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November 2017 / Travel / by Liz Skone James

Lakeside living

A contemporary Cotswold retreat with a sprinkling of A-list glamour provides the perfect venue for a weekend away with the whole family 

There are big birthdays on the horizon… Tasked with planning a gathering for the extended family, I am aghast at the idea of actually “hosting”. While some people have entire guest suites decked out with fluffy towels, 200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and scented candles, ever ready to welcome visitors into the bosom of the family home, my spare room is where I go to escape the family I actually live with (it may be my home, but with kids around, it definitely isn’t my castle). What we need, I reason, is neutral ground. So I begin looking for a place that will put us all up in style. Never mind home away from home, I want something blow-your-socks-off amazing, and a quick nosey around their website convinces me I have found just that at The Lakes by YOO.

Avant-garde design collective, YOO Studio chose 850 acres of Cotswolds woodland, meadows and lakes (a former quarry) as the location for their rural retreat – a five star, private estate of second homes and 11 exclusive holiday rentals, close to Lechlade-on-Thames.

While the setting might be the definition of bucolic bliss, with YOO at the helm, and interiors designed by the likes of Kelly Hoppen and Philippe Starck, I’m expecting the design-led holiday homes (in five categories ranging from “special”, through “fabulous”, to “one-of-a-kind”) to be anything but rustic. The concierge team at The Lakes propose that the one-of-a-kind five-bedroom Barnhouse – Kate Moss’ interior design debut, no less – will be perfect for our group. Who am I to argue? They then set about making plans for our visit: ordering breakfast hampers and meals, setting up spa appointments for the grown-ups of the group and generally going out of their way to ensure that we have to do nothing beyond packing and getting there.

And we almost fail on that front, so unobtrusive are the signs directing us off the quiet country road. But then discretion is key when second homeowners here include Jade Jagger (which also explains the security on the gate). We’re expected though, and welcomed like long lost friends, before being guided through the estate to our home for the weekend.

Set away from the lakes, in a secluded copse of silver birch trees, the Barnhouse is no typical Cotswolds cottage. Built from a mixture of local stone and green oak, the house may have been inspired by traditional agricultural buildings, but floor-to-ceiling windows (all the better to make the most of that glorious setting) opening onto a stunning deck with heated swimming pool, ensure that there is a distinctly modern twist.

It is inside that really takes our breath away though. The house is eclectic and oh-so-cool. Playfully retro, the aesthetic takes its style cues from various eras, while perfectly complementing the house’s natural setting. There are plush silver silk carpets reflecting the trees outside, and velvet sofas in earthy, jewel bright tones. A vast custom-built table with deco detailing is already set for our evening meal, with vintage cutlery and glassware.

Lining the walls are works of art by Damien Hirst, Allen Jones and Mit Senoj, there’s even a few framed photos of Kate Moss herself. And my musical nephew is delighted to discover a Crosley turntable, complete with a curated collection of vinyl, and an acoustic guitar ready to be played.

Upstairs, the kids’ bedroom is decked out in bold black and white striped wallpaper, with bright pink curtains and colourful artisan bedcovers from Peru. And in pride of place, with windows overlooking the living space below, the master suite features an epic, mirrored four poster bed, decadently spread with faux furs. No Toto, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore…

And so we set about a weekend of country pursuits: eating and drinking far too much in front of the roaring log burner; strolling by the lakes to work off the calories consumed; open water swimming for the foolhardy of the group; trampolining, fishing, sailing and generally letting off steam for the youngsters; and glorious Bamford bespoke facials and decompression time in the sauna at the heavenly Orchard Spa for the rest.

Happily at home in the house that Kate built, we are reluctant to pack up our things at the end of the trip. It is easy to see why so many have been tempted to secure their own piece of lakeside luxury here, and, armed with estate maps, brochures and floorplans, we start dreaming about what might be… To discover more, see thelakesbyyoo.com