Houses are a bit like people. They have personalities. Some are practically perfect, others need some work. Some are polished but have no character, others are scruffy but comfortable like a pair of old slippers. From time to time, a house with the personality of an artist comes on the market. You know, the sort of interesting character that stands out from the crowd because he or she has an unusual way of seeing things, a creative way of doing things. The free-thinker, the genius, the oddball, the lone wolf, the dreamer – the artist takes something simple and makes it extraordinary.
If houses are like people, Benham’s Well in Fawley is surely an artist. Originally, this house was a pair of 17th century brick and flint cottages that sat side-by-side until they were joined together about 100 years ago. It has recently been renovated and extended, making it into a comfortable and beautiful family home. Benham’s Well is bursting with character. It has a friendly and intriguing layout, there is some clever use of space and many of the cottages’ original features such as the brick and flint walls and timber beams have been incorporated into the design. Most of the renovations and refurbishments were done by the previous owner, who is an architect.
The current owner of the property, Ali Gill, loves the layout of the house and its interesting design features: “I think it’s a really unusual and brilliant use of new and old,” she said. “The thing I like most about it is that it’s really light and airy, and yet it’s really cosy. It’s lovely in the summer because you can have all the doors and windows open and it’s like living outside, with the windows in the kitchen and the big windows in the bedroom and the living area. “But in the winter, because it’s got underfloor heating and snug rooms around the fire, you feel like you’re in this really snug little cottage. I really like that about it.”
The ground floor has a joyously bright entrance hallway that leads to a sitting room that is on two levels, with a large log burner in the middle. At one end of the sitting room there is a narrow library with built-in book cases. The kitchen / breakfast room / dining area is slightly below ground level – it is thought that this part of the house is where the cottage dwellers may have kept their animals, in the olden days – and the wooden steps down here double up as storage cupboards. The kitchen area has some huge windows and a vaulted ceiling, modern shiny kitchen units, granite work surfaces and a stone floor. There is also a utility room, a study and a cloakroom.
Upstairs on the first floor there are four bedrooms and a family bathroom with a jacuzzi bath and shower. The master bedroom has a fabulous full-height window overlooking the garden, a tall ceiling and an en suite shower room. The second bedroom has a small wash basin, the third bedroom has two windows, and the fourth bedroom has a secret cubby hole built in to the wall.
There is an ancient well in the back garden – nowadays this makes an interesting design feature, but at one time it was the main water supply for the cottages. “The rainwater from both the cottages was piped into an underground tank, which was accessed from the well. It still has water in it but we have it covered over now because it’s safer,” said Ms Gill. There is a separate building in the back garden with light and power installed – it is currently a gym but could be used as a home office instead – and a cellar under the house that is fitted with wine racks. The large landscaped garden is private and peaceful and features an ornamental pond and a summer house.
Benham’s Well is on Benham’s Lane in Fawley, in a very quiet location but within easy reach of the A4155 road that runs between Henley and Marlow. The property is on the market with Philip Booth Esq, with a guide price of £1,395,000. For more information or to arrange a viewing, call (01491) 635343.
Article published in the Henley Standard Newspaper