“We do end to end at Strawberry Star. Funding, acquisition, implementation, development, management and transactions. The whole nine yards! One – that guarantees results. Our market leading results prove that. Two – it allows us to be passionate about service. An independent psychologist’s report exposed 76 percent of people in the UK as a whole and 88 percent in London have had a bad experience with estate agents. Our agency fee is two percent but you decide whether you want to pay the full amount or not. We help our new homeowners get set up with utility companies too.”
“The catalyst for Royal Victoria Dock taking off was the Canning Town regeneration. That and the Olympics. And now Asia Business Park and Crossrail. Canary Wharf is 10 minutes away; Bank’s 20 minutes. Planning permission has just been granted for the £3.5 billion Silvertown Quays project on 62 acres next to the Royal Docks. It’ll deliver offices, a tech hub and 3,000 new homes. By 2028 the population of this area is set to double – an increase of 103 percent compared to 16 percent for London over all. This area is in transition. You can use the water in the docks. So many sporting opportunities.”
“Hoola is a new gateway to the Royal Docks. HUB’s architects CZWG have designed two towers with a landscaped area by Churchman Landscape Architects in between. The 23 and 24 storey towers stand on a hill – 360 apartments with 360 degree views. Two world class iconic towers.”
“The carbon footprint of Hoola is really really small. The development is super insulated and is shaded by louvres. Heating and hot water is provided through a shared energy network using surplus heat from the nearby ExCel Exhibition Centre. The wrapped balconies are curved but the rooms are regular shapes. CZWG have planned well spatially. Strawberry Star is fully invested in the scheme. We’re even opening our own retail estate agency on the ground floor. We’ve a real focus on quality. Together with developer HUB we’re bringing Zone 1 style to Zone 3!”
Alex Isaac is Head of Design at Morpheus. Previously he was Creative Director at Linley and before that he designed yachts. Mega yachts. “Of course Morpheus is highly regarded in the development world,” he commences, “but increasingly we’re also taking on private commissions. We deliver one stop turnkey solutions for refurbishments as well as building new homes. Our development at Pond Place sums up the Morpheus approach to interiors – luxurious, elegant, not intimidating, relaxing, a calm environment.”
His experience designing mega yachts for Edmiston and Company is relevant. “The highest levels of design and craftsmanship are essential for yachts. But you only stay on your yacht about six weeks a year so it can be more ostentatious. It’s not your home!” When Jamie Edmiston acquired Linley, he took Alex with him. Alex’s parents are both interior designers. The Morpheus team includes architects, architectural technicians, interior designers and cabinetmakers. “We’ve got a vast database of suppliers,” he confirms. “And we design problems out at the very beginning, while keeping within budget and timescales.”
More on The Pavilion, all 3,600 internal square feet and 1,700 external square feet of it. Two lifts open into a central entrance hall lit by grand chandeliers. “It’s important to invest in fine pieces,” Alex believes, “to spend money where it counts. Sometimes we take inspiration from antiques to produce amazing timeless installations.” Beyond, to the front of the building is that entertainment space. A walnut floored reception area is balanced on one side by a dining room and on the other, a study. “Rather than one traditional desk,” he continues, “the study’s designed for hot desks but it’s still quite formal.” A wall of windows overlooking the 100 foot long terrace could prove distracting for getting any work done.
Namibia white marble corridors of certainty. To the rear of the host building is a quieter zone which includes a cluster of family bedrooms accessed off an inner hall. Marble is complemented by an indulgence of soft materials: velvet, suede, leather and 100 percent hand tied silk carpets. The bedrooms enjoy direct access onto a 60 foot long terrace. The master suite is separately accessed off the entrance hall and also overlooks the rear terrace. A glazed winter garden occupying part of the terrace allows for all year round relaxation. The square cut symmetry of the floorplate is matched by the classic balanced interiors. “We design through the eyes of our clients,” says Alex. “The nature of our work means we approach every commission like The Pavilion in a tailored fashion. This informs the design language to address our clients’ desires, needs and requirements.”
“I like to bring the detailing out of loose materials, such as pillowcases, and apply it to the architecture as well, to the walls,” he highlights. Style, comfort and technology form the golden trio of successful interiors. Alex notes an increasing desire by clients for long distance control of their homes’ environment: “These days Apple interface is usually requested.”
“At Morpheus,” Alex concludes, “we’re diverse. We don’t fall into the trap of a house style. Instead, each project takes on its own distinctive style. Projects are informed by choice and use of materials, restraint and patrician dexterity. Clients expect first class comfort as well as distinguished style and the latest technology. That’s what makes up our DNA!” So far, so good innings.
Back in the days when Mountainstown was in the hands of Johnny and Diana Pollock, over supper in the kitchen Diana had said, “It wasn’t easy auctioning many of the contents of the house. But you can always buy back furniture and paintings in the future. Once you sell land it’s – well it’s gone. We kept the pieces with the closest links to the house.” Lot 1122: ‘A pair of composition urns, the vase shaped bodies with gadrooned socles and spreading fluted bases, on square plinths, £5 to £10.’ Lot 237: ‘An equestrian portrait of Mr Dixon, Master of the Meath Hounds, on his chestnut hunter with eight couples of hounds at heel, by Thomas Bretland, £20,000 to £30,000.’
Together the couple sunk the funds raised from Christie’s 1988 auction into restoring the house.They also let out Mountainstown as a film location. “The film September was set here,” she had recalled. “The house was filled with stars – among them Jacqueline Bisset, Virginia McKenna, Edward Fox and Michael York.” A generation and great recession later, one quarter of a millennium of Pollock ownership is coming to an end. Mountainstown was passed down to Arthur Pollock, Johnny and Diana’s elder son, in 2004. Arthur moved in with his wife Atalanta and their three children. They continued the restoration work, installing a new kitchen to the former billiard room wing and painting the staircase hall fawn. But now Mountainstown is for sale through Savills for almost £3 million.
Atty explains, “It was a huge decision and not one that came easily. But we don’t want the children to struggle to keep it, y’know. We want it to be enjoyed to the full by a new family. Somebody who would use all this amazing pasture – and permanent pasture, 120 acres of it. Someone who has an interest in horses. Maybe someone who likes hunting. I mean there are copious stables, a lovely yard.” She knows the history well: “Samuel Gibbons who built the house, after he died an impression was taken of his face and it was embossed onto the ceiling in the hall.” As for the wild boar image which appears throughout the interior, Atty comments, “The story is and it may – it may well be true, that the King of France was being charged by a wild boar that they were hunting and Lieutenant Pollock killed it with an arrow. So he was given a crest – the family crest. And the house has so much personality cause you see all over the house this motif of a wild boar recurring.”
Atalanta Pollock reminisces, “We’ve had really memorable parties here. We filled the house with people and friends. We’ve had lots of people to stay the night which makes for much better parties as we all know. And it’s been a fun place to live in, yeah. It’s been a lot of work but it’s been a lot of fun as well.” Hopefully Mountainstown will remain a private house whoever buys it. Surely Ireland has reached country house hotel saturation? That said, one country house hotel has never looked better. After languishing on the property market for several years, Castlebellingham finally sold for £1.25 million, a quarter of its 2008 asking price. The Corscadden family have since spent over £3 million on a convincing restoration.
Maidin mhaith. Tiree, Stornoway, Lerwick, Wick Automatic, Aberdeen, Leuchars, Boulmer, Bridlington, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic, Greenwich Light Vessel Automatic, St Catherine’s Point Automatic, Jersey, Channel Light Vessel Automatic, Scilly Automatic, Milford Haven, Aberporth, Valley, Liverpool Crosby, Valentia, Ronaldsway, Malin Head, Machrihanish Automatic. For the uninitiated that’s the pure poetry of Radio 4’s shipping forecast, a rhapsodic melodic episodic late night cruise circumnavigating the coastlines of the British Isles. Gotcha. The penultimate location, Malin Head, is the exposed most northerly point of Ireland teetering on the tip of the Innishowen Peninsula in view of the Aurora Borealis. The ultimate location in this neck of the island is Castle Grove. Unlike windswept Malin Head, next stop Iceland, this timid estate lies huddled off the Wild Atlantic Way in the sheltered mid southwest wiggle of Lough Swilly, the waterspace separating the peninsula from the mainland.
A mile long drive sweeps through 350 acres of bucolic parkland as composed as a Derek Hill landscape; a wave of anticipation rises, then behold, a house kinda four square, an abiding place of great and unsearchable things. Like two faced Clandeboye, the principal elevations stand proud at right angles to one another. Face to avenue, face to sea. Castle Grove isn’t like Edward Lovett Pearce’s poppet of Palladian perfection Bellamont Forest, Ireland’s Mereworth (currently on the market for less than £1 million, 1,000 acres included, the price of a two bed flat in Battersea), designed to be seen from every angle including a drone. Nope, it’s country house front, farmhouse back. The four bay façade with central Tuscan porch qualifies Castle Grove as an older rural cousin of Belvedere House, Drumbo, a “middling sized house” splash in Charlie Brett’s Buildings of North Down. Precious cornerstones, sure foundations.
Subsumed within its solid footprint dwells an older house dating back to 1730 and 1695. A radical makeover brought Castle Grove bang up to date for the swinging 1820s. As the Groves went up in the world, onward marching in the direction of the neoclassical vanguard, so did the height of their windows and ceilings. The resultant idiosyncrasies only add to the house’s charm. Four of the windows on the south facing entrance front are higher outside than in, highlighted when the shutters are pulled and a dark gap appears above them. A shuttered cupboard in the Samuel Beckett Room was once a window on the original east elevation. The shutters are set at a cute acute angle on one side of the dressing room (now en suite) windows of the replacement 1820s east elevation, maintaining symmetry. As do the two blind windows An antique porch astutely fills the vacancy of the central axis on the entrance front. A conservatory, the 19th century equivalent of today’s cinema room, was added to the side. Castle Grove now looks like “a beautiful Regency house” says leading heritage architect John O’Connell. It is a country house repurposed, just, as an airy hotel and restaurant. The eponymous erstwhile owners the Groves are long gone. The hospitable able hosts the Sweeneys are here to stay. Breezily braving the elements alone with nature – and paying guests.
Tráthnóna maith. The eclipse has come and gone; spring equinox is here. Snowdrops have disappeared, daffodils are in full bloom, primroses on their way. It’s time to talk to Mary Sweeney, châtelaine of Castle Grove since 1989. She and her husband Raymond bought the house and estate from Commander Peter Colin Drummond Campbell and his wife Lady Moyra Kathleen Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn’s sister. Commander C inherited it on the death of Major James Grove. Incidentally (there are always lots of incidents in life) Lady M was one of Queen Elizabeth II’s five Maids of Honour at her Coronation. “The land steward and housekeeper kept Castle Grove in good shape. For the first year we lived in the house and opened it as a B and B. We wanted to develop it but not spoil it. The house, it was a real challenge. We wanted to keep the characteristics, the symmetries. We again looked and looked at it. In the end we pushed the entire house back into part of the rear courtyard. The stable wing was already lofted so we retained its front and added a corridor behind linking it to the main house. We didn’t want guests having to go out in the rain. The bedrooms in this wing are just as big as those in the main house. We reroofed the conservatory. We never demolished a wall in the original house. Instead we adapted windows as doors or indoor mirrors. I feel a great obligation to maintain Castle Grove.” This is not Grand Designs or Changing Rooms. This is heritage. This is history. This is Hibernia.
“When we applied for a dining room addition the planning officers wanted it to be a conservatory. But that part of the house faces northeast and rarely gets direct sunlight! It took a year to resolve, to get our sympathetically designed extension approved. We didn’t want the corner sticking out in views from the driveway so it’s chamfered. We turned the original sideboard recess into double doors under a fanlight. A local carpenter built the doors to match the 1820s double doors between the two main reception rooms. The fanlight is based on the one between the entrance and staircase halls. The original dining room is now the Red Drawing Room and next door is the Yellow Drawing Room. The marble fireplace in the new dining room is a replica from my old home. I jokingly asked Portadown Fireplaces if they could remake it based on a photo and sure enough they did!” The house is filled with modern Irish paintings. Appropriately there are seascapes and mountainscapes aplenty. “Buying paintings from young artists exhibiting their work on the railings of St Stephen’s Green in Dublin in summer stemmed our interest. Artists like Maurice Wilks, Liam Jones, Brendan Timmons. Derek Hill gave us his oil painting Donegal Late Harvest. Derek brought many guests here. Really such a humble man and so friendly.” The house is filled with antiques. “We have some stories to tell about auctions! Newark Antiques Fair is good. So is the Mill at Ballinderry. The bed in the George B Shaw Room came from Seventh Heaven outside Chester. The beds are unbelievable there! That bed was made for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. When we bought the four poster in the Jonathan Swift Room we used saddle soap and toothbrushes to carefully clean it before using French polish. Beds and food – they’re so important!” As for the chandeliers, Sia would swing from them.
Saol maith. It’s time to talk to Mary’s daughter Irene who is managing reception (the former flower room). “The weather is unpredictable in Donegal or perhaps that should be predictable – it rains a fair bit! Donegal may be right off the Atlantic but we’re very inland here. The house has a warm, loving presence. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere. Whether this is us as a family, or the building, I’m not sure. The Groves were extremely good landlords, especially during the famine when they fed and educated local children in the long barn. Perhaps this generosity and goodwill has over the centuries seeped into the walls. There’s houses before you know the history, they’re chilling…”
If too long to serve undivided saw them in too; cover the open ends with a lump of paste and a cloth floured and tied close. The paste must be removed before being sent to table. Boil 1½ and 2 hours according to size. Put a ruffle of papar round each & serve in a napkin, with very hot toast. The marrow is spread on very hot toast & seasoned with pepper & salt.”
Raisins cleaned & minced 2 lbs. Sugar 3½ lbs. Salt 8 ozs, green ginger 8 ozs red pepper 2 ozs garlic ½ ozs. These with the exception of raisins & sugar to be separately well pounded then mixed. Add to them the raisins & sugar & lastly 1 bottle of vinegar. This quantity will make nearly 4 bottles. Fill & leave them in the sun in India but at home cook for about an hour.”
“White Milk Soup
1 onion. 1 carrot. 1 turnip. 3 cloves stuck in the onion. A little stock made of rabbit vial, fowl or mutton (best of the three first). Put the vegetables in the stock & boil for an hour and a half to two hours. Strain salt through a verry fine hair seive. Then warm 1 pint of new milk and add all these together. Season with pepper and salt. This soup must be made just before using as it will not keep – the vegetables turn the milk sour.”
“To Prevent Bed Sores
10 grains of the nitrate of silver, to 1 oz of water, to be applied by means of a camel hair brush over every part exhibiting the highest appearance of inflammation, 2 or 3 times a day, until the skins has become blackened, afterwards only occassionally [sic].”
There are parties and there’s the not so laboured or conservative but very liberal London launch of Luxury Living an equidistant plumped up embossed cushion’s throw from Harrods and Harvey Nics and Hyde Park and Harriet Walk and heaven. It’s the local shop for One Hyde Park. Being Knightsbridge that means a treasure filled palazzo. Limos stretching, (thick pile country pile) scarlet carpet calling, ropes a riposte to the common people segretating, champers flowing, rich doors opening, (the world’s your) oysters on tap. What’s not to adore? You know you’ve landed when even the bidet is solid gold. The World of Interiors and their partner are here. It’s our first party where there are nearly as many bodyguards as guests. Nope, that’s not a fake Van Dyck. Yon butterfly thing, yep it’s a Damo Hirst. The old and new masters are courtesy of Milanese galleristJerome Zodo. “I’m opening my first gallery in London,” he tells Lavender’s Blue, “on Dering Street off the top of New Bond Street.” Luxury Living is lined wall to wall with models and that’s just the waiters and marble busts. Founder Alberto Vignatelli enthuses, “We are delighted to open our new store in an area of London synonymous with luxury living. London’s concentration of wealth and power and international audiences with impeccable taste in interiors makes it the perfect city to start Luxury Living’s next chapter.” It’s really not a dog’s life but if Rover is a discerning fan of Top Gear, the Bentley pet bed is a must at £3,960 a puppop. Luxury Living proves Italians really are more stylish.