Spectacular newly-built property for sale in Withersfield, Suffolk
At first glance, Phoenix House is strangely deceptive. It has the appearance of a red-brick Georgian mansion, as spacious as it is striking, and looks like it could almost have come straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel.
It is in fact a newly constructed family abode, designed in a Georgian style and built by its current owners, Rob and Julia Tilson – who work as consultants developing new medicines – following the untimely demise of a centuries-old cottage that previously stood on the land.
Rob takes up the story: “Phoenix House is the product of a fire that we had in June of 2014, when the other house that used to be on this site – a thatched residence called Twin Cottage – was destroyed.”
The Tilsons had lived in the cottage for nine years prior to the devastating blaze.
“It was grade II listed, so we had to deal with the conservation people to agree to get it demolished,” said Rob. “Then from that, we started the process of recovering the property by building a new home on the same site.
“We changed the name of the house to Phoenix House, which you’re permitted to do, to really just close out that particular phase of our lives – it seemed poetic.”
On their decision to opt for a Georgian style for the rebuild, he said: “Julia and I had been collecting antiques for most of our married life: about the last 16 years. We collect antiques from the Georgian period, which is largely George III, going up to 1820.
“Things like furniture, glassware and also the architecture inspired us to not copy it, but use elements of it to design something in the style of a Georgian farmhouse.
“What we wanted to do was to have a formal front part of the house, where we could have the bulk of our antiques, and then a sort of informal back of the house.
“So although the house replicates a lot of external Georgian architectural features – sash windows, large front door etc – essentially it’s a modern house. It’s double-glazed, it has underfloor heating, a heat recovery system... all the things you’d expect.”
The four-bedroom house is on the market with Carter Jonas at £945,000. Curiously enough, Twin Cottage had been up for sale when the inferno hit.
“It was under offer,” recalled Rob. “We’d spent quite a few years modernising it and it had been up for sale for about 10 months. We’d accepted an offer and were at the solicitors drawing up a contract when the fire happened.”
Julia said: “We were going to move because we wanted to downsize. There’s an irony because the house that we’ve built now is bigger than the original! Now we’re moving again for the very same reason.”
Julia, who along with Rob has always been passionate about employing local tradesmen, continued: “It was very difficult in that it’s not something we had ever imagined doing, and it took us quite a while to actually think about what it was we wanted to build.
“We sat down with a really good Cambridge architect who drew out of us the things we liked and the things we didn’t like to be able to put together the package that we’ve now built.
“So it does have this lovely marriage of an old-style property at the front – very high ceilings, very grand – and then much more informal and contemporary at the back with designer fireplaces and those kind of things.
“For us, I think it really has fulfilled that niche that we were trying to achieve, albeit it was something we never set out to do in the first place.
“We saw it as an opportunity to create something of beauty and I’m hoping that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Phoenix House has a guide price of £945,000.
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