It’s been five years in the planning and building. The company behind it is bespoke developer Quada, headed up by Richard Bellman. We met on a cold cloudy day to be shown round.
As you enter the house there are beautiful coffee table books about Harford to admire, the rulebook is nowhere to be seen as that was discarded long ago when Richard conceived the idea to build on 40 acres in rural Berkshire. Richard is enthused as he shows us around this remarkable house that includes many of his thoughtful and personal touches. You could move in tomorrow and be perfectly happy with what’s there but also add your own stamp as the canvas is tastefully left for a new owner to complete.
Where do you start? Well the galleria (or entrance) is an unexpectedly, for a modern house, inviting space that leads into a welcoming lounge from which the rest of the house effortlessly flows. So not a grand staircase in sight, a refreshing start.
This residence at £30m is pitched at a rarified market, and for an owner looking for a country estate with modern (and equestrian) facilities close to the main travel arteries. You really wouldn’t believe it’s so close. From one of the many balconies you could be in the wilds of Cornwall, and that’s without a single leaf (yes spring is late this year) on any of the many trees surrounding the house.
As a reality check you can see Windsor Castle just five miles away perched on its chalk plinth. There, before your eyes, is a reminder of a starting point of castles and grand houses – Windsor was chosen as a site by William the Conqueror and from buildings such as these (as Richard enthusiastically points out) came the manors and grand country houses. Harford Manor is the modern embodiment of these forebears.
It’s hard to get over in words how almost cosy, yes cosy (that may sound ridiculous for a 23,000 sq ft house) this living space is. It represents a living style that Richard champions, and in doing so takes criticism and approval squarely on the chin. Criticism may be aimed at the (red brick) exterior by some and takes a little getting used to, but the landscaping ensures the home forms a discreet backdrop to the stunning grounds.
Richard is a passionate, creative man with a clear aim to break established preconceptions of what contemporary is and, I believe, succeeds in doing so. I came to the property with a built in bias against contemporary, as let’s face it there’s a lot in current contemporary design that look similar and could do with a touch more imagination. Much appears to be rather bland or mirrors a winning Georgian formulae.
Quada have another project on the go in Henley, and as with the Blue Jay property completed three years ago in Esher, it will have Quada’s distinct imprint offering a unique living style to suit the modern age.
Damien Hirst featured in essence a few years ago and stated “all art starts life as contemporary”. Indeed it does and this is a perfect example of how to get things beautifully right, no doubt Harford will find its buyer shortly.