Interior designer sparks furious row over 18th century hunting lodge dubbed the ‘prettiest small house in the world’ by installing ‘horrific’ electric gates before planning permission was granted 

  • New resident Francis Sultana has installed an electric fence at Odihamn Lodge 
  • Designers have been outraged by ‘horrific’ installation plus other proposals
  • The gates appeared on the property before the council had granted permission 

A fierce war of words has broken out between distinguished interior designers over the installation of electric gates at a famous National Trust hunting lodge in Hampshire.

Critics have been left enraged at the ‘horrific’ gates installed by the new owner of the Odiham Hunting Lodge’s, Francis Sultana, which appeared before planning permission was granted, the Times report.

Sultana, 49, an interior designer and ambassador of culture for Malta, submitted plans to Hart district council for a pair of metal gates at the grade II listed building – once described as the ‘prettiest small house in the world’.

According to the planning proposals, the new gates would be positioned behind the traditional white wooden gates which frame the iconic Jacobean Revival façade of three elaborate gables that have made the house famous. 

But Sultana, who moved in to the National Trust property last year, has come under fire from a coalition of outraged acolytes of legendary interior designer John Fowler, who lived at Odiham lodge until 1947 and crafted it into the quintessence of English country house design.

Sultana, who moved in to the National Trust property last year, has come under fire from a coalition of outraged acolytes of legendary interior designer John Fowler, who lived at Odiham lodge until 1947 and crafted it into the quintessence of English country house design

Sultana, 49, an interior designer and ambassador of culture for Malta, submitted plans to Hart district council for a pair of metal gates at the grade II listed building – once described as the ‘prettiest small house in the world’

Designer Jasper Conran, 62, said: ‘I don’t believe that John Fowler could possibly have believed that such additions would be possible. The National Trust is surely beholden to ensure that this truly beautiful building and its gardens are preserved without interference.’ 

Vociferous objections have been led by decorator John Tanner, who is urging his 27,000 Instagram followers to issue complaints to the council over the gates and other features in the planning proposals. 

Other features of Sultana’s proposal include the installation of 14 security cameras and a plastic-coated fence around the property, enraging the group of interior designers and National Trust members even further.

They claim that the additions would contravene the conservation management plan of the 18th century property.

The National Trust plan states that ‘the nature and overall setting of the property is not compromised, in particular the planned setting and views of the house’.

Graham Carr, another Fowler disciple, called the gates ‘one of the most horrific things’ he had ever seen on his Instagram. 

‘The National Trust has a lot to answer for in my opinion,’ he said. ‘You could tell it was going to be a disaster from the beginning.’

Sultana describes the new metal gates in his proposal to the council as ‘acceptable compromise between not obstructing the view of the house while stopping the entrance of deer,’ adding, ‘this is an improvement from ad hoc mesh previously installed.’

The mesh was previously installed by designer Nicky Haslam, who lived at the property for 40 years until 2019.

Haslam, 82, who became known by designing tea towels on which he listed things he thought to be ‘common’, said he had not been granted permission to install anything other than basic chicken wire to deter deer. 

Sultana said: ‘I would like to assure everyone that loves the house as much as I do that both the National Trust and I have only the house and the garden’s best interests at heart.’

Although Haslam did not wish to personally criticise the new tenant, he questioned why Sultana was able to make changes to the property that he was not allowed to make himself. 

Sultana said: ‘I first fell in love with the hunting lodge as a teenager. I understand that not everyone was happy when my tenancy was announced.

‘However, I would like to assure everyone that loves the house as much as I do that both the National Trust and I have only the house and the garden’s best interests at heart.’ 

The National Trust said: ‘Our tenant selection process is never about the highest bidder. When selecting a tenant for a residential property we take into consideration a number of factors.’

The house was thought to have been one of King Henry VII’s hunting lodges, due to its links to Odiham Castle, built by King John in the 13th century, however it was probably built in the 18th century. 

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