Mountain-Size Opportunity

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Nick Churton of the Chase International, London office sizes up a mountainside house in an exclusive and utterly beautiful location in Nevada.

The Property: 266 Redding Way, Carson City, Nevada

The Broker: Chase International Real Estate

The Agent: Georgia Chase

There is a mountainside midway between the bustle of Reno and the serenity of Lake Tahoe that hides a secret. Clear Creek is a hidden enclave. It is screened from the rest of the world by tall Ponderosa pinewoods and protected by steep topography and polite but firm security people at the pretty mountain-lodge gatehouse.

This little piece of heaven, perfectly sited for convenience and privacy, is truly in a world of its own. It is a retreat born of a beautiful vision and a perfect location – or a perfect vision and beautiful location.

Surrounded by six million acres of National Forest, Clear Creek is a spectacular 2,000-acre retreat on the eastern slope of the Carson mountain range. It is less than 30 minutes from both Incline Village at the side of Lake Tahoe and the fabulous ski slopes of Heavenly. The heat, bustle and outstanding opportunities of Reno are also within easy reach.

The developers wanted to build a golf course here fit to earn a ‘legendary’ reputation. I didn’t play the course but it looked pretty legendary to me. Clear Creek is already billed as the No 1 golf resort in Nevada and No 24 in the entire US. So it looks as if the lofty ambition has been fulfilled.

Lest you are worried that there will not be enough to do, I think you should be more worried that there will not be enough hours in the day – or night. Clear Creek has wonderful facilities.

The home I saw at 266 Redding Way is typical of the homes that are being built at Clear Creek. It is mountain modern. Natural timber floors and ceilings blend with the outside surroundings – brought indoors by magnificent picture windows. The kitchen/dining/family room provides a highly sociable living and entertaining space. The bedrooms and bedroom suites – including master suite on the first floor – are all spacious and inviting.

Clear Creek does something extraordinary. It blends privacy with convenience and activity with relaxation. Above all, it is a place that if it had not been built you would have wished it had.

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Caveat Emptor

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Nick Churton of the Village Properties, London office, visits an iconic contemporary house set high on the hillside above Santa Barbara, California.

The House: Casa Bene, 811 Camino Viejo, Santa Barbara, CA

The Broker: Village Properties Realtors

The Agents: Tim Walsh and Lyla Clyne

It has been a long day looking for a home in Santa Barbara. Along the way you have seen French influenced houses and Spanish influenced houses. You have seen English styled homes and Mediterranean styled homes. It’s hard to decide which you like most. They are all nice…but. Perhaps the Modernist in you is calling.

There is just one more house to see. It’s called Casa Bene. From the moment you enter the gates you feel something different in the air. When you sweep into the spacious motor court your thoughts are confirmed. This one is different. By the time you walk up the front steps beside the crisp, white roundel you know they must be yours. By the time you walk through the front door you already know it must be your front door.

That is what this house will do. It will do what it has always done. It will enrapture. It is a fabulous piece of architecture. But the dramatic frontage is only the start. The bit that will really get you is the back of the house. It hangs over the hillside with ocean mountain views that you may have believed only exists in the movies. Yes Casa Bene may seem a bit show biz. But it’s even than that better because this is Santa Barbara and not Beverly Hills.

So, caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. If you don’t want to buy a way-of-life-changing iconic house that will thrill you anew each day you wake up there, whatever you do, don’t visit this home.

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Stardust Memories

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Nick Churton of the Chase International London office visits a lofty desert-side home in Nevada that soothes the spirit and calms the soul.

The House: The Aerie, 40 Pronghorn Court, Reno, NV

The Broker: Chase International

The Agents: Ruby von Schwerin and Donna Spear

Great architecture speaks to us. So much so that sometimes I am left speechless in reply. This happened again with The Aerie, high above Reno in Nevada.

Behind the house, it’s a desert – literally. In front, when the sun goes down, is a carpet of terrestrial stars. I fancy, at night, it’s hard to see where the twinkling city ends and the starlit heavens begin.

Leaning easily into the hillside and using the natural gradient, the house provides a series of spectacular rooms and terraces that make the most of of the crystal clear light and astonishing views of city, desert and mountain.

If homes are machines for living, here is a home for thriving. It is life affirming, peaceful and elemental. But above all it is comfortable.

It is hard to give this style a name. I would suggest 21st Century Adobe. The dramatic arc of the roof enfolds the structure. Below this, strong verticals dominate the elevations and accentuate the altitude. Set on three floors, all served by an elevator, the interior is a fabulous light-filled space. Polished pine Glulam beams span the ceilings. Ebonised doors and frames offer a modern, crisp and sophisticated look whilst some major windows are angled downwards to eliminate internal reflection and make the most of the magnificent views. Attention to detail is a hallmark of this Joel Sherman designed aerie.

I may have been left speechless visiting this extraordinary house but I wasn’t left thoughtless. I will never forget it. It is touched by stardust.

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The Rockford Smiles

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The Property: Nick Churton of Village Properties, London office becomes star stuck at a celebrated estate in the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara, California.

The Property: 6903 Foxen Canyon Rd Los Olivos, CA

The Broker: Village Properties Realtors

The Agent: Carey Kendall

In the 1990s, Hollywood star and television’s Rockford Files hero, James Garner, commissioned a home at Rancho La Zaca in the Santa Ynez Valley. He asked leading architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen, famed for his modernist-style buildings with powerful pyramid and prism shapes, to design an 8,000-square-foot house to befit the magnificent location.

Garner had bought the remarkable property, originating from a 19th century Mexican land grant, from director Herbert Ross and his wife, Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

What Jacobsen did must have brought a big smile to Garner’s handsome face, as the home precisely captures the essence of the 400-acre estate that includes Oak Savanna Vineyard, one of the oldest in Santa Barbara County.

Today the estate has been developed further with a series of private pavilions, terraces, and courtyards which enjoy unparalleled 360-degree views of undulating vineyards and hills, oak savanna lands, old-growth olive trees, and distant mountains.

One of the current owners of this magnificent estate, author and celebrated hostess Frances Schultz, says, ‘It has been more than a dream to live here; it has been a privilege. Our fondest wish now is that Rancho La Zaca’s future stewards feel the same.’

Realtor Carey Kendall, at Village Properties, who is marketing the famous estate says, “There is so much to fall in love with at this property. If you would like to know more please call and remember, if you get my out of office recording at the tone leave your name and message, I’ll get back to you”!


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A Tale of Two Fairholmes

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Nick Churton of Houlihan Lawrence’s London office enjoys visiting a sensational home in BelIe Haven, Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Property: 44 Mayo Avenue, Belle Haven, Greenwich, CT

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: Kristy De La Sierra

I know two houses called Fairholme. Both are beautiful, large and grand. One Fairholme is in Newport, Rhode Island overlooking the celebrated Cliff Walk. John F Kennedy used to swim in the pool. I’m not sure who has swum in the fabulous pool at the other Fairholme, but it’s likely some were also pretty important.

I visited this second Fairholme in Belle Haven, Greenwich, on a hot, high-summer day with the 2.74 acre garden in full bloom. Described as an English manor house, it is hard to argue. It melds Tudor and Elizabethan styles into a Tudorbethan amalgamation that works perfectly in this rarefied location. All the elements are there: high brick chimneys, tall gables with decorative bargeboards, half-timbered elevations with magnificent bay windows, a sensational garden and the unmistakable feeling of dominance, security and pride – English characteristics that, some feel, are a little strained nowadays. But you can’t keep a good nation down, just as you can’t keep a good house down.

Fairholme has managed the years very well indeed. It was built in 1891 as a Gilded Age summer house for shipping magnate, real estate developer and philanthropist, Nathaniel Witherell. Successive owners have looked after the house beautifully. Today it sports an Alexa Hampton interior and a delightful formal garden that nods to the French influence on the English country house.

I loved this house. It felt like home. But not just any home, it felt like a Fairholme.


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Museum Quality

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The Property: 11 East 70th Street, New York

The Broker: Halstead Real Estate

The Agent: Marci Merzer

Nick Churton of the Halstead Real Estate, London office, discovers a rare gem of a building in New York that stands comparison with the very best in the premier European capitals.

When does a home become beaux arts? It would have to be very beautiful. It perhaps should hang next to another beauty. It should ooze class and provenance from every pore. Its maker should be celebrated. It should be desired by the many but sadly only affordable by the few. It should be a palace, or a mansion at least. Its setting should be in one of the finest positions man has made possible for a home to be set. It should be rarer than rare and almost impossible to possess.

Typically such a property only comes available once in a lifetime or even several lifetimes. With 11 East 70th Street, New York, that time is now. Next door to one of the most highly regarded art collections in the world, Number 11 is a Charles I Berg mansion that abuts the Frick Museum and is within a stone’s throw of Central Park.

Berg was originally from Philadelphia and certainly knew a thing or two about beaux arts. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris from 1877 to 1879. He could not have timed his entry into the New York architectural scene better, as back then the city was the cultural and moneyed hub of the Gilded Age.

Number 11 reflects the grandeur of that time but curiously manages to stay relevant to our current age. That is what good architecture does; it defies time, fashion and taste. As they say, form is temporary but class is permanent.

Who would choose to live at this address? There will be only a few with the means – and the reason to. One reason could be to house an important private art collection or to deal in fine art – the building would make a fabulous gallery.

Another could be to make a unique home in one of the grandest and most iconic neighbourhoods in the world.

Or it might be an amalgam of both – or something else entirely.

But whatever the reason, this extraordinary 6,594 sq. ft. building offers something few others do – timeless style and unabashed prestige on a global scale.


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A Prince Among Condos

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The Property: 530 West End Avenue, Apartment 11B, Manhattan, New York

The Broker: Halstead Real Estate 

The Agents: Patricia Tang and Sean McPeak

Nick Churton of the Halstead Real Estate, London office is helpless to resist the extraordinary pull of this New York, Upper West Side condo.

The partitioned and internally windowed breakfast room is like a booth from a New York diner – but classier: it is the centre of operations, the beating heart of this Upper West Side condo. And it is the place that everyone has to pass when going just about anywhere in this apartment. That is one of the reasons this home is so wonderful for a modern Manhattan family: the breakfast booth is a gravitational field that pulls everyone towards it.

From this breakfast or ops room homework can be done, the household managed, breakfast eaten, coffee drunk, friends met, jokes shared, news given, grievances aired, differences resolved and plans made. Every good home should have one. Except they don’t. The only home that I have ever been in that has one like this, is this one.

But the breakfast booth is not the only thing that makes this condo special. It has a special feel. It has a special look, it has a special layout and it has a special location.

One must kiss a lot of frogs when hunting for the ideal Manhattan condo. But here, finally, is a prince. Personally I think you could find plenty of condos twice the price and half as good as this. So cut your home hunting short, go and see this beautiful home, discuss it round the fabulous breakfast table while you are there and tell me that you have kissed your last amphibian.


The Breakfast Booth

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Hyperbole Not


The Property: 61 Beverly Drive, Bernardsville, New Jersey

The Broker: Turpin Realtors

The Agents: Ashley Christus and Laura Coutts

Nick Churton of Turpin Realtors’ London office finds a home in New Jersey that lives up to the hype, lowers weariness and lifts the spirit.

Modern masterwork, the house brochure headline boldly stated. After a long day looking at houses, when weariness had set in and cynicism was about to join it, this seemed an unlikely boast. But what did I know?

I certainly didn’t expect this.

Sometimes vision, location, design, materials and build come together and create something that is way more than the sum of the parts. That is what has happened at 61 Beverly Drive, Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Make no mistake this is a very special house created by very special owners. Both are brilliant homemakers, one is a brilliant engineer. Homes in the Modernist domestic tradition are at a confluence between architecture and engineering. This message resonates round the house. Just look at the gorgeous chunky gluelam Sapele stair treads – made by the owner – which look like they float on air, or the delicious contrasts between stone, timber and ironwork. Look at the lighting, both natural and artificial. Look at the towering ceiling heights and the upper floor bridge that spans the living area.

Outside the surrounding woodland doesn’t hem this house in but keeps to a respectful distance. It lets the house breath. It gives way to a sophisticated and beautifully tended landscape that harmonises with the house itself. The garage could be a Park Lane London luxury car showroom, and the workshop a Formula One racing pit.

I took away so much from this house. I even wanted to take away the amazing and fashionably rusted main gates, but they were too big and had to stay at the property – lucky new owners.

This is a fabulous house. In fact, this is a modern masterwork.

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Time Travel

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The Property: 99 Tripp Street, Bedford Corners, New York

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent: Angela Kessel

Nick Churton of the Houlihan Lawrence London office visits a New York home that has thrown off the years.

Take an eminent colonial house – built at the beginning of the first world war and situated in what can best be described as a sylvan setting – re-envision it all and then set about making it fit for purpose in another age. That was the plan.

And what an excellent plan it was – and it has been executed perfectly.

It’s all in the detail. The magnificent front gates only hint at things to come. But as the driveway arcs through the beautiful mature garden, anticipation mounts. Finally, the house is revealed. It is pure theatre. But this is no one-act play. Everything, inside and out, has been planned to the finest detail.

With great homes it is often the little things that say so much. Of course the bathrooms and kitchen here are fabulous and the bedrooms and entertaining spaces spacious and flowing. That almost goes without saying. But I noticed the three delicate metal ceiling ties, which span the light-flooded great room. They could have been painted white and lost against the wall and cathedral-ceiling colour. But they were painted matt charcoal grey. At a swipe of a thoughtful paintbrush they have become things of sculpture and rustic beauty. They give the room just a hint of edge and industrial chic. It is enough.

On paper this house looks very large. But it doesn’t live very large. It lives comfortable with room for occupants to breath yet remain connected – perfect for modern family living.

Back in 1914 families lived differently. Houses followed society. But now society has changed and our homes must change with it. Those who wonder how our traditional housing stock can be adapted for the twenty-first century need look no further.

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Smell the Roses

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The Property: Grant’s Corner, 424 Hawley Road, North Salem, New York

The Broker: Houlihan Lawrence

The Agent; Tracy Cunniff

Nick Churton of the Houlihan Lawrence London office receives a New York lesson in how to live in the now while enjoying the look of the past.

In 1846 North Salem, New York, was quietly witnessing the construction of a pretty Georgian style farmhouse. It would become known as Grant’s Corner. Not that you would have really noticed; then, as now, the house was screened by lush woodland. Elsewhere in the US that year the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia cracked while being rung to mark George Washington’s birthday and, way out West, the Donner Party, heading for Oregon, became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

No such shattering events were taking place in North Salem. All things considered, not much has changed in the area over the past one hundred and fifty years or so. It is a benign environment where there are almost as many horses as people and which maintains itself as a blissful retreat from hectic Manhattan, only an hour away by car – on a good day.

But changes have been made. One of them is Grant’s Corner itself. Not that you could tell very easily from the exterior, but inside is an excellent example of how to transition a nineteenth-century house into the now. It is not an easy thing to achieve. There are plenty of examples of how not to do it. But this is not one of them. In fact, this is an object lesson in skilful and perceptive renovation.

The work has been done softly. The new layout and finishes don’t shout at the past but take it gently by the hand and lead it calmly and willingly into the present. It is a magnificent job, and the result is a charming home that is not too big, but somehow not too small either.

Outside is a barn that has been used as a base for a highly successful floristry business, and a beautifully envisioned and maintained garden with fragrant rose varieties.

Over several months of serious house hunting in North Salem a buyer will typically see a number of options – most will be traditional in nature. Many won’t pass muster. Some will not have managed or attempted the transition through time. So I have a suggestion: to save a lot of time, head straight to Grant’s Corner and smell the roses.



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