Built by the owners from scratch, Gillian Molesworth visits Alder House in East Devon.
"I'm sitting in my light, airy office, and there is a horse staring back at me from the field," chuckles Colin Dyer. "They are wonderful creatures. There is plenty of animal and bird life here – you wouldn't even know we're so close to a city."
Colin and his wife Ann have particular reason to be pleased with their home, Alder House. Fourteen years ago, they built it from scratch. Their vision was to create a traditional looking house with modern conveniences, and they are proud of the result.
"We wanted to put our own stamp on something," reminisced Colin. "We were looking for land that was close to a city, but with rural views, and also part of a community.
"We had almost given up, because we couldn't find anything we liked. But then, the Church of England put this land up for sale with planning permission in Woodbury. We entered a sealed bid and hoped for the best."
The plot for sale was part of the grounds of a large parsonage. Surrounded by gardens and the picturesque paddock, the plot was perfect for the Dyers. It was also in the desirable village of Woodbury, a stone's throw from Exeter, but with its own thriving community spirit and amenities. Sir Francis Drake once frequented the parish, and there is a chapel dedicated to his memory at St Swithin's in the village centre.
"Plenty of people here commute to Exeter, but Woodbury is what I call a living village as well," said Colin. "It's a very welcoming community with lots going on."
The Dyers were on holiday in Los Angeles when they discovered that they had won the bid. "We were so happy," recalled Colin. "Then reality set in and we thought: there's a lot to do!"
The Dyers drafted in Colin's brother, who owns a design company. He helped them translate their vision on to paper: a traditional home that blended the best of old and new.
"We looked at other buildings around the area, and we thought about what we wanted, which was to make a house that was traditional outside but modern inside," he said. The house would be brick and tile, quoting Victorian/turn of the century architectural features, such as bay windows and scalloped wooden trim on the triangular gables.
"It was very important to us to have everything done well," said Colin. "We used good materials inside and out, and we enjoyed adding little features, such as the trim and the stonework on the lintels, that blends nicely into the brick. The big front gates were made by an ironmonger in Exeter. Inside, we used Farrow and Ball paint; Italian tiles in the bathroom; and we searched for antique gold taps for the fittings.
"The fireplace in the sitting room is black granite with an English oak wooden surround. It looks very smart.We did a lot of shopping for what we wanted. The trick was to blend the old with the new so that it looked harmonious. We enjoyed adding some personal touches."
Visitors enter the house through a storm porch, which opens into an entrance hall. The hall opens into the study (where Colin watches the horses), and the dining room with double-glazed bay window.
The sitting room has a coved ceiling and French windows opening into the garden. The kitchen and breakfast room are built for modern living and cooking. It has a wooden-fronted range of units, and Neff utilities including a high-level oven and grill. There is a Mexican tiled splashback and Amtico flooring. French windows open out into the garden. A useful utility room keeps modern machines tidied away, and there is a downstairs wc.
Upstairs are four bedrooms, two of them en suite, with a bathroom.
Outside is a detached double garage with up and over doors, power, light, eaves storage and a side door to the garden. The driveway has parking space for four to five cars.
At the rear of the house is a private garden bordered by a small stream and overlooking the paddock. Laid mainly to lawn, there is a patio adjoining the house and gates either side give access to the front. A further area of lawn is bordered by a high hedge.
"The garden was a blank canvas, and we enjoyed putting our stamp on that as well," said Colin. "We planted traditional flowers and shrubs, some rounded box and lavenders – mainly we just went for shapes that would complement the house."
Joel Moore, from Wilkinson Grant estate agents, said: "Alder House has a very individual look and design. It's constructed to a high spec with a nice garden.
"Woodbury is a very popular village, and houses here are always in demand, with properties holding their value over time. It has a beautiful common with lovely walks, and Topsham is on the doorstep – this area has been picked as one of the top 20 places to live in the country.
"This spot definitely finds that balance between a country feeling with village convenience, and close to a city as well.
"It's also impeccably presented – you can tell that it has been very well looked after."
Colin's favourite room is his office, but Ann loves the kitchen diner, which can open up to the dining room for a party; the French windows can also be opened for an indoor-outdoor flow, great for entertaining.
"It's lovely in summer," said Ann. "People do comment that it's always light and airy. In the winter, there's the gas-flame fire in the sitting room which makes the room feel very homely. Most people think it has real coals and can't believe it's gas."
Ann and Colin, whose daughter is at university, are downsizing, but they are proud of their home. "What we have ended up with is our own house with all the features of a modern estate house, but without being on an estate," said Colin. "It has been a most enjoyable project for us."
Alder House, Woodbury, near Exeter, £700,000
Property: Well-presented four-bedroom home, modern build with traditional features
Location: Centrally located in the popular village of Woodbury, seven miles from Exeter in Devon
Accommodation: Sitting room, dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, utility room, downstairs cloakroom; upstairs are four bedrooms, two en suite, and a family bathroom
Outside: The house sits on a
¼ acre plot overlooking a paddock and bordered by a stream. It has driveway parking for four to five cars and a detached double garage.
Agents: Wilkinson Grant Topsham, 01392 875 000, www.wilkinsongrant.co.uk