The balance between urban and country life can be hard to strike – especially in these days when second homes tend to come with price tags as hefty as their London counterparts. Retreat East is set to change all that with its revolutionary approach to the rural escape. Rosie Coxshaw investigates
Only the positively – nay angelically – non-acquisitive among us hasn’t, at some point, daydreamed of owning a second home. Alas for all but the most affluent, the reverie remains just that – up there with scooping an Oscar or becoming a Pulitzer-winning author. Until now, that is.
Enter then Retreat East, a new real estate model set to change the face of second home ownership and transform the fantasy into an accessible reality. The trailblazing concept is to democratise the country house market, allowing city dwellers who covet a slice of the bucolic to invest in a share of the good life, without breaking the bank or over-committing. Predicated on a debenture system, this beautiful Suffolk retreat is designed so that you are able to approach the business of a bolthole in the smartest possible way: by buying just as many nights as you wish to stay and no more.
The benefits of the system are myriad; it means that possessing a slice of the idyll comes without any of the attendant hassles of sole ownership. It is also a smart way to get more bang for your buck; where you might have been able to stretch to a modest second home, the part-time aspect of Retreat East means that you have access to a stunning private members’ club and spa into the bargain, complete with daily exercise classes, a Turkish hammam, a Finnish sauna, an outdoor hot tub and a gym, plus there is also a private cinema for cosy nights in – and all for less than a garage would cost you in the capital.
The beautiful sprawling 35-acre estate comprises some 20 luxuriously converted barns, ranging in size from one bedroom for couples escaping the rat race, all the way up to five bedrooms for families seeking some time to be at one with nature. Children are welcome, but only during holiday seasons, meaning that for the rest of the year, blissful calm pervades. Even when the kids are in residence, there is so much space, city escapees’ quiet simplicity remains safely uninterrupted.
The brainchild of Dominic Richards, property innovator and architectural pioneer, it was conceived to enable Londoners – and particularly east Londoners who are on the right side of the city to make the journey just a quick zip down the M11 – to have access to the soul-soothing countryside, while keeping it sustainable. In these days of virtual social networking, it is also designed to encourage people to socialise for real, its communal bar and games room conducive to making new friends in an easy and relaxed manner. Better still, there can be no temptation to succumb to the lure of social media, since happily the phone signal is patchy at best in this rural sanctuary.
Once installed in your stylishly cosy and capacious barn, replete with wood burners, original wooden beams, oak panelling and impossibly high ceilings, you need do nothing but relax. Enthusiastic cooks can get busy in the kitchen, with vegetables grown on site at their disposal; while the less eager can trust on-site chefs to supply all the necessary ingredients along with specially devised recipes to guide them. Those who prefer a night out can instead book into The Great Barn, where local ingredients are handpicked from the kitchen garden which is, in turn, overseen by Peter Wrapson, Jamie Oliver’s food-grower, no less.
The best of both worlds is a well-worn trope, and often too good to be true in reality. Retreat East can honestly claim that accolade. We’ve seen the future of the second home – and, Londoners, it is worth way more than a parking spot in the Smoke.