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Sophie Conran – daughter of Sir Terence – shows off her stunning Wiltshire manor house

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She is an interiors guru and daughter of a British design legend, so it is of little surprise Sophie Conran’s country home is packed full of colour, personality – and serious style. 

Sophie, 55, daughter of Sir Terence Conran and his third wife, cookery writer Caroline Herbert, shares photographs of the Georgian manor house on her Instagram, revealing its stunning period features, sprawling grounds and tastefully-decorated interiors. 

The designer bought the Grade II-listed Wiltshire property with her husband, financier Nick Hofgren, in 2013, after three years of looking for their perfect country home and has since focused on ‘stripping back’ to the property’s original charm. 

Pretty in pink! A photogenic corner of Sophie Conran's Georgian manor house in the Wiltshire countryside. The designer bought the Grade II-listed property with her husband, financier Nick Hofgren, in 2013, after three years of looking

Pretty in pink! A photogenic corner of Sophie Conran’s Georgian manor house in the Wiltshire countryside. The designer bought the Grade II-listed property with her husband, financier Nick Hofgren, in 2013, after three years of looking

Epitome of elegance: Friends and family gather in the large dining room, which boasts views out over the garden. A stunning Murano chandelier hangs from the ceiling and the walls are decorated with statement artwork and ornamental mirrors

Epitome of elegance: Friends and family gather in the large dining room, which boasts views out over the garden. A stunning Murano chandelier hangs from the ceiling and the walls are decorated with statement artwork and ornamental mirrors

True blue: The property is full of colour, including the shades of blue in this reception room. Sophie, daughter of Sir Terence Conran and his third wife, cookery writer Caroline Herbert, shares photographs of her home on Instagram

True blue: The property is full of colour, including the shades of blue in this reception room. Sophie, daughter of Sir Terence Conran and his third wife, cookery writer Caroline Herbert, shares photographs of her home on Instagram

Creating corners of interest: The rest of the rooms are decorated in a similar fashion, with antique furniture, vibrant fabrics and pretty glassware all on display. Pictured, an antique chest of drawers flanked by chairs upholstered in a floral fabric

Creating corners of interest: The rest of the rooms are decorated in a similar fashion, with antique furniture, vibrant fabrics and pretty glassware all on display. Pictured, an antique chest of drawers flanked by chairs upholstered in a floral fabric

Creative vision: Sophie Conran (pictured in 2017) has put her own stamp on the stunning property and enhanced the period features

The estate recently hosted the wedding of Sophie's daughter Coco to art dealer Alex Vardaxoglou (pictured)

Creative vision: Sophie Conran (left in 2017) has put her own stamp on the stunning property and enhanced the period features. The estate recently hosted the wedding of Sophie’s daughter Coco to art dealer Alex Vardaxoglou (pictured)

Country retreat: The manor house, pictured, is made from bath stone and sits in acres of land. Conran has also put a lot of effort into the garden and grounds. There is a thriving vegetable patch, wildflowers and 30 acres of woodland

Country retreat: The manor house, pictured, is made from bath stone and sits in acres of land. Conran has also put a lot of effort into the garden and grounds. There is a thriving vegetable patch, wildflowers and 30 acres of woodland

‘It has the most amazing proportions,’ Conran told British Vogue in an interview last year. ‘Huge floor-to-ceiling windows with the original shutters. We moved in as it was. My vision was to respect the architecture and peel back. I wanted to make it a house for friends, one that makes you happy.’

It is easy to imagine friends and family gathered in the large dining room, which boasts views out over the garden. A stunning Murano chandelier hangs from the ceiling and the walls are decorated with statement artwork and large elegant mirrors.  

The rest of the rooms are decorated in a similar fashion, with antique furniture, vibrant fabrics and pretty glassware all on display. 

A quick glance at Conran’s Instagram feed and it is easy to see her love of colour: the rooms are decorated with shades of pink, blue and green. 

‘The architecture has very much influenced how I’ve decorated,’ Conran said. ‘Looking out of the window, it’s all buttercups and blossom – blowsy blooms of mock orange. This house has brought out the romantic in me.’

Conran, who sells her linen, tableware and Portmeirion ceramic collection through her website, has also put a lot of effort into the garden and grounds. There is a thriving vegetable patch, wildflowers and 30 acres of woodland.

Quirky touches: In the centre of one room several sunhats are displayed on a large circular table. Sophie said she was drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows (one pictured) and the period features of the Georgian property

Quirky touches: In the centre of one room several sunhats are displayed on a large circular table. Sophie said she was drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows (one pictured) and the period features of the Georgian property

Eye for style: Conran, who sells her linen, tableware and Portmeirion ceramic collection through her website, said she enjoys searching for pieces to add to the home and imagines it will be a lifelong project. Pictured, one of the reception rooms

Eye for style: Conran, who sells her linen, tableware and Portmeirion ceramic collection through her website, said she enjoys searching for pieces to add to the home and imagines it will be a lifelong project. Pictured, one of the reception rooms

Seriously sumptuous: The guest rooms were the first to be decorated, Sophie revealed, and this bedroom looks worthy of a five-star hotel. The four-poster bed is hung with thick drapes that match the headboard and skirting

Seriously sumptuous: The guest rooms were the first to be decorated, Sophie revealed, and this bedroom looks worthy of a five-star hotel. The four-poster bed is hung with thick drapes that match the headboard and skirting

The estate recently hosted the wedding of Sophie’s daughter Coco to art dealer Alex Vardaxoglou. 

The civil ceremony took place in Marlborough, Wiltshire, in December 2020 and the handful of photos shared of the event suggest the reception took place at Sophie’s.  

Sophie also shares son Felix with ex-husband Alex Willcock. Together the pair run furniture makers Maker & Son. 

Among those present were Coco’s uncle Jasper Conran and his partner, the artist Oisin Byrne.

Alex and Coco became engaged in May and had planned a wedding in May 2021 but decided to bring the date forward and scale back their plans in light of the pandemic restrictions.

Centrepiece: Flowers burst out of jars and vases dotted around the house, including this impressive display

Centrepiece: Flowers burst out of jars and vases dotted around the house, including this impressive display 

The joys of spring: Sophie, who sells glassware and tableware online, created this stunning tablescape for Easter

The joys of spring: Sophie, who sells glassware and tableware online, created this stunning tablescape for Easter

Speaking to Tatler, Coco said: ”The whole day was totally magical from beginning to end and I wouldn’t change one single thing.

‘What was particularly lovely about having a smaller scale wedding was being surrounded by people we care so deeply about and having so much time to spend with them individually on the day.’

The bride designed her own dress, creating one with her signature square neckline, and complete with a matching jacket and trousers hidden under the skirt.

Meanwhile Coco’s sibling Song Willcock wore a similar design in a bright pink colour, while another donned a gown in a forest green fabric.

Full of life: Pots of flowers bloom in this seating area in one corner of the garden. Conran is working on meadows on the estate

Full of life: Pots of flowers bloom in this seating area in one corner of the garden. Conran is working on meadows on the estate

Garden-to-table: The estate also boasts a thriving vegetable garden, pictured, which produces fresh food for the family

Garden-to-table: The estate also boasts a thriving vegetable garden, pictured, which produces fresh food for the family

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Property investors offended by ‘vulture funds’ label, conference hears

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People in Ireland need to stop calling property investment firms “vulture funds” and development and building rules need to stop changing if the housing crisis is to be solved, property and banking sector representatives have said.

Marie Hunt, executive director of research at real estate firm CBRE, told an Irish Council for Social Housing conference that the “fundamental problem” in the Irish housing market “is a lack of supply”.

She said bureaucracy and regularly changing public policy were also issues, noting the political discussion this week about potentially changing the link between rent and inflation because prices were rising.

Ms Hunt said investors were not going to come into a market where the rules kept changing halfway through the game.

She said that calling investors “vulture funds” was unhelpful and that name calling “in the media” should stop.

“We need that capital and we need that investment.”

She said investors who bought a nursing home or an office block were welcomed but that those who bought housing received very negative publicity “and they don’t need that”.

Take interest elsewhere

Pat O’Sullivan, head of real estate research at AIB, said policy changes were problematic and that the term “vulture fund” was offensive to investors, who could take their interest elsewhere.

He said Ireland isn’t the only economy that requires funding and “we have got to be very careful about the amount of changes we make to policy, how we describe the investment”.

Ms Hunt said that from a developer’s perspective, many housing schemes were not viable due to high construction and “input” costs and “because we have raised the bar so high in terms of the planning regime and design requirements”.

She instanced the judicial review process, which has been used to bring challenges to fast-track strategic planning developments, as another problem. Ms Hunt said “anecdotally” developers were hiring senior counsel and barristers ahead of planners and architects, such was the level of challenges.

The conference continues on Thursday.

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Should the developer pay for my drive’s missing dropped kerb?

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PROPERTY CLINIC: I bought a house with a drive that the developer never got a dropped kerb for, who is responsible for paying for one?

  • You have approached your local council about it paying for your kerb to be fixed 
  • The developer was issued with guidance by the local council to drop the kerb
  • No work has been carried out and the kerb needs to be dropped 










I bought a property that has a driveway without a dropped kerb. It is uncomfortable every time I drive over it. When I approached my local council about getting it fixed, it said the developer was under no obligation to drop the kerb. 

The council said I would have to apply for a licence to get it dropped. That licence costs £222.35. 

I will also have to pay for the work to be carried out. Is there anything I can do about this and why are developers allowed to build homes without dropped kerbs? MT

Parking space is at a premium and many want a drive, but you'll need a dropped kerb too

Parking space is at a premium and many want a drive, but you’ll need a dropped kerb too

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: Parking spaces are becoming highly desirable in many areas, as on-street parking restrictions proliferate.

Your developer was issued with guidance by the local council to drop the kerb. However, the local council in this case has confirmed that there is nothing in planning consent or elsewhere that required the developer to drop the kerb. 

Unfortunately, you have no claim against the original developer or the person from whom you bought the property. And so you will now need to apply to your local council for the kerb to be dropped.

Research by Direct Line found that during the past three years there has been a rise in the number of requests for dropped kerbs received by local councils amid an increasing demand for parking spaces.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, councils received an estimated 14,500 planning requests for dropped kerbs, rising to 14,700 between April 2020 and March 2021.

Stephen Gold, a retired judge and author, explained: Your local council is correct. In fact, it is sometimes necessary to also obtain planning permission for the construction of a dropped kerb: For example, if the kerb would be on a classified road or in a conservation area.

The fact that the all-clear has been given in the past to neighbouring properties for a dropped kerb is no guarantee that you will be as lucky because of changes in engineering standards and improvements in design. You may also be refused where, say, your property is on a bend or at a road junction or close to traffic lights.

The property was sold as it was, with no dropped kerb

The property was sold as it was, with no dropped kerb

You have no claim against the original developer or the person from whom you bought the property. 

The property was sold to you as it was: One driveway and no dropped kerb which would have been obvious, so you got what you bargained for. 

You would or should have contemplated that a drive from the property over the pavement might be an uncomfortable exercise. Had your seller agreed to bear the cost of construction of the kerb and associated expenses, the position would have been different.

But assuming that you bought with the help of a mortgage, the property would have been inspected by a valuer or surveyed on behalf of the mortgage lender and you may have organised your own private survey. 

If the process and expense of getting the all-clear for a dropped kerb was not raised in the inspection or survey report then you would have an arguable – although not a strong – claim against the report’s author or their employer. 

After all, section 184 of the Highways Act 1980 makes it an offence to drive over the pavement to get out of your property when the local authority has prohibited you from doing so in view of the absence of a dropped kerb and so this would have been an important matter.

You would have up to six years from the report to start what could be a county court ‘small claim’. You would be well advised to send details of the claim to whoever reported with a threat of proceedings if they do not pay up. If the claim is rejected by them, assess whether to take the matter further when you have the benefit of knowing why they assert they are not liable to you. 

Even making a small claims carries risks. You won’t get back the court fees if you lose and may have to pay the winner’s expenses for travel and loss of earnings in being at court.

  • Stephen Gold is the author of ‘The Return of Breaking Law’, published by Bath Publishing

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At the Ryder Cup, would 12 divided by three equal victory for the US?

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“Pod” is not a golf word. And yet it has been on the tongue of nearly everyone in the golf community during the past, tense days before this week’s Ryder Cup, the biennial, pressure-packed team competition between American and European pro golfers that begins Friday.

Paul Azinger, the American Ryder Cup captain in 2008 and a former PGA Tour pro, deserves the credit, or the blame, for injecting “pod” into the golf vernacular. Thirteen years ago, after learning that Navy Seal units bonded by training and living together in small, carefully selected platoons, Azinger decided he would divide his 12-man team into three four-man units before that year’s Ryder Cup. The hope was that a finite, close-knit group could match the unity exhibited by Europe’s triumphant teams.

Called the pod system, Azinger’s four-man corps were chosen after each player took a personality test. Grouped together based on compatibility, the players did almost everything together before the Ryder Cup matches – practice rounds, meals, nightly table tennis games. When the competition started, they were paired together in matches and routed the Europeans to claim the first US victory in nine years and just the second since 1993. Azinger was celebrated for his innovation.

But in a show of the stubborn individualism that may be hampering the overall American Ryder Cup effort, the US captains who succeeded Azinger rejected or diluted his approach. Only one of those teams won, in 2016, when Davis Love III embraced the pod system.

‘Good concept’

At other team competitions in professional golf, including the Solheim Cup, which pits women’s golfers from the United States against those from Europe, leaders chose to adopt Azinger’s model with success and failure. Last month, the American Solheim Cup captain, Pat Hurst, implemented the pod system and her team lost, 15-13.

Even Azinger, now an analyst for NBC, has questioned the current efficacy of his idea. “The way I did it wouldn’t even work today, to be honest, even though the concept was good,” he said last week. “I just think the pods, they don’t work all the time. We keep getting beat. If everybody’s still using the pods, pods isn’t the answer. It’s something bigger than that.”

The pod debate has not stopped or impeded the discussion about the best way to replicate Azinger’s success on the American side. In the run-up to the event, the overarching intrigue is how Steve Stricker, this year’s US captain, will make up the two-man partnerships he sends out for the 16 matches against Europe’s two-man teams on Friday and Saturday. (On Sunday, the Ryder Cup concludes with 12 one-on-one singles matches.)

The American hand-wringing about their player pairings has generally been a source of quiet amusement for the European squad. Devising the pairings on their team is rarely controversial or the product of profound, multilayered planning. Players often form natural partnerships based on which European country they represent.

“The Europeans are bonded by blood, which means everything to them,” Azinger said. “The Spaniards play together. The Englishmen, the Irishmen, the Swedes, they’re bonded by something that really gives them a full-blown 1 per cent advantage.” Azinger said a 1 per cent advantage may not seem like much, but in the three days of a Ryder Cup competition, more than 4,000 shots are likely to be put in play. A 40-stroke swing, or 1 per cent, could conceivably decide a couple of matches, where one point is awarded for each victory and half a point for a tie. Europe has won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups, but on four occasions the margin of victory was a single point.

Seizing on that 1 per cent edge, Azinger said of the Europeans: “They bring an intangible with them. It’s a fact.” Outside the golf world, there may be some precedent to explain how the European team’s geographic make-up improves its Ryder Cup results. Some of the strongest, most effective troops during the second World War were soldiers assembled from the same town or village, according to Charline Russo, a senior lecturer in organisational dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant on executive coaching and team development.

“It wasn’t just because they grew up together, there was also that accountability factor,” Russo said. “You didn’t want to go home and admit that you screwed up.” Russo, who has a PhD in organisational leadership, has a deep familiarity with the personality tests that Azinger used 13 years ago.

Cautioned

Stricker, who was on the 2008 team, last week conceded that he would employ a variety of tactics to devise his pairings, although he declined to be specific on whether he would use the pod system. Russo said the assessments could be valuable tools, but cautioned, “You need somebody who knows what they’re doing with it because these things can be dangerous.” Azinger, for example, consulted at length with a clinical psychologist.

It may be even more difficult if Brooks Koepka, who qualified for the team but injured his wrist last month, is healthy enough to play. Koepka and his American team-mate Bryson DeChambeau have spent most of this year feuding on social media. Stricker has asked the two men to put aside their differences during the Ryder Cup, and each player has been discreet of late, but do not expect Koepka and DeChambeau to be paired for a match, or even assigned to the same pod – if there is a pod system.

Justin Leonard, who was a member of several American Ryder Cup teams including the 2008 squad, said that keeping Koepka and DeChambeau apart should be “real easy”, especially if the players are in pods. “We ate breakfast together, we ate dinner together, we played our practice rounds together, and when we were in the same room with the whole team, we sat at a table together,” Leonard said of 2008, adding that the arrangement provided a level of comfort because there were no surprises when the pairings were announced.

Additionally, Leonard, who is now an NBC golf analyst, said he expected the pod system to return for the Americans this week because Phil Mickelson, who was on the 2008 team, is a non-paying vice captain to Stricker. “Phil Mickelson was a big proponent of the pods,” Leonard said. “He loved that system. Him being a vice captain, I feel fairly confident that we’ll see something similar to that.” Azinger said he did not have a clue how Stricker might proceed. “I don’t know what’s he’s doing,” Azinger said. “He’s not told me.”

– This article first appeared in the New York Times

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