What do Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Taj Mahal, God and a bird sacred in Chinese mythology all have in common?
The answer: in various ways, they have inspired the creation of the most unusual home in Bristol, if not Britain — at least according to its owner, Matt Bagg.
In his efforts to sell his two-bedroom penthouse maisonette in a humble street of nondescript 1930s semis, he has penned a lyrical 5,000-word essay on the property listings website Rightmove, extolling its beauty and rarity. To his surprise the essay went viral, generating huge interest on social media.
Most adverts are concise, telling prospective owners that a flat or house is ‘well-presented’, ‘spacious’, ‘light and airy’, ‘close to amenities’ and so on.
But Matt didn’t think a conventional approach would do justice to his domestic masterpiece.
Iram Ramzan visits Matt Bagg’s extraordinary Bristol flat, sampling the main bathroom with a waterfall effect shower
An avantgarde bedroom boasts parquet flooring, a circular bed with inbuilt bedside tables and woven lamps
The property’s kitchen includes engineered parquet wooden flooring and walls, as well as diamond-shaped headlights and green kitchen units
He informs house-hunters that this 1,690 sq ft property — offers in the region of £800,000 — is for ‘special individuals who appreciate creative celebration, God, culture, oneness and uniqueness. Probably Bristol’s most unique home’. His property is, he writes, a testament to ‘human genius, creativity and a celebration to the incredible natural materials of divine Mother Earth’.
Just in case you didn’t get the point, he adds that it is ‘a wonderfully imaginative piece of creative art that has passionate architecture alongside confident design and genius thought, together with practical and eco technologies. Only time here will allow you to appreciate all the detail contained within this stunning and completely unique home’.
And if you are still not persuaded, he concludes that ‘this is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase a property that could never be financially or logistically built again’.
His description of his ‘timeless home that never feels boring’ is accompanied by no less than 124 images and it is fair to say he has had a mixed reaction. Some people online describe his pride and joy as ‘bonkers’. One house-hunter called it ‘migraine-inducing’. Another said it was an ‘overpriced man cave’.
‘People shouldn’t judge,’ Matt, 50, tells me when I arrive for my viewing. ‘And who can describe a house better than the person who built it? When you walk into a building you feel the energy, you have that gut feeling whether you like it or not.’
The sitting rooms comes with a diagonal ceiling, wooden fireplace and rooflights, with a glass balcony from the mezzanine floor above
Bagg informs house-hunters that this 1,690 sq ft property — offers in the region of £800,000 — is for ‘special individuals who appreciate creative celebration, God, culture, oneness and uniqueness’ (Pictured: Iram Ramzan in the property’s bathroom)
The living room ceiling also features ornate wooden textures, hanging chandeliers and wide rooflights, with a signature green accent colour
He has high hopes for a sale at or near his asking price. Properties in this sought-after suburb of Coombe Dingle had an overall average price of £533,948 in 2021, up 21 per cent on the previous year.
Matt, who wears a giant cross around his neck because he is ‘very spiritual’, did an engineering apprenticeship and then spent much of his life travelling, which explains the various influences at work in the maisonette.
His very — in his opinion — des res features onyx marble, cherrywood, ipe (a timber from South American rainforests), white jade crystals and black granite, as well as benefiting from Chinese, Cuban and Indian influences, with some art nouveau and art deco vibes thrown in.
During his travels, Matt worked on a kibbutz in Israel, where, he says, he learned the importance of sustainability. He then explored India for 18 months, which he found ‘spiritually enlightening’, and lived in China on and off for 15 years (in which time, he says, he developed an e-scooter and an e-bike) and was ‘blown away by the creativity’ of the Chinese people.
While he is not willing to share why he is selling up, he is clearly heartbroken at having to do so — and desperate to find a kindred spirit who will love and appreciate the work that went into his home.
The breakfast bar in the kitchen pays homage to oriental influences while being a cosy and intimate space to relax
The corridor of the mezzanine floor looks down to the sitting room below, and leads to a clock-themed window at its end
Certainly, this is a home that can feel overwhelming at first, but the location is glorious. From the living room, you have a wonderful view of rolling countryside and it is just a stone’s throw from the 650-acre Blaise Castle estate.
The house is currently divided into two. A buyer can purchase the penthouse (the top two floors at £800,000) or Matt will consider selling the whole property, which includes a second flat on the ground floor, where he is currently living. He has designed the place in such a way that all the rooms can easily be converted or divided to suit occupants and their needs.
‘Houses in this country don’t make sense,’ says Matt. ‘Imagine if you’re a couple who don’t have children but you want a large space. What are you going to do with four bedrooms? You’re getting a lot of square footage here. And if you have a large family, the grandparents could have their own space on one floor.’
Up in the penthouse there is a ‘feature’ everywhere you look. Open the kitchen cabinets, for instance, and there is a backdrop of Cuban street art. The office area has a working clock set inside a round window.
Or how about the 500kg green onyx slab displayed on the wall in the dining room? Green is ‘associated with intelligence, elevated brainpower and enhanced memory,’ says Matt.
All the doors, meanwhile, have 3D carvings of cranes — the bird is venerated in Chinese folklore as the prince of all feathered creatures.
Between the drawing room and lounge is a makeshift bridge, while ornate parquet wooden patterns adorn the loft space above
Matt describes the master bathroom as ‘the only one of its kind in the world’, with a two metre-high, hand-carved natural rock waterfall over a grand oval bathtub that is certainly big enough for two.
There are two smaller bathrooms, one of which is a tribute to the Taj Mahal: the white stone mimicking the ivory marble used by the 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who built India’s most celebrated building in honour of his favourite wife, Mumtaz. According to legend, the emperor’s plan was to build a black mausoleum for himself opposite his late spouse’s tomb. He never got round to it — so Matt has done the job for him, a bathroom of black granite and blue leopard stone to complement his own mini-Taj across the hall.
The ceilings, floors and walls in the lounge and open-plan kitchen/dining area are made from ipe, ‘the Rolls-Royce of all wood,’ says Matt, thanks to its durability.
And above the lounge is the property’s ‘showstopper’ balcony — in the style of a bridge, celebrating the achievements of the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed Bristol’s most famous structure, the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Matt’s labour of love took six years in all and, he claims, about £1 million, after he had snapped up the ‘derelict mess’ of a house for just over £300,000 in 2012. And now he has to give it all up — for a lot less money than he poured into it.
‘I’d be happy not to sell. But I have to,’ he says. ‘I need the money.’
In the meantime, he has also listed it on the reservations site Booking.com. Guests can expect to pay nearly £600 a night.
As I take my leave, Matt tells me that Shah Jahan’s vision of love is ‘missing in most of today’s cold and meaningless architecture’ — unlike his penthouse.
‘It’s made for a unique person,’ he insists. ‘For someone who will appreciate what it is, culturally.’
And perhaps there is someone out there who is as quirky as Matt, and will think so, too.