ANYONE who has visited Barcelona will know the quirky Modernista architecture of Antoni Gaudí whose buildings — including the famous
ANYONE who has visited Barcelona will know the quirky Modernista architecture of Antoni Gaudí whose buildings — including the famous unfinished cathedral the Sagrada Familia — adorn the city.
Not many lovers of architecture will be aware, however, that a private home inspired by his individualist style sits in the quiet Berkshire village of Hurst.
The seven-bedroom house, once a humble bungalow, has been transformed by the current owners into a stunningly unusual home, almost a temple to the man who has been called “God’s Architect” because of his deep Roman Catholic convictions.
Interior designer Monika Dyson has lived at Bodalair with her husband John for 15 years and has stamped her own personality on it, taking inspiration not only from Gaudí and trips to Barcelona but from visits to other exotic locations around the world.
She said: “The first internal design was based on a more medieval approach. This turned out to be too dark for comfort and modern living.
“After many visits to Barcelona and the Alhambra in Spain as well as several cities in North Africa, the style modified into Moroccan/Gaudí. This gives full scope to creating hundreds of details that make for an interesting environment as well as comfortable surroundings to live in.
“There is almost nothing new under the sun. Art is about combining different aspects of what is practical and treasured in other places, to create something of interest and comfort.”
Gaudí was passionate about nature and his designs, which often reflected organic materials and structures from the natural world around him, have been reflected in the décor of this home.
An arched alcove-cum-snug in the conservatory/living room — actually the bottom of a turret — bears the swirled, assymetric brickwork shapes that are his trademark, and can be seen in buildings such as the Pedrera in Barcelona. The bannister of the sweeping staircase from the central atrium on the ground floor bears resemblance to a growing bush or tree — another nod to Gaudí’s fascination with the organic world.
The refurbishment of this house has been a long and intricate project for Monika — and one that has not always run smoothly.
The original building was a bungalow dating back to around 1940. Since then there have been numerous alterations and additions over the years. At one point the building was used as an electronics R&D unit.
One of the biggest elements of this project was integrating two separate buildings by constructing steel-framed, glass-roofed rooms.
This was carried out by Steve Atwell and Dave Simmonds, both of whom have decades of experience in the design and implementation of metalwork and stone/plaster creations.
Throughout her career, Monika has worked on many commissions including a 1740 Georgian mansion in Lower Basildon and restoring a dilapidated 19th century chateau in Biarritz back to its former glory. She has also undertaken considerable work for local clients and the renovation of many local houses.
However renovating Bodalair has been a team effort, with input from a number of artists, including two who have contributed distinctive murals.
She said: “As well as the major contribution from Steve and Dave, Ariane Bothe-Stadelmann and Anya Tomashevsy — both of whom were trained and worked for many years as painters at Meissen — have added their own look and feel to the internal designs. Many of the interior decorations hark back to the style of Meissen decorations.”
She describes her husband John as having been a “tolerant supporter” of the many false starts that her creative approach has necessarily involved.
“There are no right answers to design,” she said. “Tearing down and starting again are all part of the process. In a way, this is why I am looking for a new canvas to work on and if we are able to find an appreciative buyer of Bodalair, new doors will be opening in the future.”
Her favourite room in the house is her bedroom which is light and airy, at the same time as feeling safe.
While Bodalair is a stunning property, Monika stressed that it is also a very practical home.
She said: “The house is not a museum. Practical is good. A leaky roof or draughty room is of no use to anyone. It feels homely and is a great party location. It has seen huge enjoyment and excitement over the years.”
The couple are now looking for a new project — especially since the children have now left home.
Monika said: “I am nearing completion of a substantial property in the south of Spain that is taking up my current attention. It is so exciting to be able to build something different in a drier and warmer climate.”
The house, set in almost an acre, is situated back from the road, and approached via electronic gates. The gravel driveway leads to a triple garage with plenty of space for additional parking.
The grounds are a private oasis, with a 10-metre swimming pool inspired by the Moroccan designs found at the Alhambra in Granada. There is also a Jacuzzi hot tub and house, and ample patio areas around for al fresco dining and outdoor entertaining.
Speaking of the garden design, Monika said: “The important thing is to look at the garden in a sculptural way. Shapes and mass colours are better than a scattering of rainbow dots and colour. The whole appearance becomes more striking.”
Inside, of particular note is the expansive kitchen by Chanlon, the outstanding conservatories with bespoke ironwork by Steve Atwell, and the murals by Ariane Bothe-Stadelmann. The remaining accommodation includes a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, two guest bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, four further bedrooms, two bathrooms, conservatories, garaging, a games room and wine cellar.
The property is available through Hamptons for a guide price of £2.7 million. For more details, call (01491) 693781.