FOR the Thomas family, home is an eight bedroom, six bathroom Grade II listed manor on
FOR the Thomas family, home is an eight bedroom, six bathroom Grade II listed manor on Remenham Hill, just outside Henley. But it wasn’t always so.
“When we first saw the property, a company was using it as their office,” said Neal Thomas, who lives there with wife Vicky and their two young children.
“As the wall plaque on the front told us, it was a classic stucco Georgian manor, originally called Craigmore.
“Extensions had been added in the Victorian era, but it had all been converted to hold about 20 office rooms by the time we saw it.
“There was no bathroom or kitchen, and the back garden had become a photocopier dumping ground for 20 years!”
Luckily, Neal and Vicky had a sense of humour about what needed to be done to make this their dream home. The couple both work in property and recruitment, so they weren’t put off by the grind, and cost, that awaited them.
“Most house-hunters couldn’t see past the tired office faÇade to see the potential,” said Neal, who said that the listed-building restrictions weren’t too hard to navigate, either.
But his first job was to install a bathroom, which Neal did himself with plumber and tiler friends — crucially, before the house had even been sold to him! Quite a leap of faith, some might say.
“We were convinced this was the house for us so even though we didn’t own the place yet, we got the permission and installed a bathroom, so that we could then apply for the extension planning permission with the house already changed from ‘office’ to ‘residential’ status.
This was essential if we were going to be able to transform the property into a modern family home.”
Once moved in, Neal then used CGI to visualise a brand new back extension, which would house the kitchen/living area, and an architect to help with planning. “After work on the main building started, it was all pretty straightforward,” adds Neal.
Fast-forward two years and the renovated/reworked main house has been tastefully decorated — a wonderful mix of old and new — with the Thomases making the most of the original carved wood mantelpieces, window shutters and decorative plasterwork, while employing modern innovations such as under-floor heating in all six bathrooms to keep feet cosy in winter.
Both the dining room and the drawing room are delightful and the windows here — helped by the large Georgian proportions — offer fantastic views of the attractive garden, with leafy countryside rolling out behind it.
“At the end of the garden a footpath takes you to Aston, one way, and to Henley the other. You can just see the Hambleden hills in the distance,” said Neal. “It’s great cycling from here, too — we are about five minutes from the Thames.”
The garden also gives it access to the one-bedroom, one-bathroom, one large living room annexe, which was originally a Victorian extension and has been lovingly reworked into a cosy home for one.
“We opened up the living room here to show all the original exposed beams,” said Neal.
“The bedroom is on the top floor, so you feel like it’s a proper cottage.” Being positioned behind the garage means the annexe could easily be given a separate front door, with access there. And directly opposite the annexe? The piece-de-resistance modern extension, which, unsurprisingly, is the part of the project the Thomases are most pleased with.
“The new extension really suits our family living,” said Vicky, who admits that, despite the main house having a large playroom, and the two aforementioned reception rooms, the family spends most of its ‘together time’ here. The glass walls and ceiling lights flood these rooms with light throughout the day. “The sun sets behind the trees to the left and you can see these amazing sunsets from here. In summer you still get the light coming in right up to 9pm,” continued Vicky.
“This is where glasses of wine get drunk, the children’s reading gets done, where we crowd around the fire-burner in winter, and luxuriate in the hot tub in the summer.”
The eye-catching Gazco fire-burner separates the kitchen/diner from the family room and runs on gas, so there’s no mess or logs to handle, but it still “gives off loads of heat”. As for the hot tub: “It’s our guilty pleasure,” said Neal, “It’s very relaxing looking over the garden, at sunset, with a glass of wine.”
The hot tub has been positioned to make the most of the glass walls, which fold back along two sides to give a ‘floating ceiling’ effect.
Neal is also responsible for choosing the eco, recycled decking and the extension’s ‘green’ roof, as well all kinds of gadgetry such as USB ports and a “zoned” sound system.
“We love the ultra-modern kitchen,” said Vicky. The kitchen is from top of the range German manufacturer called. Leicht. The Thomas’s chose composite granite worktops, integrated Miele appliances, and a cleverly designed ‘hidden larder’ which is deceptively roomy and keeps food and equipment to hand while remaining out of view. “Matt Duncan from Leicht Contracts designed it and managed the fitting very well,” adds Vicky.
The ground floor also has an office, two further to toilets, a utility room, and stairs down to a large cellar storage area â?? another potential hideout/man cave perhaps.
But enough about the house. What about the area? “We’re really part of Remenham, here, and we have a local newsletter that comes around monthly, as we ll as an annual fete,” said Neal. Speaking of celebrations, Neal says it’s great being able to walk to events such as the Royal Regatta and the Henley Festival. ”
Living here you forget the road is there once inside the house. The traffic is bad for everyone
in Henley during Regatta, but for us if it’s particularly bad one day it’s just a nice walk down the hill through the woods or following the road.”
Indeed, the Thomas’s find the location “very convenient”. “It’s easy to commute from, too, with Maidenhead station 15 minutes away,” adds Neal. “We will always stay in the area as we have so many friends here, but we’re now on the lookout for another project.
“We will miss the house very much. We’ve become so used to the flexible living it offers, and it will be hard to find somewhere that can live up to it.”
The White House is for sale with Knight Frank at a guide price of £3,250,000.
Call (01491) 844900 for more information.
[separate box please Matthew â?? maybe with a colour
Neal and Vicky Thomas are keen to hear from you if you can have any information on the house â?? originally called Craigmore House. “We would love to hear from anyone who knew the
house before it was an office to find out about its history,” said Neal.
“I couldn’t find out any good local reason for the name relating to local areas or people’s names, so we changed it to The White House to match its colour, and because the road is called White Hill.”
Neal can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org