Inside the quirky Buckinghamshire manor house on the market for £5.5 million

Working from home has become a new way of life for many of us.

Adapting a room to create office space, creating new, distraction-proof routines and updating our tech have been top priorities, with the pandemic forcing companies to make sure their now remote employees can still do their jobs as effectively as possible.

Harnessing the power of technology, insists Jacqueline de Rojas — the president of techUK, a mentor and advocate for diversity and inclusion — can be a great equalising force, where imaginations can run wild and boundaries no longer exist. ‘Work is not a place,’ she says, ‘it is where you are.’

For Jacqueline, 58, this doesn’t mean a contemporary glass box, kitted out with every possible high-tech gadget.

Instead, Maryfield House, on Taplow’s well-heeled high street, in Buckinghamshire, is a 7,000sq ft Victorian villa, with six bedrooms, several high-ceilinged receptions and an attached two-bedroom cottage, which elegantly balances tradition and modernity.

Nowhere is this better displayed than in her grand study. Here, carved oak-panelled walls, commissioned by Jacqueline, provide a sense of gravitas, with the ornate antique desk updated with a standing desk converter, so she can keep five laptops open at the same time, and a Logitech webcam.

An exquisite office chair, with flamingo motif, hand-made by The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades, provides contemporary design flair.

The key to successful WFH, though, says Jacqueline, is to keep mixing things up.
‘I like to change locations in the house, or make a call on the move, for example when I am on my treadmill,’ she says.

‘I find even standing up at my desk changes the energy of conversations and have even replaced my usual commute with taking my dogs for long walks at the beginning and the end of the day. Starting with 5km along the Thames Path and Jubilee River, and then a walk around the four-acre grounds.’

An inveterate multi-tasker, Jacqueline who is also a non-executive director on the board of Rightmove, admits that back at her desk – and as long as the webcam isn’t on – she’ll often be sewing or embroidering while in meetings.

She may often be described as a ‘titan of tech’, but for Jacqueline, who was awarded a CBE for services to technology in international trade in 2018, time for creativity and mindfulness is essential.

As her husband, Roger, is a yoga and meditation instructor, they practise together each day, plus she has regular workouts with her daughter, Stephanie, an actor and fitness coach (Instagram @movemindrevolution) in the gym.

In an attached studio, which she calls ‘the escape room’, Roger paints and plays guitar, and a family ‘sewing bee’ has focused on making face masks for the NHS.

Bespoke heated outdoor dining spaces, such as an orangery and conservatory, used for family meals, are filled with furniture sourced from local antique shops and artisans’ workshops, and scented with scores of True Grace candles – ‘I like my home to smell like a spa,’ she says.

Juxtaposed with a quintessentially English kitchen garden, a pavilion area and outdoor pizza oven add a note of Ibiza-luxe. Since her childhood, which was overshadowed by domestic abuse and bullying, Jacqueline was determined to blaze a trail, not only evident in her stellar career, but now in her exuberantly decorated home.

‘I describe it as Soho Farmhouse-style, but with our own personal twist,’ she says. ‘I would never have some kind of insipid, vanilla-beige backdrop.’

She must certainly get a power surge when she walks up the plush, fuchsia pink-carpet-covered central staircase of the home, just one of the ways in which she has put her own stamp on Maryfield since buying it in 2003.

‘We were living in a crenellated folly in High Wycombe, and weren’t seriously considering moving,’ she says.

‘But as soon as we saw this place, it felt instantly right for us, it had so much heart. The flow, however, did need correcting, so we made quite a few additions.’
One of the first things they did was add a huge, double-height vaulted kitchen space, with dramatic theatre lighting. ‘We love entertaining, so we wanted it to have the feel of a stage,’ Jacqueline explains.

Elsewhere, there are bright wallpapers and furniture by Designers Guild feature, along with glittering chandeliers, lights by Pooky and Tom Raffield and nature-themed cushions by London-based artist Anna Jacobs.

‘I love supporting female founders where I can,’ she says.

They may have created the perfect live-work mini-estate, but she and Roger are now, however, looking to ‘rightsize’, and have put the house on the market, with 1.6 acres of land, for £5.5million.

Although they are still plotting their next move, they may well stay in the area, as they are so immersed in the local community.

When they were handed the keys to the house 17 years ago, they were greeted by 60 neighbours who had organised a champagne reception, and told, only half-jokingly, that it would be their job to host the annual Christmas party, something they did on Zoom this year.

Whoever buys the house will also be buying into a close-knit, supportive neighbourhood, with technology used to keep everyone in touch.

‘We have made sure everyone is on WhatsApp, and now have a very active village group,’ Jacqueline continues. ‘I love getting neighbourly messages during my working day, with one of my favourites so far being to watch out for an escaped cow. It’s what makes this place quite so special.’

Find out more through Hamptons.

Jacqueline’s failsafe tips for WFH

Create space

Any space, from the kitchen table to a desk in the bedroom, can become your work space.

Make it comfortable but practical – I stand when I am working, at an amazing standing desk by Humbleworks.co. I also use noise-cancelling AirPods by Apple.

Stay hydrated

My daughter bought me a two-litre water bottle, which has times of the day on it so I remember to drink.

Structure matters

The structure of a routine gives me a sense of normality. I often listen to podcasts when I am working, and have playlists lined up throughout the day for concentration, motivation and relaxation.

Change it up

I find it is good to change locations in the house, or make a call on the move, sometimes on the treadmill or when I am taking the dogs for a long walk in the garden.

It helps me get my steps up, sparks new ideas and gets them walked all at the same time!

Create boundaries

People who work from home are more productive and tend to work longer hours. Set clear boundaries throughout the day between work and home life, and schedule breaks throughout the day.

Maximise your time

It is important not to become tied to your ‘desk’. I have recreated my commute with dog walks instead, morning and evening, to mark the start and end of my day.

Social connection

I miss humans! But thanks to hamper delivery services and digital platforms, I have hosted gala dinners during lockdown and presented numerous awards – which also gives me the chance to dress up for the occasion.

Explore opportunities to learn/share experiences

Online living has opened up opportunities to take part in events, discussions and learning that might not have been previously available.

Keep pace with tech

There are infinite ways to do this at the moment – visit instituteofcoding.org and for entrepreneurs, technation.io.

Recognise distractions

Distractions at home are a normal part of the day.

I have been interrupted by kids, dogs, delivery services and my 80-year-old dad video calling from his TechSilver Grandpad in the middle of board meetings. You just have to know where the mute button is!

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