Country houses for sale

Luxury island retreats

According to the recent Wealth Report 2007 by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, which examines the property buying habits of the seriously loaded, the new rich have a problem. As their numbers increase, they are running out of the right kind of property to buy, which last year resulted in prices for the world’s most expensive properties rising by 14%, com-pared with 9% in the prime residential market as a whole.

The really rich are ‘different’ from the rest of us, so, naturally, the criteria they employ when buying a property are different too. Time ‘the one thing which cannot be bought’ is a key factor, so convenience and accessibility are crucial, not only in terms of the commute to work, but also in terms of access to leisure pursuits. Luxury is important, prestige even more so. Privacy is seen as a mark of both, and, as well as time, is one of the most significant issues for high net worth individuals (HNWIs). The UK-based HNWIs see tax as the most important strategic issue for the future. Increasingly, the report concludes, the compulsion of the super rich to remain exclusive and ‘ahead of the game’ will drive the demand for locations served only by private jet, and ‘island locations will become ever more desirable’.

Only two properties located within an hour of the British mainland appear to tick all the boxes. The first is the remarkable Ocean House overlooking Rocquaine Bay on Guernsey’s dramatic west coast priced at £8.5 million through Swoffers (01481 711766) and Martel Maides (01481 713463) in Guernsey, and Knight Frank (020?7861 1707) in London. The brainchild of East Anglia-based developer Michael Carr and his wife, Joy, the inspirational 11,000sq ft house was designed by architect Roger Baldwin along the lines of an early Frank Lloyd Wright ‘prairie house’, to blend seamlessly with the contours of the pine clad Guernsey hillside. The other overriding aim was that all the main rooms should take full advantage of the spectacular views, whether the occupants be ‘standing, sitting or lying down’, Michael Carr explains.

Certainly, everything about Ocean House is designed to take your breath away from the boldness of the flowing internal layout to the interaction of the over hanging roofs and balconies. It took the Carrs and their team five years to design the house and get their plans approved, and three years to build it, sourcing materials from all over the world granite from China, roof tiles from India, windows from the US, doors from Sweden, fireplaces from Holland, and maple from England, Germany, Holland and Scandinavia.

Everywhere, the impression is one of light and space, but Ocean House is still a practical family home, with an informal sitting room, open-plan dining and drawing room, a library, a kitchen/breakfast room, four/five bedrooms, an indoor pool complex and a snooker/media room with, wait for it, a tangerine snooker table. The 2.5 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds have been designed, no less imaginatively, as a series of sheltered spaces, each with its own theme, from Tuscan to Provençal and Japanese.

In total contrast, Bishopscourt at Kirk Michael, Isle of Man currently on the market through Chrystals (01624 812236) and Knight Frank (020?7629 8171) at a guide price of ‘excess £6m ‘is arguably the island’s most historic house. Founded by Bishop Simon in about 1247, the oldest part of the 17,904sq ft house dates from the late 14th century. For six centuries, Bishopscourt was the seat of the Bishops of Sodor and Man, during which time the medieval hall and original pele tower have survived ‘the hazards of neglect, fire, and restoration’ wrought by successive bishops. In 1858, Bishop Powys replaced the Georgian chapel with the present Victorian Gothic one, and the present house was rebuilt in a similar style following a fire in 1893. Since 1979, Bishopscourt has been privately owned, and, in recent years, was the home of Lancashire industrialist William Lomas, until his premature death two years ago. Mr Lomas completely renovated the house, which has five splendid reception rooms, eight bed-rooms, extensive staff quarters, a massive coach house, outbuildings and 10.5 acres of gardens and grounds.