Austin Powers, eat your heart out

With its Modernist exterior, acres of marble and a Turkish bath that seats 20, Fram House is not your typical Home Counties mansion. Cheryl Markosky visits a house that revels in bucking a trend
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The Independent Online

Isuppose you could call it Peter Stringfellow meets Hugh Hefner," says selling agent Nicholas Brown from Knight Frank in Beaconsfield, somewhat wryly. And after looking at the glossy brochure of Fram House, you might want to add: "With a splash of Austin Powers along with a hint of Le Corbusier." Fram House, which Brown reckons is around 20 years old, is certainly different. No one could ever accuse it of being an identikit house, similar to those churned out like rashes by some of the larger house builders. Nor is it the sort of period property you might expect in a traditional Home Counties town. In fact, the description that springs to mind is "shagadelic".

Basically, you will either love the Modernist design evident in Fram House, with its clean white and glass frontage, or you won't. This is a niche market house and those who appreciate its inner charms will think it perfect for entertaining. "Those who like it will appreciate it," is how Brown puts it. Or perhaps it may appeal to someone who can see its potential and gently tweak it to suit how they would want to live in it today.

The house is spacious, being laid out over two storeys with an open-plan reception room, main and secondary kitchens, sitting room, galleried reception area, three bedroom suites and five more bedrooms. The original Turkish owner had a 16 square foot Turkish bath installed - large enough for 20 of your closest friends - as well as a plunge pool, sauna and spacious pool room next door. There is no shortage of marble either - it is everywhere. It's on the walls and the floors, columns are made of the stuff and even the poolside is paved in brown-veined marble.

A guest house - "mini-Fram", if you like - offers extra space for visitors or staff, with its own sitting/dining room and three bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. A tennis court (currently unused, except when cars park there for parties) and gardens back onto open countryside. In all, there are about two acres of land, a rarity in these parts, says the agent.

Fram is on the market at £3 million. "It is good value, if you look in terms of price per square foot," says Brown. "Around here, top-end houses sell for around £350 a square foot, while Fram is about £300 a square foot."

One of the major attractions of Fram is its location. Beaconsfield is one of those magical places, along with Gerrards Cross, that sprang up in the 19th century when the railway line came through. Martin Chester from Hamptons International's country house department says the railway gave commuters from this part of Buckinghamshire quick access to the capital - around 30 minutes to Marylebone Station - and the addition of the M40/A40 has certainly helped as well. "You are just outside London," he says, "but it feels green and rural here."

Prices have held firm in Beaconsfield, for all mid- and upper-market properties. Chester adds that this is a place that appeals, as it is "unlikely to change and is reliable." There has been more new development during the past few years, with single houses here and there knocked down and new ones built in their place, mostly in the £2 million to £3 million price range.

Professionals flock here, as well as people from overseas who want a base close to London. "A lot of people in their mid- to late-thirties who have had children have been moving out here," says Chester, "where there is good long-term education. The prospect of going right out to the Cotswolds is seen as being too much out in the sticks."

So Fram is in the right spot, but will it find the right buyer? Chester isn't convinced. "The majority of people buying at that price won't be interested, because of its style. Most want conventional, conservative houses and this isn't one of those." But he does concede there could well be a buyer out there who likes it and the fact that it will attract only limited interest could even be an advantage. "At least there will be less competition when whoever wants it puts in their bid."

With a shortage of stock in the area and agents reporting they are selling what they have on their books with few new properties to replace them, Fram is coming onto the market at a good time. After the market went through a period of uncertainty, it has levelled out somewhat. Brown says the market as a whole still can be a bit fickle, however. "There can be activity in some areas, but not in others. But if you have the right house in the right spot, then it will sell."

Even if you are not a particular fan of lavish slabs of marble and Turkish baths, you would have to admit the property is in good nick. There are even two employees from Champneys who come every week to check out the pool. Brown says interest has already been shown in Fram. He has had one bid on the house and expects a second one soon, with both prospective purchasers offering money in "the right realms", which doesn't sound far off the asking price.

And who does Brown think might buy this unusual property? "I think someone could give it a different spin. If they wanted, they could re-configure the bedrooms and make more of the general suites. They might want to replace the flat roof with a pitched roof that could be a bit nicer to look at." He believes you could buy Fram and most likely get planning permission to replace it with a completely new house. But in an ideal world, "I would like to see someone buy it who appreciates it for basically what it is."

Fram House is for sale at £3m through Knight Frank in Beaconsfield, 01494 675368. Or contact Knight Frank's country department on 020-7629 8171

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