‘Breathtaking’ Roman-inspired Grand Designs suburban home for sale for £5.95million

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Wow. What a house,” says Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud as he approaches the zigzag-shaped, Sedum-roofed Abbey Orchard House in a 2017 episode, completed after 10 painstaking years.

Accessed by crossing a moat-like water feature, the single-storey house is built on the grounds of St Albans Abbey and is, as McCloud put it, “part Japanese, part medieval cloister , partly Roman-influenced villa”.

Now, after six years as a family home, Abbey Orchard House is up for sale – for £5.95million.

Just half a mile from St Albans town centre, the house was designed by its owners, Chris and Kayo, and their architect, Rogan Gale-Brown.

The atrium, connecting the two wings of the house

/ Savills

The couple and their three children originally lived in the house next door, which, by their own admission, “there was nothing wrong with it”.

That said, the unoccupied plot next door attracted some anti-social behavior. They decided to buy it and build an ambitious new house in its place – but, being on a listed historic site, it was subject to strict planning permissions.

It was necessary to follow the lines of the previous archaeological trenches to respect the medieval and Roman remains buried below.

To avoid obscuring the Abbey, the town planners wanted the building to be on one level. And, to reduce the weight of the building on the archeology below, the property must be constructed of wood.

In the end, it took six years to agree on a design that met the necessary requirements, and another four to build the house.

Today, the house covers a whopping 5,175 square feet, with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and four reception rooms.

Leaning against the river Ver, it is surrounded by two hectares of land, almost merging with the surrounding greenery.

“It’s just a lovely place,” says agent Nick Ingle, who says the property’s location – well-connected to London, with good schools – is one of its biggest selling points. “This is a very tranquil and peaceful home, which you really wouldn’t expect to see in the heart of St Albans.”

The house is “part Japanese, part medieval cloister, part Roman-influenced villa,” Kevin McCloud said.

/ Savills

He adds: “The finish — and it’s very clear — is quite special too. It took them a long time to get to the finished product. It is a true masterpiece.

Passing through the high double entrance doors, the house opens onto a 30-meter glazed atrium that connects its two wings.

Since the property is designed to have no hallways, it is a vast space, with light streaming in from its floor-to-ceiling windows on either side and from above.

“Inside, it’s breathtaking,” McCloud said when the house was featured on Grand Designs in 2017. “The light is so soft you can almost touch it; taste it.”

The “main event” is the living room, with a huge geometric double-sided woodstove at its center. Framed by the gardens of the house, the room leads to the dining room – which shares the other side of the wood-burning stove – and the kitchen, intended to blend seamlessly.

The five bedrooms, meanwhile, are all located on the opposite wing of the house, each with a private terrace sloping to capture the sun. The two main bedrooms – named Abbey and River Suites – have walk-in closets and en-suite bathrooms.

The double-sided wood stove

/ Savills

In total, over 300 drawings were produced for the design of Abbey Orchard House, including over 100 for the interiors. The house is completely lined with maple, intended to create a warm atmosphere and create a unique and orderly aesthetic.

Despite all that glass, the property has been built to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, thanks to its triple glazing and 300mm of insulation.

There is also luxury: a cinema room with a built-in 120-inch screen and electronic blackout blinds. A cozy 10-seater that takes advantage of the morning light. Parking for 20 cars. Automated heating, blinds, lights and electrical appliances, all controllable by telephone. A 100-meter river walk, designed for “quiet contemplation”. A miniature golf course (Chris played professionally, before running and owning golf resorts).

For the family, the one-story layout made them feel more connected, rather than having the kids upstairs and the parents downstairs, Kayo said in the Grand Designs episode.

“As a home to live in, it’s all we could hope for – maybe a whole lot more,” Chris added. “The Romans were here 2000 years ago; the monastery 500 years ago; here we are today. That’s just our little statement on the planet right now.

Now, however, the family is moving on and the house is looking for its next owner.

“[It would suit] someone who really wants something different,” says Ingle. “A property like this comes up very, very rarely. People often refer to properties as “unique” – most of them aren’t. But you’re not going to find another one.

Abbey Orchard House is listed with Savills for £5.95 million.

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