Country houses - experience country living at its best
If you’re looking for ways to momentarily escape Hong Kong’s bustling city life, there certainly are a few ways in which to achieve your goal. Become a tourist in your own country and take a hiking tour on the Dragon’s Back trail; travel to Macau by catamaran; visit the picturesque Lantau Island or meet the gorgeous pandas at the Shenzhen Safari park. But for something a little more private (and if you wish, permanent), swap the city for the countryside and enjoy a break at a country house that’s essentially a home away from home.
In short, this type of dwelling is a spacious house in the countryside that may have belonged to the same family for generations. Picture a sturdy mansion with ample rooms, well-kept lawns that stretch out in front of the house and peaceful surroundings that give you a new appreciation for nature. Doesn’t it sound like an idyllic setting?
Country houses – where did it all begin?
In medieval Europe, a manor house was a large country house, the basic unit of organisation on the estate. The lord owned was the homeowner and it was from there that the estate (and to a certain extent, the village) was run. Monasteries and castles were often transformed into country homes.
Hakka villagers in Hong Kong stayed in the Wu Kau Tang Village during the Qing Dynasty, from 1644 to 1911. While the village is still there today, the mostly abandoned dwellings are not so much country houses, but cottages. These days, the countryside is well protected by country parks.
In Fujian, a province in southwest China, tulou abide. A tulou is a large, enclosed building and comes in various shapes. It can be in a circle, semicircle, rectangle, etc. The very first tulou was built between 960 AD and 1279 AD. These days the residences are often uninhabited and thus become neglected, as their previous owners are chasing opportunities in the city. This is the case of other country homes in China too, as people flock to big cities like Hong Kong to work and survive.
Which features are found in these homes?
There are a myriad of different types of houses around the world, each with their own characteristics. For example, a banya is a room designed for dry or wet heat sessions. In ancient Russia, if a new house was built, the banya was the first room to be constructed.
A fazenda is a large plantation in Brazil. During the 16th and 18th centuries, the plantation owners ruled the estates as well as the people who worked for them, without much interference from the authorities.
Could I build a country house from scratch?
Yes, you can. If you’re determined to roll up your sleeves and create your own idyllic house in the country, remember to keep costs and limitations in mind. While there are fewer restrictions on what you may build in the country versus in the city, they do apply.
Which style tickles your fancy?
Whether you prefer contemporary or traditional, you’re bound to find a style that’s just right for you. Popular types include the château (a large, French country house that has its origins in the mid-18th century), Schloss (a 19th century castle prevalent in countries such as Germany and Austria), izba (a wooden country house in Russia) and of course, the English manor house as mentioned before.
How much do plans cost?
Contemporary country house plans tend to focus on simplicity and often use wood as the main building material. Evenly spaced windows and a veranda are some of the main characteristics that dominate here. According to a popular house plan website, plans for country homes can cost anything from $35 (273 HKD) for a 2453 square foot home to $7429 (57 962 HKD) for a 11 243 square foot home.
How can I beautify my home?
At the risk of sounding bias, it’s hard not to think of Downton Abbey as the perfect example of elegant country décor.
Replicate this sophistication with sturdy wooden pieces like a statement-making table (mahogany is a good choice) that will transport you back to the 1920s before you can say ‘drawing room’. Round off the look with soft hues like peach or cream that will complement the deep brown of the wood. Works of art displayed in patterned frames scream traditional and are sure to create that luxurious country feel.
If rustic is your poison, try light grey kitchen walls to emphasise the element of relaxation in your home. Set it off against charcoal furniture pieces (no varnish allowed!) for perfect the look. Fill your spacious kitchen with wooden cupboards and choose a carpet in complementing colours as the centrepiece of the room.
Can I ensure that my home does not go up in smoke?
When it comes to safeguarding your home against fires, there are strict rules that could be enforced. Owners or occupants of domestic homes may be required to install automatic sprinkler systems, manual fire alarm systems, emergency lighting as well as a fire hydrant and hose reel system. Owners must ensure that the building has a definite way to escape and that fire fighting personnel has easy access to the house.
What are the benefits and disadvantages of country houses?
· You have more space than you can use
· It’s a great investment
· You’re in tune with nature
· It provides escapism and a place to unwind
While the serenity of living in a country house can’t be denied, there are some disadvantages to consider before buying or building:
· It costs a lot of money to maintain (In 2007 The Telegraph reported that the annual cost of maintaining an historic house is 2% of its actual value. A decade later, you can do the maths …)
· It could be challenging to find the right site
· You’ll need to consider the wildlife and plants before building
· In an emergency, being far away from airports could pose a problem
I’ve made my decision. Where can I go for assistance?
When considering building a house of any kind, it’s vital to establish a good relationship with your architect right from the beginning. This is no different for country houses, so make sure that you choose wisely and communicate your needs clearly and early on. Browse homify’s Professionals category for qualified and trusted specialists that will guide you all the way.