Home in the life of Jeremy Paxton. the owner and developer of Lower Mill Estates, a 550-acre residential nature reserve in the UK.
Living the dream
Jeremy Paxton is the owner and developer of Lower Mill Estates, a 550-acre residential nature reserve in the UK. Of significant ecological importance, the estate blends contemporary architecture with the traditional landscape of the English countryside.
I was born in Hackney, London and given up for adoption as a baby. My adoptive parents were shopkeepers in Hampshire and I grew up there in the New Forest. My grandfather, who was a poacher, was a real character and I spent a lot of time with him as a child. I loved the freedom of running wild around the countryside. However, in my teenage years, I yearned for more. I moved to Florida and became a professional water skier then moved into magazine publishing.
There certainly is a subconscious element of my childhood that I wanted my own family to experience and it was one of the reasons I bought the estate 13 years ago. I think a lot of our homeowners at Lower Mill feel the same. During the week they are lawyers, accountants and business people, yet at the weekend they can take their families and create the sort of memories they grew up with, which is such a rare opportunity in this day and age.
All the residents' houses are weekend or holiday homes, including mine. We regard our everyday home as Ballyhoo, a boathouse at Henley on the River Thames. Lower Mill is a fun place we go at weekends or for the odd night during the week. I also have a house in Italy which is in an area of great ecological importance and home to 80 per cent of Italy's flora and fauna.
I happened to be flying over Gloucestershire in my helicopter when I was taken aback by the beauty of the area below. I stopped to have a look, made some enquiries and by chance found that the land was for sale. I didn't intend to develop it. However, once our ecological programmes were established, it was suggested to me that I harmonise this fantastic environment with my love of house design. The architects I then approached for the Landmark Houses saw the project as a unique opportunity to meld their art with the outstanding environment.
The setting is far more important that the house. None of these amazing houses would work without the nature because they were an evolution and the two elements are a complete juxtaposition.
It combines some extremely modernist architecture with a recycled barn that is part traditional Cotswolds but constructed with imported French oak. I also have a striking glass folly given to me by an architect friend and a water garden that's very similar to Monet's. In essence, it's very much a house of contrasts.
I chose a simple palette - oak, natural stone, stainless steel and render. I love everlasting materials; they are relaxing and indestructible. The house is now six years old and has never needed to be decorated despite numerous teenage parties. All the furniture is architect-designed - architects really are the only people who understand people's relationship to space so I would always let them design everything, right down to the toothbrush holder.
I spend more time designing outdoor spaces than anything else as I like to work out how the larger space translates into more intimate areas such as decks, terraces and pool areas. However, my favourite outdoor spaces at Lower Mill are all completely natural - like the fallen tree that happens to be the most comfortable thing to lie on to read a book.
In a fire I would want to save the Aga, but then, since it's always on fire I'm sure it would survive. It is a limited edition in stainless steel with cool black featuring; a designed, thought-about Aga. I also have a painting given to me by a friend that I would not like to be without.
We are very settled with what we've got but I daresay if I wasn't helping anyone else design their homes I would be constantly tinkering with it. People come to Lower Mill for a home to live their dream. They are craving an opportunity to live two lives - if I can help then achieve that then I am content.