Country houses for sale

From organic pools to £100k huts, the seven trends defining the housing market today

From natural swimming pools to shepherd's huts with six-figure price tags, there are all sorts of things which are getting buyers excited at the moment. Country Life's property editor Annunciata Elwes asks the experts for the latest.

In the swim of things

‘Organic-looking pools have become the latest status symbol for homeowners with swathes of landscaped grounds. Designed to look like a pond, they are more aesthetically pleasing than their blue-tiled counterparts and also encourage wildlife, chiming with our growing desire to connect with the great outdoors,’ says Stefan Pitman, founder of award-winning architecture practice Spase. ‘Reliant on natural biological filtration rather than chemicals, these are the ultimate low-maintenance amenity, a must-have for those who love wild swimming.’

Bringing the outside in

There’s no denying the rising focus of Nature in the home, from garden rooms to outdoor sitting rooms and wide-open walls. Case in point is the ‘floating corner’ bedroom at Millgarth, Melsonby, North Yorkshire, a barn conversion and annexe in nearly three acres, on with Finest Properties at offers over £2 million.

Claire Sá, co-founder and director of architectural and interior-design company De Rosee Sa, sees many more renovations that extend to the rear, often forming a light-filled kitchen and dining area with one foot in the great outdoors. ‘The garden has become part of the contemporary living experience.’

She advises ‘investing in the re-design of your garden and thinking of it as an extension of the home with dedicated dining and seating areas, perhaps even an outdoor kitchen, rather than reducing its size for an extension’.

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The £100,000 hut

‘Although the garden office is nothing new, we are seeing demand for detached structures with somewhat extravagant bells and whistles,’ says SPASE’s Mr Pitman. ‘These are typically connected to the main house, perhaps by a pergola or glass walkway, and function as a multipurpose space for both work and play. Clients are also considering the surrounding environment and approach, be that the addition of a slate-bottomed pool, Japanese bath or artful landscaping, which often takes the budget for this garden “hut” into six figures.’

The shepherd’s huts at Elmley Nature Reserve in Sheerness.

Having your say in the new-build process

‘Design-wise, new-builds can feel reasonably cold, which is why many people looking for character are put off. Others, too, can be put off by the density of the build — many houses built in a small plot can create a feeling of claustrophobia, especially in more rural settings,’ explains Harry Gladwin, partner at The Buying Solution.

‘Where new-builds really come into their own is when the purchaser has had a hand in the design and they are made to feel a part of the process — this helps the “storytelling” and “experience” element of the buying journey, even if the history is lacking.’

A sense of history

The flurry of buildings, both residential and commercial, that have shot up around Battersea Power Station, London SW11, in the past few years — creating a new London village of tremendous character — are testament to the allure of history. The building that once produced one-fifth of the capital’s power reopened in 2022 and now contains more than 100 shops, a vast office space, taken over by Apple, and 254 apartments.

‘Demand to live at Battersea Power Station is strong and continues to grow. With so much of the neighbourhood now open, including the six-acre Power Station Park and the great mix of shops, bars, restaurants and leisure venues, there is an undeniable energy… it is a very special place to live,’ says Anatoly Alekseev, co-founder of interior-design studio Black & Milk, which just unveiled its new Pico House apartment on the site, in Prospect Place, a collaboration with architect Frank Gehry.

The X-factor

Cutting-edge design aspects do appeal, even if it’s simply a state-of-the-art sound system, triple glazing, supreme insulation or ecological credentials. One standout example down in the peaceful village of Furzebrook, Dorset, not far from Corfe Castle, is the radical transformation of a Victorian family house brought about by a modern extension designed by owner-developer Lewis Donoghue of Lewel Construction in collaboration with Gruff Architects.

The Purbeck Project in Dorset, with cutting-edge Kebony wood cladding

Expansive glazing and the views it affords complement local Purbeck stone and a cladding of wire-brushed Kebony Shou Sugi Ban. Developed in Norway, Kebony wood is produced (through a patented process) by modifying sustainable softwoods, such as pine, to create a timber with tropical hardwood-esque aesthetic, durability and stability, which diverts the need for deforestation and thus reduces CO2 emissions. The company was recognised as a Financial Times Tech Champion in 2023. Known as The Purbeck Project, this four-bedroom house is available to rent via Airbnb.

To sleep, perchance to dream

We’re seeing a ‘near-obsessional focus on the bedroom,’ observes Alex Michelin, co-founder and CEO of property developer Valouran — it’s ‘the one space that can deliver the commodity prized by successful people above all others — quality sleep’.  Mr Michelin explains that his company insist upon ‘high levels of acoustic protection between floor slabs and within the walls to prevent sound transfers between rooms and apartments, and windows with noise reduction built into their design… most importantly, in the bedrooms. With this as a backdrop, we layer blackout blinds or curtains… together with sumptuous deep-pile carpets or rugs to absorb any unwanted noise. Our air-conditioning systems are over-specified to ensure that, even in those warm summer months, our residents can sleep undisturbed from noise.’

Sensible living

With the rise of the home office, fully open plan is definitely out. However a certain adaptability of living space is increasingly valuable, finds Sian-Louise Tangney, head of sales in Knight Frank’s Battersea & Riverside office. ‘Buyers are attracted to fluid and practical living spaces. More people are using their homes in multi-dimensional ways and this brings a new need for zoning within the home. Extensions that can give buyers extra space to accommodate this way of living are proving popular. I find there is a preference for a large, social kitchen.’

A good example is a five-bedroom Victorian house in East Dulwich, London SE22, which has been thoughtfully remodelled by Hamish Vincent and Benjamin Hale to create a contemporary home with the kitchen at its heart, ‘seamlessly connecting to the meticulously landscaped rear garden’; It’s for sale at £1.6 million with Knight Frank.

This stylish East Dulwich house is on the market at £1.6m.