Property: A home that grows on you

In the heart of Cambridge are two houses whose timbers will make you shiver.
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The Independent Online
If you are a bricks-and-mortar traditionalist and believe that living in a wooden house is strictly for the birds, there is a house in Cambridge which may make you think again. One of the most beautiful and unusual contemporary timber-built homes in the country is seeking a new owner. A price of pounds 1.9m is no small sum to pay, but The Wood lives up to its name both in structure and setting.

This is not so much a family home as a two-acre mini-estate hidden in its own private wood in Newnham, a smart residential area less than a mile from King's College Chapel. Since its inception 10 years ago, The Wood has sprouted two five-bedroom houses, a heated indoor swimming pool complex with a sauna, and a garage/studio block.

There is also planning permission for a new house on the pool-house site. Right down to the outdoor hot tub, every structure is clad in richly coloured Californian redwood.

The site of The Wood was originally a gravel pit that was planted out in the 1920s with a wide variety of specimen trees. Ten years ago, the land was bought by the enterprising Schorr-Kon family who, respecting the natural setting, created their own idyllic home, a world that is more redolent of 16th-century Japan than of contemporary Britain.

The centrepieces of their creation are two imposing Japanese-style "farmhouses". With their low-sloping, blue-and-green ceramic tiled roofs, they are linked by an oriental bridge spanning a natural pond. Yet this is rural Japan filtered through the Californian dream.

Both houses were imported from the States in component form and are built around a three-masted framework of gigantic Douglas fir trunks, which support the entire structure. Eliminating the need for supporting walls allows for a massive open-plan space at the heart of each house that can then be divided up into living, dining or working areas.

Interior walls are redwood-panelled, and the floors are of American oak. Light streams in from a lantern light that runs the length of the roof and from large plate-glass windows leading out on to the wide verandas that encircle the houses. Sheltered by wide eaves to keep off both rain and sun, these all-weather spaces effectively become an extra living room.

The main house (which is known as the Nikko farmhouse) has three bedrooms off the Great Room and two more bedrooms on the galleried landing area above. There are built-in cupboards everywhere. A quick Geisha-like shuffle over the bridge takes you to the smaller Homestead, designed as a studio and guest house. Its Great Room and kitchen area has two bedrooms adjoining and three more at upper level. The main bedroom in each house even has its own private sun deck.

The Nikko farmhouse hovers on stilts nine feet off the ground, eye-to- eye with the surrounding foliage. It is like living in the trees, but with the reassurance of mod cons such as double glazing and an efficient heating system. Naturally ventilated in summer, both houses are by all accounts surprisingly warm in winter.

Across the dell, past the organic kitchen garden, is a tall A-framed structure that is Thai in feel. Despite its decorative quality, this is a working building containing a double garage and a 35ft x 22ft studio space, known as the dojo, with full-height windows. Beyond this is a single- storey structure housing a sauna and the heated 30ft x 14ft swimming pool.

This stunning private domain in the heart of the city of Cambridge positively exudes wellbeing. The profusion of warm red timber is soothing on the eye and on the soul. The Wood's bold combination of studio and flexible living space would make it an ideal base for affluent artists, architects or writers. If living amidst the birds in The Wood doesn't inspire a haiku then nowhere will.

For more details, contact Cheffins Grain & Comins on 01223 443300