£3.75m Chorleywood home used in new rom-com, Finding Your Feet
- Credit: strutt and parker
An Arts and Crafts home in Chorleywood plays a key role in a star-studded film set for release early next year. Pat Bramley met its proud long-term owner
Location managers searching for an impressive house for a feel-good movie due for release early next year must have whooped for joy when Bannits House in Chorleywood turned up on the radar.
Finding Your Feet is a rom-com starring Joanna Lumley, Timothy Spall, David Hayman, Celia Imrie and Imelda Staunton. The movie should be a hit with audiences who loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The story is about two sisters who haven’t seen each other in years – Bif (Imrie) is a bohemian artist living on a council estate in London; Sandra (Staunton) resides in the shires in a house that would grace the cover of a society magazine. Watch the trailer for the movie and you’ll see a clip of a retirement party hosted by Sandra and her husband for their many middle class friends (before a bombshell is dropped). The place certainly fits the bill for an aspirational country pile.
The home was built in 1908 in the Arts and Crafts style newly fashionable in England. It stands in its own grounds on one of the best roads in Chorleywood, Chalfont Lane – all wide green verges, mature trees and major properties.
The entrance gates to Bannits open on to an expansive gravel drive. On one side of the forecourt is a triple garage block, on the other is a two bedroom cottage converted from a coach house which replaced the original stable block for the Edwardian owners’ pony and trap. The circular flower bed that forms a turning point in the middle of the drive is planted with old fashioned roses. Behind the house, the garden backs on to large fields providing grazing land for horses from the nearby stables. Countless successful middle-aged professionals in middle England come home to a pastoral scene like this.
Outwardly, Bannits is still recognisable as the house built more than century ago. For the past 39 years it has been home to Carole Cohen. It is where she and her late husband Peter brought up their three children. As newlyweds the couple livied in a flat in central London before their move to Hertfordshire. The young couple, by then with a toddler in tow, would have stayed in the capital but they were expecting their second child. They needed a family house with a garden and London prices were prohibitive.
‘I’m Welsh and love the countryside.’ Carole explains. ‘But I have always wanted London to be a large part of my life and it is. We can be in Marylebone in half an hour on the Metropolitan or Chiltern Line from Chorleywood - you can walk to the station from here, it’s less than a mile away.’
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Peter felt the same. He had always lived and worked in London.
‘He thought of Hampstead as the countryside,’ Carole laughs.
The topic of where they should focus their property search was raised when they were invited to dinner with friends in Kings Langley.
‘They said “Why not move out here?” It started us looking and shortly afterwards we found a house I absolutely loved on the Loudwater estate.’
Unfortunately having agreed a price, sold their London flat and arranged finance to seal the deal on the house on the private estate, the owners accepted a higher offer. Gazumping was rife at the time.
With the baby’s birth imminent, they bought a stop gap. It wasn’t their ideal home but it was in the area they wanted to live. In the meantime they’d seen Bannits House in Chorleywood, about a mile from Loudwater. It was out of their price range but they put in an offer for what they could afford, didn’t expect to hear any more, then one day out of the blue they had a call from the owner. He said his previous sale had fallen through, he and his wife wanted to sell quickly and were willing to accept the Cohens’ price.
Carole and Peter lived in their stop gap home for just 10 months.
‘It was a nice house but I knew from the start it wasn’t right for us.’
It was the opposite emotion with Bannits. Carole comes from a family of architects and architectural ceramics was her initial specialist area. From there she branched out into dress and textile design.
‘When I see something I like, I don’t change my mind,’ she says. ‘Once I’ve found it, I never have second thoughts.’
A decade ago she and Peter added an extension to Bannits which has completely transformed the ground floor of the main house. The overall internal area is now not far short of 8,000 square feet.
Each of the original reception rooms – sitting room, formal dining room, study and panelled drawing room/library – has doors on to a marble floored orangery which creates a light-filled wide corridor along the back of the house, opening up the indoor space to the one and a quarter acre south facing garden. The orangery is expansive enough to have seating zones. Imagine an art gallery in a park and you’ll be on the right track.
The other standout feature created by the extension is the Cotteswood kitchen - open plan with a breakfast room and family room – end-to-end it measures 52 feet. Because the size and scale of the furnishings and fittings is right, the area still manages to feel homely and welcoming. The refectory oak table in the family room was specially made to fit the space. It can easily seat a dozen. As well as her three children, Carole has seven grandchildren – the numbers soon stack up.
The five bedrooms and five bathrooms are spread over the two upper floors. The palatial master suite with two dressing rooms and a vast four poster bed is on the first floor.
‘Peter said we had to have the largest bed ever made. Our three kids, three dogs and the cats always jumped on to the bed with us at weekends.’
The top floor has always been the children’s domain. It was where their two sons and daughter hung out with their friends and had sleepovers. These days it’s where the grandchildren kip on their frequent visits.
Almost everything added to the house in the past 10 years is bespoke. The beautiful panelling with its decorative carved frieze in the drawing room was created and installed by cabinet makers Roger Board Designs, the Wimbledon company responsible for the restoration of the wood carving at Mansion House. There are also examples of its joinery in Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court. Who better then to choose as master craftsmen to make the majority of the fitted furniture at Bannits?
Since Peter’s death five years ago, the house has continued to be a centre for family get togethers. There have been many parties and even a wedding. Being chosen as a location for a major film was the latest highlight. Carole along with family and friends were delighted to be roped in as extras for crowd scenes.
‘The film crew and the actors couldn’t have been nicer. One of my granddaughters enjoyed it so much she has decided she’s going to be a film star when she grows up.’
Now the real life leading lady of Bannits has decided to downsize. Carole has found somewhere that feels right and since she never changes her mind when it’s made up, she’ll be holding a wrap party at her Chorleywood home just as soon as the agents have found her a buyer. This special house at the heart of a very happy family for almost 40 years is for sale for £3.75m.
More details are available from Strutt and Parker in Gerrards Cross and Savills in Rickmansworth.