For over a year now we have been in the market to buy a house. But after viewing a few dozen properties in all price ranges and wearing down a number of fast talking estate agents we had to face the facts - we seem to be particularly hard to please. Sure, many of the houses we saw looked ok and often the location was acceptable as well. The prices were generally slightly less acceptable - as a rule all buyers want to get the house for free, all sellers start by asking for infinity - but I am sure we could have negotiated a fair price in some cases if we had wanted to. However, somehow nothing really stood out. This weekend we finally realized what we have been missing - a loo with a view!
It all started with a bike ride towards the South Downs on a gloriously sunny Sunday where we suddenly found ourselves near Hinton Ampner and decided to check it out (after first refueling at the tea shop, of course.)
Hinton Ampner is a National Trust managed manor house and garden just north of Southampton. Of all the country piles we have recently seen, it is one of the more modest ones. Sure, it is big but not outrageously big like some others. (Attingham Park springs to mind!) A few reception rooms, a handful of bedrooms, all spread over three floors, and of course a very nice garden with formal arrangements around the house and a (certainly very carefully landscaped) sheep pasture in the background. Of course I don't know squat about English garden architecture but it is obvious that this one was planed with care. The fact that the Queen visited in the 70th and then referred to her own garden as a "jungle" in her handwritten thank you note to the last Lord seems to confirm my view.
The interesting fact about the house is that it burned out in 1960. Within three years the owner had completely renovated and refurbished it with period antiques - at a time when most people threw out their stuff for kidney shaped tables and the likes! He even went through the trouble of restocking the library with period books.
But what does all of this have to do with the loo with a view? Well, as we were making our way through the house, commenting on this or that precious, pretty, slightly stuffy or plain outrageous piece furniture, we finally arrived on the third floor, which contained the master bedroom and en suite. Unlike the rest of the house the bathroom looked rather modern and extremely stylish. Shower, bathtub, and loo were arranged in three niches of black polished marble. But the most amazing detail was the small window next to the loo, so low that you had to sit to appreciate the view. And what a view it was! From there, you could look out over the central axis of the formal garden, the sheep pasture, and pretty much the rest of Hampshire down to the sea. I bet the good lord always took his binoculars, never the papers, when heading for the throne. He probably had a rifle for rabbit hunting behind the seat which he would have used on the sheep, had they tried to nibble on his roses. And on those days when he was in a more peaceful mode, he would have probably just watched the gardeners trimming the hedges below him.
Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera along on this trip (we cycled, remember) and I was too dumbfolded to remember the camera on my mobile until I was well out of the building. But if I ever get back to the house I promise to take a few pics of the loo with a view. In the meantime if you are a real estate agent with a property like this one on file give me a call first thing tomorrow...