Harford Manor is a striking new home at the very top end of the market which is undeniably fabulous on the inside – and which will be undeniably divisive on the outside.
‘All art starts life as contemporary.’ Now there’s a statement of intent, coming from someone trying to sell a new house.
These words – a quote from Damien Hirst – are plucked out and used prominently in the brochure for the £30 million Harford Manor, a newly-built home in a fantastically handy location that wilfully flies in the face of the conventions of the country house.
The house is near the pretty village of Holyport, five minutes off the M4 near Maidenhhead. It sits within a huge property, encompassing 40 acres of land with landscaped gardens, woodland and – as you might expect from one of the most horse-mad corners of Britain – paddocks.
The setting close to a picturesque village green, adjacent to miles of polo fields and within sight of Windsor Castle all scream traditional England, as does Harford Manor’s very name. Yet house itself screams anything but.
It’s a six-bedroom home laid out across 22,000 square feet, with every inch of the place designed and refine to the Nth degree. All the bedrooms have an en-suite bathroom apart from the master bedroom, which has two. And if you really want to enjoy a nice soack there’s a separate spa bath room next to it, which opens out onto a balcony.
The study is a particular stand-out, occupying a space all of its own on the second floor and making the most of the views – a sort of baby penthouse, if you like.
Also of special note are the hallway – sorry, ‘Galleria’ – with its stained glass feature windows and mirrors (it’s pictured at the top of this page). The living room is interesting as well, with angled walls creating a fine vista that still puts a fireplace in the centre of the room. There’s also an orangery off to one side.
At this point we’d normally specify how many reception rooms there are, but in this case it’s more or less impossible: sliding panels allow the living spaces to be reconfigured depending on what you need.
What we can say is that those spaces include a fine-looking home cinema room, a plush dining room and a library. The pool and whirlpool spa bath are housed in a separate leisure centre wing, which extends the living space by 5,000sq ft.
Outside there’s a tennis court (grass, naturally), a helipad, stables, paddocks and an indoor riding centre, all tucked away behind mature trees at the end of a driveway which is over half a mile long.
The interiors are without question stunning; the exterior design, however, will be divisive. It’s largely brick-built, with areas that are wood-panelled and others that are painted white. All aspects are angular and unashamedly utilitarian, in a world where many buyers hanker after curves, grace and elegance.
The developer, Richard Bellman of Quada, clearly realises that Harford Manor is a building which will raise eyebrows and ruffle feathers. And rather than hide behind that fact, he has instead come out fighting, suggesting that this is a home which seeks to re-define what an English country house could and should be – hence the Damien Hirst quote.
‘Large new-build houses, both neoclassic and contemporary, are generally pretty soulless,’ says Bellman.
‘The design intent at Harford Manor has been to combine the wow factor of contemporary design with the intimacy of a home. That’s not easy with a blank canvas.
‘But when you walk in there, it’s warm and something completely different. Although fully serious, this is a fun house — not a dry investment.
‘You want to get the same sensation walking into it as when you use your iPhone or drive a Tesla,’ adds Bellman, ‘where the house has soul but truly reflects the other key aspects of your life.’
Only you will know whether you feel that way about your mobile phone or your car. But full credit to Bellman for his unapologetic boldness and contrarianism in a part of the market which, as he himself points out, is dominated by neo-Classical and neo-Georgian architecture.
No doubt Harford will find its buyer. The agent, Trevor Kearney of Savills, suggests it will be someone ‘coming from the Middle East or Far East and using Harford Manor for the summer months’, who values the high-tech gadgetry throughout, privacy of the place and the high-end hotel vibe of the interiors.
‘Never before have I seen a brand new country Estate of this nature,’ adds Kearney.
You can say that again as we’re pretty sure nobody has – Harford really is unique. We’re fascinated to see if this remain a one-off or if it will prompt others to head off in new directions.
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