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Clever, beautiful grand design
Published 08/10/12



A COUPLE from Shiplake who feature in next week’s episode of Grand Designs have built a house that’s been called peculiar, prestigious, clever and beautiful.

Nigel and Lysette Offley built a luxury home on the site of an old boathouse in Bolney Road and, after 18 months of filming, they finally moved into their dream home last month.

Mrs Offley, who moved from St Mark’s Road, Henley, said being on the programme was a “very positive experience”.

“[The presenter] Kevin McCloud is funny, intelligent and good company — the sort of person you would want to spend time with,” she said.

“The Grand Designs team were brilliant and we made friends with them all — as well as the different tradesmen involved. Not a lot of people can say they are friends with their builders.”


After having plans drawn up by a Henley architect in 2006, the couple had to wait three years to obtain planning permission. Then they approached the Channel 4 programme’s producers to help support the architect.

The four-bedroom property is constructed from composite stone imported from Germany, and features of note include a double-height central atrium with a glass ceiling and a roof designed in the shape of a wave.

Sitting beside the Thames, it has a boathouse underneath, and a lounge that overlooks the river.

Continuing the theme of fluidity, the interior also has curved staircases, doors and ceilings. The house is ultra-modern and equipped with the latest technology, including iPads to control lighting, heating, a sound system and the television.

The couple’s Thames conservancy launch, which won the Thames Traditional Boat Rally in Fawley Meadows several years ago, is moored under the house.

Mrs Offley said: “The house is very beautifully and cleverly designed. It’s open-plan and has a lot of curves in it, making it a very interesting living space. There’s lots of light and it is spacious and airy.

“The house makes you feel relaxed and because we have such large windows, you feel at one with the environment.”

Mrs Offley is a teacher, trainer and therapist who specialises in emotional, behavioural and medical conditions, and she chose the spot partly so that she could provide a soothing environment for her clients.

Her husband, who used to live in Blandy Cottage in Hart Street, co-owns and runs CentriLogic, a global data centre based in Bracknell. They were both developing their respective businesses as construction work was progressing.

Nine building companies expressed an interest in the project but after discovering the complexity of the plans, only two remained interested. Hyatt Construction, of Witney, eventually won the contract and Mrs Offley said they had been “absolutely superb”.

“Without them this wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “They were willing to go the extra mile.”

The garden, which includes a water feature and gas barbecue, was designed by freelance Ana Mari Bull of Mill Road, Shiplake, who has a post-graduate degree in residential landscape architecture from Oxford College of Garden Design.

Mrs Offley said: “She created an absolutely fantastic garden design, and she’s been extremely creative and resourceful.”

Stefan Bonok, whose Watlington-based company Cucucine fitted a bespoke kitchen and wardrobes, said it was one of the most “peculiar and prestigious” houses they have worked in. One of their creations included a chopping board engraved with the name of the dwelling.

The show will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Wednesday at 9pm — but the couple, who will be revisited by the production team next year for a follow-up episode, will have to record it. They have been invited to a party to celebrate the show’s 100th episode. Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Offley declined to comment on the cost of the project — but no doubt Mr McCloud will tell all.

Published 08/10/12

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