Take a look inside this £6m Grand Designs ‘Zig Zag’ house that’s gone on sale

The grounds of the 'zig zag' feature a Japanese gate and a stone bridge
The grounds of the 'zig zag' feature a Japanese gate and a stone bridge (Image credit: Savills)

A jaw-dropping house with a unique ‘zig-zag’ layout has gone on sale for £5.95m.

In 2017 the riverside St Albans self build property was featured on Grand Designs and host Kevin McCloud said it was “breath-taking” and described it as: “Part Japanese, part medieval cloister, part Roman villa in influence”.

The single-storey five-bedroom house was designed by its owners, Chris and Kayo, and their architect, Rogan Gale-Brown. It spans 5,175 square feet.

We take a look inside this rare architectural masterpiece.

Built to the principles of Feng Sui

The property, Abbey Orchard House, is influenced by Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese traditional practice that claims to use energy forces to harmonise the residents with their surrounding environment.

Some core principles of the philosophy are minimising clutter, open spaces, and the use of light. Estate agent Savills describes it as having a ‘strong visual connection to the surrounding landscape’.

The grounds also feature a Japanese gate and a stone bridge that crosses flowing water.

The couple and their three children originally lived in the house next to the then-unoccupied building plot but said the site attracted anti-social behaviour. They decided to buy the land, but it was subject to strict planning permissions because it is on a scheduled ancient monument site.

The design needed to follow the lines of previous archaeology trenches to respect the medieval and Roman remains buried below. In medieval times the property formed part of the Abbey of St Albans as its orchard.

The local planning authority wanted the building to be of single-storey bungalow design so the abbey is not obscured and the property is constructed from timber to reduce the weight of the building on the archaeology.

A 30m glass atrium brings the outdoors inside

The front door opens onto a 30-metre glazed atrium that connects the two wings. The property was designed not to have corridors and instead features double-width connecting spaces to allow art or collections to be displayed. Light pours into every nook and cranny thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights.

“Inside, it’s breath-taking,” said McCloud when the house was featured on Grand Designs in 2017. “The light is so soft that you can almost touch it, taste it.”

The two-acre garden and grounds feature jasmine draped over pergolas, and the grounds, which back down to the River Ver, are designed to blend in with the surrounding greenery.

The property is being sold by Savills for £5.95m.

Nick Ingle, head of Savills Harpenden, comments: “Abbey Orchard House is a contemporary masterpiece in the heart of the city – undoubtedly one of the most individual and outstanding architectural houses I’ve had the privilege to be involved with. It’s a piece of art in its own right and the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is second to none.

“The owners have created a truly breath-taking home that combines superior design and bespoke interiors – drawing on Japanese traditions and styles to connect with nature for a wonderfully calming ambience. The location is also unparalleled, discreetly positioned in such a way as to only be visible from the air, yet just a five-minute walk into the centre of St Albans.”

A sedum roof tops this contemporary eco home

A birdseye view of the house showing the green sedum roof

A birds-eye view of the house showing the green sedum roof (Image credit: Savills)

Abbey Orchard house features a sedum roof, where the property is covered with plants and vegetation.

Green roofs improve the home’s drainage because it stores water in plants and substrate before releasing it back into the environment naturally.

Green roofs are excellent at insulating a property, meaning lower energy bills. The plants absorb the sun’s energy to keep the property cool in summer while locking heat inside during the colder months. They also act as a habitat for wildlife.

The house is currently on sale with Savills estate agent.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.