PROPERTY / Ideal homes: Michael Holroyd, biographer

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The Independent Culture
Owns a late Victorian house in London. His wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble, lives 20 minutes away

LOCATION: A quiet, sunny place on the Mediterranean.

ESSENTIAL LOCAL AMENITIES: A small desert or sandy stretch of land with magnificent trees.

CHARACTER: High ceilings, big rooms, a balcony, long windows almost to the ground (out of which I could step). Much light and a reassuring air of comfort.

PERIOD: Modern; symmetrical and three-storey.

CONSTRUCTION: Built of light-coloured stone with a flat roof and unthreatened by damp, subsidence, earthquakes, and all acts of God and the devil. I have experienced subsidence and had builders in for the last seven months, propping up the place and redecorating; it's expensive and disruptive.

BEDROOMS: Six. If guests got drunk in the evening they could stay. Also, I like to wake up to different views, depending on the season and my mood.

BATHROOMS: Three, with trompe l'oeil paintings of seascapes or false windows.

RECEPTION ROOMS: Two; a dining room and a drawing room with mantelpieces and good bookshelves. The drawing room would be split-level. One level would be cosy and have the fireplace; the other would be more spacious, so that in the best weather it would be filled with light and I could gaze dreamily at all the things I describe.

ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES: Everything at eye level for the sake of my back and knees, and a brilliant cooker to cover my inadequacies - such as not knowing how to cook.

DECORATIVE STYLE: A lot of yellow suggesting sand and sunlight. I would have turn-of-the-century pictures on the walls and, as I like garden furniture indoors, cane and canvas furniture. However, I do like a proper sofa with cushions.

LUXURIES: A powerful telescope on the roof for studying the mystery of things. A conservatory with a modest pond and heated glass for when it's colder. An indoor badminton court to keep fit, so I can reach the telescope on the roof.

OUTBUILDINGS: A folly - to remind me of my career.

VIEW: A landscape out of Coleridge's Kubla Khan.

GARDEN: Of a size where I could mow the grass in half an hour. It would display astonishing changes of colour: green in winter, blue in spring, red in summer. In autumn there would be no leaves to clear up.

NEIGHBOURS: What I call foul-weather friends - practical people who would come in an emergency. I'd also like a large, friendly tortoise-shell cat to visit me. It would not be my responsibility, but would accept a saucer of milk and purr.

MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: A variation on Bishop Butler's: 'Everything is what it is and not another thing.'

WHAT IT WOULD COST: According to Keith Sneddon of Headland Overseas, Michael Holroyd could find his ideal home on Spain's Costa del Azahar for pounds 250,000- pounds 300,000 - excluding the badminton court. The climate is kind and there are hidden villages, hill-top fortresses, ancient monasteries and churches. It is an area of 'natural turistico' which restricts development, so it is not built up like the Costa del Sol, and has less crime. There are no deserts, but plenty of beaches and arid stretches of ground covered with sand.

Michael Holroyd's latest book 'Lytton Strachey: The New Biography' is published by Chatto & Windus at pounds 25.

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