Through the keyhole of a stylish family home in Brocket
PUBLISHED: 12:16 13 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:16 13 June 2016
Ian and Michelle Theato made the move to Brocket, on Piercing Hill in Theydon Bois, all the way from Bermuda. Pat Bramley tells the tale of this stylish family home that has all the mod cons
Insurance underwriter Ian Theato and his wife Michelle were in Bermuda when they spotted pictures of a Victorian house on the edge of Epping Forest on the internet.
They’d lived on the island in the Atlantic Ocean for coming up to three years. They’d moved there so Ian could take up a job at the head office of the company he worked for. Michelle, an agent for the model agency Storm, had already put her career on hold to have a family. By the time they left England for a life in the Caribbean sun, their daughter Lola was two and a half and their son Harvey was 18 months.
There was just one problem when the end of their three-year posting approached. ‘We knew we’d outgrown our house in Woodford Green,’ explains Ian. So where to base their search back in England? Suddenly, it seemed like they’d found the answer.
Michele takes up the story. ‘We always wanted to be close to the Central Line and this house came up. It’s only half an hour into the city from the station at Theydon Bois, so next time we were back in the UK we went to see it.
‘The family who owned it had lived here for 30 years and the family before them owned it for 30 years. It had been well looked after, but due to the time they’d lived here, not surprisingly, it was a bit dated.’
The Theatos bought the property, called Brocket, on Piercing Hill at Theydon Bois back in April 2011 and by December of that year, in Michelle’s words, ‘we were pulling it apart’.
‘Originally we were just going to buy new carpets and change the Crittall windows. The windows were exhausted – they were taking light away from the interior, making it dark.’
The replacement, bespoke double glazed windows with timber frames turned out to be only the first task in a project that totally transformed the internal layout.
The new owners finally moved in nine months later in July 2012. As Michelle says, they’ve never regretted taking their time to do the best job possible.
‘After we’d had time to consider, we thought we’d be here 20 years, so everything we did we saw as an investment. If there was a choice between a cheaper solution and a top quality job, we chose the best, almost regardless of cost, because we didn’t want to do it again. A lot of the fixtures and fittings are bespoke. Some of the work was eye-wateringly expensive, but it was worth it. We’ve never regretted it – the last thing you want is to live with the results of a compromise and think, if only.
‘The house had originally been a Victorian villa. It was built in 1883 and extended in the 1930s and 1960s. When we got here, the layout was a bit higgledy piggledy.
‘In the past someone had moved the front door to the side of the house, but we thought the style and scale of the property merited a proper entrance at the front and a good-sized hall with a statement staircase.’ Reinstating the front door where they felt it should be involved a small extension. Despite the extent of the upheaval, it was the only alteration which needed planning permission.
The new owners had at least two major strokes of good fortune: they were able to live in their old house at Woodford Green while the work was being done on the house at Theydon Bois and they had brilliant builders.
‘Officially I was the project manager, but the two Dans at Mason Construction from Loughton were absolutely great. Some contractors could have been slightly condescending towards a woman, but they took everything I suggested on board and went out of their way to help me achieve it, as did all the subcontractors, plumbers, carpenters, in fact everyone they used. It could have been very stressful, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.’
The house had six bedrooms when they bought it and two small bathrooms. It now has five bedrooms, all en suite, just as they wanted. Downstairs are four reception rooms, but probably the space that gives the keen cook greatest satisfaction is her workspace.
The redesign of the floor plan necessitated by the change of position of the front door and entrance hall enabled the family to create a showpiece Martin Moore kitchen/breakfast room. It’s 29ft by 20ft – there are bed sits which are smaller.
‘The project manager from Martin Moore even went with me to source a single slab of marble the right colour to go behind the cooker. They couldn’t have been more helpful and neither could the people from CP Hart who supplied all the bathrooms.’
The hostess with the mostess explains she’s not one for formal dining rooms.
‘We eat in the dining area in the kitchen, even when friends come round,’ she says. ‘We all congregate in there for cocktails before having supper, then move into what we call the fireplace room with the woodburning stove for port. The woodburner has a glazed guillotine window which can be raised to make it an open fire.’
Apart from the expanse and layout, the kitchen has another practical advantage. The bifold doors in the dining area face another set of bifold doors in the children’s playroom on the other side of a sort of courtyard. ‘I can be getting on with what I’m doing in the kitchen and still see what the children are doing. The new layout of the house came about organically – we use all the rooms. Although the least used is the gym,’ Michelle adds with a giggle.
Having run through all the top notch suppliers and contractors who made the house what it is today, she admits they were on the point of compromising and not commissioning a specialist designer for the lighting until a friend explained that if you’re going to the expense of getting everything else right, lighting should be at the top of your list. So the couple hired John Cullen, and it was worth every penny.
Michelle adds: ‘My husband is into his technology, so it was important to have the house future proofed for any needs we might have. Everything is star wired back to the comms room with Cat 6 and coax. There are 48 points with over six miles of wiring. The whole house has a Nuvo Essentia system running 10 zones of music and audio.’
Every aspect of the top-spec family home the couple have created gives them pleasure, but despite intending to stay 20 years, they’ll soon be moving to Bishop’s Stortford.
It’s where the children go to school, it’s where family and friends live, but above all, now that Ian has his own company, he works from home some days. Having a half hour commute into the city is no longer the priority it once was.
So it looks like another fortunate family will get to enjoy Brocket for the next 20 years. w
Now it’s for Sale
‘If I could pick up this house and take it with me, I’d do it in a heartbeat,’ says Michelle. Since that’s not possible, the Victorian house with state of the art interior is for sale through Savills in Loughton for £2.895m. Call 020 8498 6600.