Hidden at the foot of the Malvern Hills with their sweeping views and dramatic landscape, Fairoaks offers the perfect antidote to modern living, providing those in search of a little luxurious down time with the winning combination of an idyllic away-from-it-all location and every contemporary convenience and indulgence... even down to a heated indoor pool.

The impressive development at Fairoaks is the brainchild of Mark Lodge, whose parents bought the former model farm in 1974: "It had been part of the Eastnor Castle estate," Mark explains, adding that it was sold when one of the castle's turrets fell down and cash was needed to fund the repairs.

"This was the only part of the estate on the other side of the Malvern Hills," he adds, "which meant that it was the part that it made most sense to sell."

Model farms originated in the 18th century, experimental farms designed to research and demonstrate improvements in agricultural techniques, efficiency, and building layout, and, key to Mark's development, emphasis was placed on buildings that were not only practical but beautiful too.

"The landed gentry were very keen on model farms," he explains, "and would spend their day exploring and understanding new modern agricultural practices."

"When my parents took it over they farmed it, but didn't invest in it."

And, while his parents farmed at Fairoaks, Mark "went off to uni, then into the corporate world, spending 14 years travelling around Europe" until the company he worked for floated on the stock market, providing an opportunity for him to leave.

"I'd always wanted to convert this," he says of Fairoaks. "I thought it would be a lovely place for people to come to from London. I used to sit in board meetings thinking 'one day I'll come back and this will be my project'." When he left the corporate world, Mark took a year off until, he says, his wife pointed out that he needed a project. Which was the moment at which his earlier daydreaming began to metamorphose into a concrete plan.

And what did his parents make of what he proposed for Fairoaks?

"Initially," says Mark, "they didn't believe in it, but now they're great supporters." And, while Mark oversaw the project, it's very much a family affair with his parents and wife Amy offering huge support throughout. Proving perhaps that having the vision is a major element in any development on this scale.

"It's beautiful bringing these old buildings back to life in a sympathetic way, getting the best out of the buildings but also making them work as contemporary spaces," says Mark, who project managed the build himself. A 'redundant barns grant' was a welcome contribution to the cost of conversion.

Each of the four barns, named to reflect their past incarnations, - The Stables, The Carthouse, The Millhouse and Piggery - has its own distinct style, achieved by Sarah Mason, the interior designer Mark worked with to achieve the look and finish he was after.

Sarah was involved throughout the project, allowing her designs to evolve as the build progressed rather than having four units to interior design simultaneously.

"Mark wanted each of them to be different in style to appeal to the widest audience," she explains. "Each design grew from the structure of each individual unit - once they were finished we had a sense of the uniqueness of each one and it develops from there."

"We have tried to develop them as sympathetically as we can and bring them back to life, with the doors throughout chosen to maximise the light, and underfloor heating installed in all four properties.

The beautifully designed interiors feature the very best of everything, with the kind of luxury stressed executives long for when they get some down time. In every room of the four barns, there are reminders of its past links with the land and agriculture, but set against a backdrop of comfortable elegance and the occasional unexpected element.

Wallpaper, for example, has been used to stunning and unexpected effect in The Stables where a striking peacock print covers an entire wall, a clever contrast to the brick and timber of the former stable block.

"One of the challenges of a barn conversion," Sarah says, "is that they can often not feel homely or warm enough. It's nice to keep the raw bricks but they can look quite industrial so I wanted to use wallpaper to warm it up."

Sarah chose a dramatic design from Cole and Sons, which works brilliantly to create a room that marries the traditional feel of a converted barn with a sense of the luxury and comfort of an elegant drawing room.

Wallpaper is used to equally striking effect in The Millhouse, where Sarah used GP & J Baker's bunny wallpaper by Hunt Slomen. "It is very bold," she admits, "but that particular unit was slightly more contemporary and needed something with a bit of wow factor to make it stand out from the others. The wallpaper was the starting point for everything else in that unit, with all the colours, fabrics and furnishings built on that."

Sarah explains that starting with a totally blank canvas as she did at Fairoaks, she will always start with one thing, whether it's the paper in The Millhouse or the pair of large David Hunt antler chandeliers in The Stables - "they were chosen to reflect Mark's love of the countryside" - and build the scheme from there. "There needed to be something dramatic in the space, and they set the theme," says Sarah, adding that she likes to keep the background neutral and introduce colour and texture through furniture, accessories, fabrics and lighting. "But it is quite daunting to have just freshly plastered walls - you have to find a starting point of some sort, but as things progress, you can tell which way you can take it," she says," which makes a project like Fairoaks very different to redesigning an interior around existing furnishings.

In The Piggery, the interior has a Scandinavian vibe - light-filled with contemporary fabrics, a blonde wooden floor and an impressively realistic distressed painted timber effect wallpaper on selected walls - "I use that a lot," Sarah admits.

Space is important to Mark who says: "I wanted to do them in quite an opulent style, and create light, airy units that would sit in harmony with the extraordinary landscape in which they're set."

The interiors have been based around themes I'd encountered around the world and spent time in, with the aim of making them all a little different.

The Carthouse, meanwhile, has been designed to have a French feel, and upstairs there's another example of Sarah's very creative design solutions as a pair of twin beds sit either side of an opening with mirror image headboards that can be put together to make a double room.

"It was a very small space," says Sarah, " and we wanted it to be as versatile as possible, to add height and a bit of width to the room, so we decided to mimic the pointedness of the roof space to make the room look larger. That also gave us the flexibility to split the beds if required. It was the space itself that sparked the idea, and helped us create the cute and slightly quaint room it is now."

Keeping everything immaculate is housekeeper Theresa, who runs it as if it were her own business. "She's just absolutely fantastic," says Mark, and everyone comments on how beautiful it's looked after and how clean it is."

Another of the stunning highlights of this development, a gem with the wow factor that undoubtedly proves irresistible to would-be guests, is the very contemporary pool house with its on-trend distressed timber interior, complemented and reflected by the fabulous Italian tiles lining the pool, creating an inviting, ethereal shimmer as the light falls on the water above.

Mark reveals that he initially thought that each of the barns would be taken as discrete units by different sets of guests, but Fairoaks has proved extremely popular with groups of family and friends booking all four properties for big celebratory events, like birthdays and weddings.

And while these sorts of gatherings take place at weekends, midweek will see corporate clients stay in the barns.

"Because it's quite central here, it's an easy meeting point for people come from all corners of the country."

Fairoaks, Castlemorton



07899 890 711