Since he was a young child, Bill Boulter wanted to live somewhere different-‘a lighthouse, perhaps,’ or an equally idiosyncratic home. He had his chance when he was about 40, when he and his then wife-to-be, Alison, sold their respective properties to buy their first home together-a Grade II-listed windmill built in 1815.
Judging from the number of advertisements for converted churches, follies or even Nissen huts, and the enormous popularity of quirky holiday homes (COUNTRY LIFE, April 10), many people share the Boulters’ desire for a house that’s out of the ordinary. Robert Fanshawe at Property Vision believes they ‘embody the western ideal of escapism’, although striking architectural features-the Boulters’ bed is located under the mill’s main cog, for example-add to their allure. Mr Boulter found the windmill everything he had hoped it would be. ‘The trickiest bit was probably learning how to hang pictures and mirrors, as not only are the walls curved, they’re also tapered.’ However, quirky properties don’t suit everyone. ‘Successful conversions leave as much of the original engineering exposed as possible,’ explains Prime Purchase‘s Robin Gould.
‘This often means the accommodation is compromised, although the wow factor isn’t. These places can be ideal for a holiday home, but aren’t always practical for everyday living.’ It can be sometimes hard to predict whether you’ll settle in happily until the conversion work is completed. Sam Harpa, a marine engineer who now works in the building trade, spent six years turning Lime Works, a Grade II-listed former water-processing plant in Faversham, Kent, into an arresting home that wouldn’t look out of place in Thunderbirds.
But when he finished the project and moved in with his family, it quickly became obvious that he hadn’t quite appreciated just how large the house would be-which eventually led him to put it on the market. ‘I don’t want to spend all my time vacuuming and cleaning windows,’ he says. of a quirky home remains impossible to beat. Passionate about the ‘tactile nature’ of period properties, Mike and Sheila Mills first bought a converted mill house in Somerset. They loved that you could see trout and kingfishers from the first-floor sitting room and that the side of the property went into the mill stream, so they would go to sleep hearing the sound of rushing water.
When they had to relocate for work, having lived in the mill house for three years, they once again went hunting for something period and unusual, and found a 17th-century tower. They’re now looking to downsize, but haven’t ruled out buying a third quirky property- although perhaps, laughs Mr Mills, this once, for a truly different experience, they’ll choose ‘just a typical Cotswold house.
UNUSUAL COUNTRY PROPERTIES FOR SALE
The Stone Tower, Warwickshire £1.75m, Knight Frank
The Lime Works, £2.5m, Savills
Kent, £2.5 million. The Lime Works, Faversham Owner Sam Harpa believes that being ‘still at a stage where potential buyers could put their finishing touches to it’ will fuel interest in The Lime Works, a Grade II-listed water tower conversion on Faversham’s outskirts. The house has tremendous light and affords far-reaching country views. Through Savills (01580 720161).