DRIVING along leafy Cherry Tree Lane, a winding rural road near Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, there is no sight of the spectacular Home House. It is only when you pass through the electronically controlled wooden gates, and drive down the imposing tree-lined avenue, that this very modern mansion reveals itself in all its brick, glass and Douglas fir-clad finery.
The wealthy Fry chocolate family once had a lavish house here, but today it is the home of design consultant Ian Silverstein, who has built a highly contemporary 3,918sq ft house, flooded with natural light, in a no-detail-spared, challenging two-year project.
Ian, who set up his first design company at 21, had lived nearby in the poetically named Lilly Lane, but jumped at the opportunity to buy this lovely 1.5-acre property, with its ancient trees and beautiful views over the countryside.
Working with architects Platform 5, he has created a splendid four-bedroom family home which has trailblazing smart technology credentials. There is ‘Little House’, too — a separate three-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling, with a vast garage, just behind the main house.
The house even generates around £100,000 of income each year through being used as a location for photo shoots and music videos.
‘The property is amazingly tranquil when you consider its location,’ Ian says. ‘I can be in King’s Cross in 20 minutes and I’m just minutes away from St Albans and Hemel Hempstead rail stations. And I love the fact that from the road, you wouldn’t even know the house is here.’
The large entrance foyer, with its double-height ceiling, boasts a panel near the door that turns off every light in the house, on departure. To the left is a utility room with a back door to the garage and a room containing controls to many of the high-tech features: a purified water system and underfloor heating. There is also oodles of built-in storage.
Another room — which Ian has branded ‘the spaceship’ — holds the key to the day and night security cameras, the Rako lighting system, Sonos music system and the internet. Each room is individually controlled by thermostats.
But it’s the aesthetic detail that embodies the care Ian has lavished on this uber-modern property. Poured concrete floors throughout the spacious ground floor are lent warmth by the Douglas fir cladding in the bathrooms — reflecting the wooden cladding on the outside of the house.
There are sensor lights in many rooms and unusually, all the doors are full height. Drop shadow architraving and skirtings have created cool, clear lines that work beautifully with the open-plan design of the house.
On the ground floor, one wing contains three bedrooms with their elegant en-suite bathrooms. Slide-and-turn doors from the living room to the deck that wraps around the back of the house mean that a fourth wall opens completely to the outdoors.
The kitchen has a cavernous, secret, walk-in larder and is dressed with warm walnut cupboards and Corian work surfaces which echo the aesthetic of the concrete floor. Tom Dixon pendant lights with glittering gold interiors add a touch of bling. The open-plan living room has an enormous, recessed TV screen, while the more formal ‘winter’ sitting room next door has a double-height ceiling and a skylight, with the fireplace wall lined with more vertical panels of Douglas fir.
Outside, the forest is littered with colourful hammocks and wooden chairs clustered cosily around a firepit.
There are quirky touches here, too — the two bottom stairs on the stairwell are storage drawers. It is upstairs, however, where you get the full ‘indulgent’ experience of this home.
The spectacular study/cinema room is effectively another living room with the same slide-and-turn doors that open to a vast roof terrace.
Ian even designed a slanted surface to the top of this terrace wall so that drinks placed on it have no chance of toppling down to the ground. The terrace wraps itself in a stylish zig-zag around the house and can be accessed by the spacious master bedroom at the other end.
Here a feature wall of ‘Fuji’ silk wallpaper adds a dreamy feel to a room with unimpeded views into the nearby woods.
There’s a huge walk-in dressing room with a picture window and a rather fabulous en-suite bathroom with a sunken tub that has views over the countryside.
The walk-through double shower area at the back (Ian’s dubbed it the ‘human carwash’) has cedar shingles on one wall in a shiplap style, which give it the feel of a country cottage. The house is built so that many rooms capture both the sunrise and dramatic sunsets, and there are regular visits by wildlife such as rabbits, pheasant and muntjac deer.
So why is Ian selling this little slice of paradise? ‘I’ve enjoyed developing this — and I’ve loved living here,’ he says. ‘But I travel a lot and my life has changed. My partner Miriam (whose artwork adorns the dining room downstairs) wants to move on and build a new property together. But I shall really miss the tranquility of this place. It is very special.’