Yorkshire couple aim to build on their success by heading Stateside

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The Grange in Follifoot is a gold standard self-build and so it should be.

After over 30 years in the business, developers Jean and Andy Butterfield have put everything they’ve learned about design and construction into this home.

It’s a symbol of success for the couple, who began marriage working three jobs each so they could fund their dreams of a better life.

Now in their 60s, they’re selling up and you might imagine it’s to downsize and take it easy but instead, the intrepid baby boomers are planning a new adventure across the Atlantic.

Not only are they going to live the American dream, they’re building it too.

After holidays in Longboat Key, Sarasota, they fell in love with the sun kissed, waterside location and the laid back Floridian lifestyle.

But rather than a buy a home, they used their skills to build one and are now planning their next.

The Butterfields Yorkshire-based company Graycliffe, now overseen by their son, specialises in commercial and residential, development and they have built three of their own homes, so the venture has provided an interesting comparison between the British and American systems.

Planning permission for the first American house took six weeks.

“It is quick and easy compared to the UK. They want to see progress over there, whereas here you are fighting for it.

“We have a site in Knaresborough that took five years to get planning approval,” says Andy, an architect and quantity surveyor, who adds that funding for their second plot was also remarkably easy to find.

“A friend introduced us to a bank, though essentially we had just walked in off the street. The loans manager was really accommodating. They’ve got a real can do attitude and the customer service out there is really good.”

The design and layout of their luxury home is largely American with open plan living space and the construction is hurricane standard reinforced concrete

Overseen by Andy and Jean via the internet and visits to the US, it took 15 months to build.

“We had a great builder who was recommended to us and we were very involved, which really slowed the project down but we weren’t in a rush,” says Andy.

The interiors incorporate European ideas and products and it is these that have given the new home extra wow factor.

The kitchen is German, the marble Italian and all the bathrooms are Villeroy and Boch, which were shipped over in a container. Jean sourced other furniture and fittings from all over the states, including from New York and Miami.

“The house is American design with European taste,” says Jean, who has styled all of her company’s show homes.

After praise and encouragement from their Stateside friends, she and Andy are building another house using the same Anglo-American approach to design that will set their property apart, though they say the location is an equally effective marketing tool.

Longboat Key is an exclusive area and hasn’t been spoiled by over development. Although much of the American property market has suffered during the recession, there are exceptions and this area just outside trendy Sarasota is one of them.

“Longboat Key is a bit like Harrogate, it hasn’t really been badly affected by the recession. It’s all about location. Over in Orlando, they built acres of identikit houses that are known as ‘cookie cutter homes’ and many of them will probably never sell,” says Andy. “The other issue was that before that banking crisis they were trying to persuade everyone to own their own home whether they could afford it or not and that was a big mistake.”

The Butterfields have climbed close to the top of the property ladder and their plan is to spend six months in America and six months in Yorkshire, where their children and grandchildren live.

It will be a retirement of sorts.

“We don’t want to stop completely and fester. We don’t play golf and we’re not ready for the deck chair so we hope to carry on developing. It’s very relaxed in America, so it will be our hobby,” says Andy.

That’s why the Grange in the village of Follifoot, near Harrogate, is on the market, though they’ll be sad to leave it. They built it seven years ago after buying and developing Follifoot Hall.

“There was a 1960s extension and we demolished that to build this house. It’s in a fantastic position in green belt fronted by open fields with amazing views,” says Jean.

The 6,500sq ft property features high ceilings, eight foot high doors and as many windows as they could design in. It also has a ground source heat pump, sound system, smart house technology and a central vacuuming system.

“We also wanted to create a substantial house with a solid feel and so we built solid internal walls rather than timber partitions and the upper floors are concrete,” says Andy.

“We love this house. It is in an idyllic spot and we built it to suit ourselves but we will probably buy or build somewhere smaller as we intend to spend six months in America,” says Jean.

“We could never move away completely. Our children and grandchildren are here and we love England and its changing seasons far too much to live in America full-time.”