Diamonds are forever
PUBLISHED: 16:39 08 February 2008 | UPDATED: 15:01 20 February 2013
Purchased from De Beers, Charters, near Ascot, is a gem of a luxury development. Just before its completion this spring, Tessa Harris was given a sneak preview...
WITH A HISTORY of royal connections and an epithet of 'the last of the great country houses to be built in England', restoration of Charters was always going to be a very special project.
But as it nears completion after more than four years of careful restoration and redevelopment, it is clear that this stunning Art Deco mansion, in Sunninghill, and the two other complimentary apartment blocks that now accompany it, are worthy of the title of one of the country's leading residences.
Back in 2004 the original mansion was acquired by Sabre Developments with the aim of restoring and refurbishing the original mansion and adding two new-build apartment blocks in a similar style. Formerly occupied by the diamond dealers, De Beers, the site was occupied by several industrial buildings, which were demolished before work was begun on the mansion itself.
Even in its infancy the project was truly impressive. The original Charters was built in 1938 in the 'Vogue Regency' style, akin to Art Deco. It is therefore a modernist building, Its original owner, Frank Parkinson, wanted his country retreat to be 'modern, luxurious, yet practical', incorporating all the wonders that modern technology could provide.
The result from the drawing board of avant-garde architect George Adie, is a homage to Le Corbusier and Art Deco, with a splash of Frank Lloyd Wright thrown in for good measure.
The house soon acquired a reputation among the great and the good of the era. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor used it as their country bolthole and at least two US presidents and Sir Winston Churchill also visited the house.
It was subsequently bought by Sir Montague Burton the tailor. The business tycoon installed telephone lines on the roof terrace with a direct dial connection to the Burton headquarters in Leeds.
He used to work on the terrace throughout the winter, preferring to brave the elements rather than be in his office.
Outside the building is square and solid, built from blocks of Portland stone. The windows, cast in bronze and beaded with teak, add more squares and rectangles to this geometric vision.
Inside the original wood panelling and marble floor have been preserved and many of the apartments retain their original features such as the elegant fireplaces, fine wooden bookcases and in one, the genuine bespoke marble bathroom designed for the original owner.
The show home in this building opened last year and only one of these apartments remains unsold.
The two new-build blocks are known as The Court and The Garden House. The former comprises 16 two and three bedroom apartments and is positioned to take full advantage of the views over the gardens - 20 acres in all.
The latest show home to open to potential buyers is, however, in The Garden House, which pays its respects to the original mansion by echoing its style, but it is by no means a pastiche. It blends classic Art Deco features with contemporary design to reflect the striking architecture of the new-build apartments.
Heavy American maple doors open onto an impressive tiled hallway, immediately reminiscent of the 1920s and 30s in style, but with contemporary twists. A touch pad by the front door introduces you to the wonderful technology that has been incorporated into this amazingly luxurious apartment. With the press of a finger on a touch pad the lights come on, the curtains are drawn and your chosen music starts to play.
This CAT 5e wiring infrastructure supports all manner of telecommunication, data and internet applications.
Touch screens allow you to control heating, cooling, audio and TV from any screen. You can even set your oven to come on at a certain time when you're abroad.
The main reception room is very large with a floor to ceiling window that looks out onto a massive private terrace with views of the rolling grounds beyond.
The fireplace is classically designed in stone and above it hangs a plasma screen TV, cleverly disguised as a mirror.
An acid etched glass door leads to the kitchen and dining area that looks out onto the terrace. As you might expect, no expense has been spared here, with Bulthaup cabinet fittings in dark wood and laminate veneer finishes.
The integrated technology includes Gaggenau appliances. Here the latest steam technology ovens mean that much of the food's natural nutrients are retained during cooking. There is a large wine cooler for the connoisseur, too, and cold-to-touch induction hobs for the ultimate in kitchen safety.
There is an attractive study that could be used as a fourth bedroom; however, Sabre has commissioned bespoke furniture for the room which now houses a desk, sofa and book shelves.
There are three beautifully proportioned bedrooms, each with their own en suite. The master bedroom also has its own dressing room and even a splash-proof plasma screen at the end of the bath for the ultimate viewing pleasure!
And is if that weren't enough, residents also have the benefit of The Spa - a purpose-built luxury leisure complex that houses a 50ft heated pool, a fully-equipped gym, sauna, Turkish bath and a billiards room. The services of a personal trainer, beauty therapists and masseuses are all available on request.
Add to this tennis courts and a running track and you have some of the finest leisure facilities on site in the country. And there's more: a 24 hour concierge and management service can cater for your every whim or need - from sorting out your dry cleaning, to party planning, to arranging direct helicopter links for destinations throughout Europe.
For many of the buyers, it will be their second or third home and so security is paramount. There is secured underground parking and CCTV surveillance video to all entrances.
Twenty-one of the apartments have already been sold and only 13 remain.
Buyers come both from England and further afield and there is a wide age range, say the developers. Attracted not only by the apartments themselves but also by the location, near some of the best sporting territory there is, with prestigious golf courses such as Wentworth and Sunningdale only a stone's throw away, and with polo and Ascot just on the doorstep.
The huge project has taken a great deal of time, energy and devotion but, after four years, it is finally coming to fruition. You could say the sparkle has returned to Charters.