Country house must haves
As our Dream Acres series takes off, we asked some experts what really sells a country house. Andy Hay of Knight Frank and Crispin Holborow of Savills agree that top of the list is an impressive and, ideally, long driveway.
‘A statement approach is vital,’ says Mr Holborow. ‘Anybody building a country house from scratch would be well advised to seek a mature setting. Maturity is fundamentally important to deliver an impression of stature and prestige this simply can’t be recreated. An avenue of mature trees lining the drive creates exactly that impression.’
After the driveway, the next major elements that a country house should have include a lodge; stables or a large barn that can either house collectibles or be used as a party barn; views from an elevated (but not exposed) setting; and for all-out grandeur the provision of staff accommodation.
The importance of the garden and landscaping cannot be overestimated, believes Andy Hay. ‘There is an immense amount of enjoyment to be taken from the design of the exterior. The garden and grounds can often be more exciting than the house itself, and a family can go on creating and designing forever.’
Bearing that in mind, water features in the form of fountains, lakes or streams feature on many must-have lists. ‘Everybody loves water,’ says Mr Holborow. ‘The most essential thing is for it to be in view of the house, otherwise its impact is lost and the value is compromised.’ Well-tended borders and lawns, as well as structure in the former of straight hedges, tall trees and statues, add gravitas and value.
Hard elements such as swimming pools and tennis courts fall, perhaps surprisingly, into the ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘essential’ components of a country-house garden. Savills believe that an indoor pool will add value to a property, but an outdoor pool doesn’t appeal to everybody and can always be added at a later stage. More esoteric elements, such as the vineyard included in our Dream Acres, ‘are only relevant to a rare few,’ warns Mr Holborow.