts – perhaps a Jeep, sports car, Bentley and SUV: but for the Ferrari collection, or similar, there is a six-car showroom. The developers thought big for this one – catering for the buyer who lives big.

Even in Texas, this is a big house. But for the rest of the world, it’s a palace.

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