Bringing a taste of LA to Cheshire
Lucy Roue meets the couple who have turned their own, individual home into a business idea to build bespoke, modern properties
A Cheshire couple with an eye for design are driving up demand for unique properties in some of the wealthiest parts of the region. Bringing a taste of LA to Cheshire, Mark and Lisa Oakes are pushing the boundaries with bespoke property development firm ABODA Living. With stunning modernist designs the couple are creating exclusive open plan houses for the likes of footballers, celebrities, businessmen and entrepreneurs.
It began as the creative duo, who both grew up in the area, decided to build their own home in Bowdon after finding little that attracted them on the market. Forming the company with construction company boss Paul Barrow and in-house architect Justin Risley, they aim to deliver unique contemporary homes across the north west. The team first met in 2006 when Lisa and Mark presented Paul’s construction company, Paragon Construction Group, with the task of building their own dream home. The family home went on to receive several awards including a prestigious regional RIBA. They have since taken on four other projects including the beautiful Hale Barns offering where I meet them for a chat about the latest venture. The elegant and spacious five-bedroom house on Carrwood is stylish and distinctively modern, something of a signature look for the savvy pair. On the market for £3.25m with local agents Gascoigne Halman, it was built speculatively on one of the most exclusive roads in the region. But they are confident it will sell, recently unveiling it to a select number of industry contacts. Manchester-based company, Ferrious, provided the bespoke kitchen, dressing room and wardrobe spaces, as well as advising and supplying furniture for the launch. Manchester’s Artzu Gallery dressed some of the living areas with art and sculpture to complement the home’s contemporary spaces. It gives the property that grand feeling to help clients ‘live beautifully’ – a company mantra. “We build both speculatively and by appointment, where we aim to work in close partnership with our clients to understand exactly what they require from their dream home. “From building our own home, this was something that we were passionate about and we believe there is a huge potential in the region for this kind of full service proposition to plan, design and build truly bespoke contemporary homes. “Designing and building your own home is a real privilege”, explains Mark. “We want to provide clients an enjoyable and creative environment to make their dreams a reality. We create individually designed, beautifully crafted and constructed homes and the results are breathtaking.”
Mark spent the first 16 years of his career in the travel and leisure industry, starting at north west tour operator Airtours. From there he progressed through the sector culminating in his appointment as travel division director at AirMiles, with overall responsibility for around 400 staff and £100m of sales. However, a combination of an abortive MBO at the company and starting a family led him to the decision to take 12 months out to get his ‘life back in balance’. “Having worked for big corporate companies like British Airways, entrepreneurial organisations like Airtours and being involved in start-ups, if I could, I knew I’d rather work for myself.” Mark went on to do some successful consultancy work, including the turnaround and subsequent sale of Preston-based Gold Medal to Thomas Cook in 2009 for £85m, after which he has focused primarily on the property sector. And judging by the standard of Carrwood he has brought with him that same compulsion to excel. As well as their own home, the couple have always taken a lively interest in designing properties including the development of apartments and villas in Majorca and exclusive ski chalets in Switzerland.
Lisa, who grew up in Mere, studied floristry at London’s Jane Packer where her eye for design developed and moved into structures. She said: “I have always had an interest in small commercial properties, especially if they are quirky buildings.
“The more derelict the better as I can see character in them,” she laughs. With an old Georgian shop and builders yard in the repertoire it sounds a world apart from the mansion-like ABODA Living house, but it complements their passion for property design. So with all this experience, how did the company come to fruition? “ABODA Living is the easiest way of encompassing our proposition,” says Mark. “There are lots of people out there who can build a house and sell it, but we wanted to create an environment where we are the go-to people for this type of property.”
With two young children, and a dog, living at their self-built Bowdon dream home Mark and Lisa prove their luxury offerings are also practical. And they are built on experience, literally, as they almost live in the prototype and know exactly what works well. “We’ve been the consumers, we’ve been the designers, we’ve lived in it and made the mistakes and we know that by working with ABODA Living, our clients benefit greatly from that experience.” They now offer a service that takes the hassle out of building a dream home from offering help with plot acquisitions to designing, managing and building, taking clients all the way through the process. Going forward, ABODA Living aims to maintain its exclusivity by only bringing one or two properties a year to market of the same calibre, in the core areas of Hale, Hale Barns and Bowdon. “We know this market very well because we have lived here for so long”, says Lisa. But where does she think the demand stems from? “I think the everyday person is becoming more design conscious and it is filtering out. “It has become more of an accepted thing if you look in general media now.”
With a modern open plan, the property boasts five double en-suite bedrooms with the ground floor comprising of formal and informal living and dining areas. The master bedroom includes a dressing room, large double ensuite bathroom and generous external terrace overlooking the landscaped garden. The stunning south facing patio leads out to the ‘infinity’ garden with views over the Bollin Valley. Inside, the large stylish fully fitted kitchen leads into a bright informal living area, with walk-in pantry space and an adjoining utility room. With 3.5m floor to ceiling glazing there is a real sense of light and space, but with cleverly designed wooden folding and sliding panels, there is the ability to create a more intimate environment in both the formal dining and living rooms. With very neutral tones Lisa and Mark have used texture to soften the overall impression. The bespoke ‘floating’ wooden staircase is a fantastic feature that leads to the first floor. Natural light floods into the house from the roof lights above. This is repeated in the master bathroom, highlighting the feature marble wall with double sinks, freestanding bath and a large walk-in shower. Space and security needs are met with a triple garage and video entry system.
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