PUBLISHED: 20:16 23 March 2014 | UPDATED: 20:16 23 March 2014
Tammy and David Lathwell have lived in their beautiful home near Brentwood for virtually all of their married life and its design is inspired by their love of skiing
Tammy Lathwell’s 12-year-old son, Charles, is sitting with her while we chat about the family home three miles from Brentwood and agrees with his mum when she admits, ‘people either like it or loath it’.
‘My friends all love coming here,’ he announces breezily. ‘I like it. I don’t want the typical square roomed house with windows in the centre of walls. I like this house because I can distinguish it from others. It is completely different from ordinary houses. You can distinguish the personality.’
Tammy laughs. ‘It’s not open plan,’ she concedes, ‘and it’s not minimalistic. The kitchen doesn’t have one of those islands in the middle, although the layout is very sociable. Our whole house goes round in a circle. All the rooms connect, so you flow from one to the other. The layout is like it’s open-plan except the rooms have doors. Most of our friends say, “Oh, I do love this house”. But others loath it.’
Tammy and her husband, David, bought the house, which started life 300 years ago as two farm labourers’ cottages, two months after they got married. They’ve lived here for 19 years and it’s much-loved both by themselves and their three children, Charles and his two older sisters aged 15 and 17. It’s also a much-loved home to the family’s four dogs – two labradoodles, a toy poodle and a Jack Russell.
In fact, taking up Charles’s point about his house having personality, it actually has a split personality in the nicest possible way. From the front, you can visualise how it was once two farmworkers’ cottages in the English countryside. But at the back it presents a totally different face. From the three-acre garden behind the house, when it snows you could be looking at a chalet in a ski resort. That’s not as fanciful as it might seem when Tammy talks about the winter holidays they’ve enjoyed with the children. ‘We love the mountains and the skiing lodges with their balconies and beams. Inside they are rustic and homely and cosy. We incorporated lots of ideas from our travels into this house. People instantly get that feeling and say how homely it is.’
The Lathwells’ Tyrolean rear extension incorporates a new first floor master suite with vaulted ceiling and a balcony giving a bird’s eye view of the garden. The master suite was built above the dining room which was added by the previous owners. The dining room is distinguished – to borrow Charles’s word – by an 11ft high ceiling, oak panelling and a fireplace with a wood burner. When the wood burner in the dining room is fired up in the winter and there’s an open fire blazing away in the hearth in the sitting room, heat radiates through the house. You can almost do without the central heating.
Best of all, though, is the magnificent oak-framed garden room with great beams supporting a vaulted ceiling that has replaced the conservatory which was there when they bought the house. ‘It was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter,’ adds Tammy.
As for the farmhouse-style kitchen, it may not have an island unit, but it has an oil-fired twin plate Rayburn as well as an electric Aga with a ceramic hob. The oak units have matching work surfaces, there’s a butler’s sink and – how good is this – a proper pantry with a door through to a courtyard. No island unit? Pah! Who wants an island unit when this kitchen has a pantry, an Aga and a Rayburn.
The wow factor in the Lathwells home comes from the abundant use of oak, oak beams, oak panelling and the gleaming oak strip floors – with four dogs, an oak floor is easier to clean than carpets. There are also a couple of attic rooms, at least one of which could be turned into a fifth bedroom if needs be.
This is an enviable home with acres of space for a family, but that’s only the half of it. You haven’t heard about the grounds yet.
Across the courtyard, in one of the barns, is a Hollywood-style indoor swimming pool with Jacuzzi, steam room and shower room. This leads through to the games room and bar – who needs to shell out for gym membership when you have a private leisure suite in the garden? In yet another barn is a workshop, dog run, an extra garage and an air-conditioned office where the owners work from home on occasions.
Tammy has been a high flyer in the City for 20 years. Last summer she and her two business partners launched their own equity finance company which now has offices in London, Brentwood and Gibraltar. David is an entrepreneur. He has a building business which promotes energy efficiency, green technology and sustainability.
Their eldest daughter is studying for A Levels with a view to studying animal science at university. Her parents also have plans, plans that involve selling the house and moving to Gibraltar.
Now it’s for sale
Tammy confesses: ‘I don’t want to let the house when we move, I don’t want the worry. I would rather sell.’ Which is why the Lathwells’ lovely home with its many surprising features plus grounds in excess of three acres is for sale through Zoe Napier at Maldon for £1.5m.