Through the keyhole of One Gidleigh Park
- Credit: Archant
It’s next to a famous hotel but this two-bedroom timber house in Gidleigh Park is in a league of its own. Chrissy Harris went to see how a beloved 1920s ‘kit home’ has been transformed into a luxury pad
It’s fair to say that One Gidleigh Park enjoys a pretty prestigious postcode.
There aren’t many houses in Devon that can count a world-renowned Michelin starred restaurant as its close neighbour.
But being next door to a seriously classy joint is actually not what makes One Gidleigh Park so special. Instead, it’s the care and attention to detail lavished on this glorious timber framed ‘kit home’ that has made it a star attraction in its own right.
Owners Adam Sawers and Stephen Atkins bought the derelict property nearly 20 years ago after stumbling across it during one of their regular Dartmoor walks.
The run-down shell of a place was one of three identical houses built by Norwich-based firm Boulton and Paul on the Gidleigh estate in 1929 as accommodation for staff that worked in what was then a large private country manor.
Over the years, these early pre-fab homes had been left in various states of disrepair but, unbelievably, their sturdy, seasoned Norwegian timber frames had stood the test of time – and the Dartmoor weather.
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“We just thought: now that is a real project,” says Stephen, 54, explaining how he and Adam, 52, first saw One Gidleigh and were struck by its fantastic location, just outside Chagford.
“We weren’t actually looking for anywhere, but you dream, don’t you, especially in your early 30s?” he says.
The couple bought the ‘glorified garden shed’ with no real plan in mind and used it as a weekend bolthole to escape their hectic London lives in the film production industry.
Adam works as a producer and Stephen was a costume stylist.
“Even at that stage, in that state, the house was a magical place to be,” says Adam, who grew up near Chagford.
“There were all these trees leading up to the house and then there was all the wildlife. It was so peaceful.”
“We camped here for years, basically,” says Stephen.
“We spent our weekends coming down and staying and then, like you do, we started stripping floors and after another five years, we started ripping the whole lot out and doing it again.”
The renovations took place in a series of phases over the course of ten years with Adam and Stephen fitting in project managing, adding insulation, painting, dealing with tradesmen etc in-between their day jobs.
The couple were committed to keeping the majority of the building’s exterior intact but wanted a more modern design for the inside. Walls of the existing small rooms were knocked down to create a more open plan space.
A kit home
Three identical kit homes were set up on the estate in 1929. They were built by Norwich-based company Boulton and Paul, which specialised in these types of properties, as well as shepherd’s huts and light aircraft. Similar structures can be found dotted across Dartmoor.
The timber was Norwegian pine and each property had a solid fuel Rayburn in the kitchen and a small radiator in the sitting room. Adam says: “What’s interesting is that the current owners of each of the three kit homes did not knock down the houses, which were all in varying states of disrepair.
They all decided to renovate, all in entirely different layouts and styles. So now the homes could not be more different from those original, identikit wooden log cabin homes.”
One Gidleigh Park is now a fully functioning two-bedroom, two-bathroom home, with a large kitchen diner, utility room and a clever glass garden room that lets you be at one with nature, even if it’s chucking it down.
The garden at One Gidleigh Park includes sun decks, a lawn and some carefully maintained herbaceous borders that lead on to a woodland area and Dartmoor. This peaceful spot attracts a whole range of wildlife, including deer and many birds.
“We always put out bird food in winter,” says Adam. “We get fabulous birds here.”
Stephen adds: “Our guestbook is always full of what kind of birds people have seen.”
“I love it all,” says Stephen. “I love the garden and I like the integration of the outside inside. In the summer time, it’s just, well, it’s amazing.
“I mean, we’ve travelled a lot around the world and it’s pretty hard to beat this,” he says, glancing outside towards the bluebell woods.
“All our friends who come here say it’s a pretty special part of Devon.”
With such glowing reports from close family and friends, Adam and Stephen took the brave decision to let others enjoy what they had created.
One Gidleigh Park has been available as a holiday let since 2016 and has been fully booked ever since.
“It’s all happened purely by osmosis,” says Stephen, admitting that handing over the house was daunting at first. “We both put a lot of love into this, it was like our baby. We never had any intention to let it out.”
“But then we kind of figured that if we like it then other people might,” says Adam. “And we’ve kind of been caught by surprise. We didn’t think it was going to go as well as it did.”
“I think people like what we bought into,” says Stephen. “They can see it’s got the personal touches, like our art or furniture.”
The mixture of antique pieces and the latest looks work in harmony here and give the place real soul.
The clean lines and neutral paint schemes are as much works of art as the paintings hanging on the walls. And it’s so tidy!
“We’ve set the house up as we would for letting to give you an idea,” says Stephen, before he laughs and says: “Actually, we do actually live like this! We’re quite tidy.”
There’s nothing wrong with that. I love tidy. (I remember it well. Pesky kids!)
Adam and Stephen say they have recently enlisted the help of a housekeeper to make sure One Gidleigh Park’s high standards are maintained while they concentrate on future projects, including a recently renovated house in Portugal, which is now available to rent.
These two don’t sit still for long.
“Because we’ve always been between places we’ve got it into our heads that we make a home wherever we go,” says Stephen.
“We love it here though,” says Adam. “It’s such a fabulous location.”
The neighbours aren’t bad either…
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