on guard

VISIT AN ENGLISH SEA­SIDE TOWN WHERE THE OLD COAST­GUARD’S HOUSE HAS BEEN CON­VERTED INTO A LIGHT AND AIRY HOME.

Country Style - - POSTCARD - WORDS CLARE GOGERTY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AN­DRÉ REUTER STYLING MIRIAM HANNEMANN/HOUSE OF PIC­TURES

“I open the shut­ters and all I can see is the sea and sky.”

On sum­mer days there is noth­ing Jane and Martin Will like more than tak­ing their West High­land ter­rier Bax­ter for a walk on the beach out­side their house in the small town of Deal, on the Kent coast in the United King­dom. “He loves be­ing by the sea,” says Jane, “although he doesn’t like to get his paws wet!” Walks are just one of the many pluses of the cou­ple’s coastal life. There’s also the shopping op­tions for bric-a-brac-lov­ing Jane, the op­por­tu­nity for Martin to pur­sue his love of sail­ing and, best of all, the plea­sure of liv­ing in their hand­some brick house right on the seafront. Once a thriv­ing sea­side port, Deal has a long and rich mar­itime his­tory in­clud­ing, in 1771, the ar­rival of Cap­tain James Cook af­ter his first voy­age to Aus­tralia. To­day, it is bet­ter known as a sea­side re­sort than a work­ing port. Just two hours’ south-east of Lon­don, there’s lots to draw tourists to Deal, in­clud­ing rows of pretty Ge­or­gian houses, a lively town cen­tre, a long peb­ble beach with a rick­ety tim­ber pier dat­ing back to the 1950s, and Deal Cas­tle, built in 1539 at the in­struc­tion of King Henry VIII. For Jane and Martin Will, who had al­ways planned to move from Lon­don to the coast, Deal ticked every box. “We con­sid­ered Corn­wall and Devon, but I wanted some­where within two hours of Lon­don so friends and fam­ily could come for the week­end, and from where I could com­mute eas­ily,” says Jane, who works at a school in Lon­don dur­ing the week. In 2013, af­ter their chil­dren had left for univer­sity, the cou­ple made the leap, dis­cov­er­ing this three-bed­room, for­mer coast­guard’s house. “We’d made a cheeky of­fer on a Ge­or­gian prop­erty, but it wasn’t ac­cepted,” says Jane. “Then we walked past this house and our friends told us it was for sale. It was big­ger and cheaper than the first prop­erty, and it was de­tached and on the seafront. We made an of­fer straight­away.” Built in 1860, the build­ing was orig­i­nally one of several that com­prised the coast­guard cen­tre, and was home to the head coast­guard and his fam­ily. “It’s built from brick to a thor­ough Min­istry of De­fence spec­i­fi­ca­tion, so it has thick walls and feels very sub­stan­tial,” says Martin, a mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant. “It can take what­ever the weather throws at it.” How­ever, while struc­turally sound, the house had been empty for a num­ber of years and felt cold and un­wel­com­ing. Then a hol­i­day rental, the in­te­ri­ors were, “pretty bor­ing,” says Jane. “It needed some at­ten­tion, which I knew I could give it.” The Wills tack­led the kitchen first, pulling down the wall be­tween it and the din­ing room to cre­ate a more spa­cious area. Jane’s brother, a car­pen­ter, then built and fit­ted new kitchen cab­i­nets. “The boiler and washing ma­chine were in the kitchen, but we moved them into a util­ity room so the space looked stream­lined,” says Jane. The muted colour scheme, with its nod to nau­ti­cal style, re­flects the land­scape out­side the house. “I am def­i­nitely influenced by my sur­round­ings,” says Jane. “I get quite >

claus­tro­pho­bic in small, dark rooms. I need to be where the light is, and where there’s air and space. I like to keep the win­dows open to let the air come through — even in winter. I’m amazed by the view every day, es­pe­cially the sun­rise seen from our bed­room. I open the shut­ters and all I can see is the sea and sky. On a clear day you can see France.” That said, it did take some experimentation to get things just right. “Poor Martin had to re­paint the kitchen cab­i­nets four times be­cause I couldn’t get the colour right,” says Jane. “We tried pale grey first, but that didn’t work with the light-blue cooker. Even­tu­ally I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s go re­ally dark.’ It worked — I re­ally love it, and the room is big and light enough to take it.” At one stage, Jane worked for a Shaker fur­ni­ture com­pany and there are ref­er­ences to that par­tic­u­lar style through­out the house — care­fully cho­sen ob­jects, many with a mar­itime as­so­ci­a­tion, hang from peg rails, Shaker boxes are piled here and there, and their wooden rock­ing chair is orig­i­nal Shaker. How­ever, Jane’s de­sign in­flu­ences ex­tend to mar­kets and antique shops as well. “I like French painted fur­ni­ture and rus­tic styling, but re­ally, I just buy things I like,” she says. In the warmer months, Jane and Martin spend a lot of time out­doors in the walled court­yard at the back of the house, ei­ther en­ter­tain­ing or sim­ply en­joy­ing the sun. Martin laid the paving and the deck, and built all the raised beds. “It’s such a sun trap and it’s shel­tered, so it doesn’t get any wind,” Jane says. “We could sit out there all day long in the sum­mer.” With a pas­sion for ce­ram­ics, tex­tiles and art — and dreams of opening their own shop in Deal — Jane says the house will al­ways be a work in progress. “I’m one of those peo­ple who never stops. I change things con­stantly,” she says. “The house gets bet­ter all the time, but it will never be fin­ished.” For more in­for­ma­tion, visit airbnb.com.au/rooms/11544311

AROUND DEAL

While you’re in Deal, shop for lo­cally made prod­ucts at Dun­lin and Diver. “I’m a reg­u­lar at this home­wares store,” says Jane. “It sells contemporary art, ce­ram­ics and tex­tiles, and cham­pi­ons lo­cal crafts­peo­ple.” dun­lin­diver.co.uk The Frog and Scot is the place to stop for lunch. “This bistro is re­laxed and in­for­mal, and serves clas­sic French food,” says Jane. “We also like to go to Poppy’s Kitchen on the high street for break­fast, The Black Dou­glas Cofff­fee House for cofff­fee and de­li­cious home­made cakes, and Whits of Walmer for spe­cial oc­ca­sions.” fro­gand­scot.co.uk; pop­pyskitchen.co.uk; black­dou­glas.co.uk; whits.co.uk If you’re in Deal on May 1st, visit the Walmer Bro­cante, a craft and an­tiques fair held each May Bank Hol­i­day. It’s an “ex­cel­lent place to hunt for bar­gains,” says Jane.

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