Fluid spaces, thoughtful feng shui and peaceful grounds make Abbey Orchard House in St Albans the ultimate zen escape.
Houses in St Albans aren’t cheap, as you’d expect of a charming little cathedral city that’s full of history, green spaces, and with a 20-minute fast train link to the City. Five-bedroom detached homes usually cost in the £1m to £1.5m range, though, rather than £6m. So what is it about this house that sees it come up for sale at five or six times that? The answer is pretty much everything.
Dubbed a ‘masterpiece in the heart of the city’ by Nick Ingle of Savills, Abbey Orchard House is a show-stopping eco home that has been featured on Grand Designs thanks to its innovative design and seamless functionality.
The floorplan is formed in a rough ‘H’ formation, with two separate living areas that are interconnected by a glazed link walkway that gives the place the feel of a medieval cloister blended with a traditional Japanese house. This is also the main entrance into the home and spans 30 meters.
Exposed brickwork marries with light wooden maple tones throughout and a number of roof lights give the illusion of opening to the outside, drawing the eyes up. This is most impressive above the central fireplace in the sitting room with its tiered brick surround and dramatic framing.
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During his visit to the property, Kevin McCloud remarked that the house was ‘organically inspired, geometric craftmanship that hits you between the eyes,’ calling it simultaneously ‘futuristic and historic’, with ‘light so soft, you can almost touch it.’
One side of the property houses the five bedrooms, including two substantial principal suites. ‘Abby Suite’ features a walk-in wardrobe and spacious bathroom with glazed doors leading out into a private veranda that runs down to a substantial orchard.
At the other end of this space, you’ll find the ‘River Suite’ bedroom with an inset wood burner and roof light (similar to that in the sitting room), a bespoke Japanese bath and doors which open up to the riverside setting.
In the main living area, the reception rooms are flooded with light and all have access out into the two and a half acres of surrounding gardens. The hallway — described as a ‘connecting space’, rather than a corridor— was created at double width to allow for art collections to be displayed throughout the property.
The house is currently on the market via Savills with a guide price of £5.95 million and situated on a peaceful cul-de-sac, Pondwicks Close, alongside a number of historic, listed buildings, with the park and Abbey grounds right on the doorstep, and the city centre a short stroll away.
Views from the house overlook the 11th-century Norman Abbey Church — a stark contrast to the pared-back interiors.
The site sits close to the original Roman town of Verulamium, and during medieval times, the fertile soil was used to grow apples, pears and other fruit trees; hence the name Abbey Orchard House. Originally part of the St Albans monastery, the site was left undeveloped since 1539.
English Heritage oversaw the planning and development of the site, stating that ‘any building had to be exceptional and blend into this historic and beautiful location.’ It does just that. With a 130 metre private drive, the property is only visible from the air, yet just a five minutes’ walk into St Albans.
The River Ver runs along the south of the property and is a haven for wildlife, with trout in the chalkstream and deer often spotted in the garden.
The property includes almost 100 metres of private riverbank and the surrounding two and a half acres of gardens offer the utmost privacy, with large established trees and plenty of tranquil corners. The low level Sedum roof enhances the harmony between the outside natural world as it seamlessly blends with its verdant surroundings.
Pretty much all the interiors (blinds, lights and electrical appliances) can be controlled from your phone. Now, this is great if you fall into the group of people who don’t let their phone battery drop to below 80%, but a tad daunting for those who like to flirt with the red battery bar.
Solar panels, wood burners and a computer-controlled heating and hot water system ensure running costs stay down, and can all be controlled and monitored from the engine room.
Schooling in the area is excellent with a choice of state and private. St Michael’s Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, St Albans School (classed as one of the oldest private schools in the world), Beaumont School (rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted) and Bernards Heath Junior School (also rated ‘outstanding’) are all great options.
Commuting into London is ideal, with the mainline train station in St Albans running to central London in under 20 minutes. For those wanting to stay closer to home (we don’t blame you), St Albans has a thriving high street with restaurants, boutiques and a museum.
Abbey Orchard House offers more than just a place to call home. Its design is remarkable, prompting Savills to call it ‘one of the most individual and outstanding architectural houses built in England in the 21st century’, where soft light, zen-like interiors and a private setting join forces to offer the ultimate escape.
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