Conrad and Karen Allen stepped into the unknown when they upped sticks and moved their young family to the Cornish coast
Longing to live by the sea, a family found just what they were looking for on the Cornish coast
Conrad and Karen Allen had always loved the ruggedness of the north Cornwall coast, but it wasn’t until they were looking for secondary schools for their sons, Oscar, 15, and Noah, 13, that they decided to move there. ‘For years we talked about living by the seaside but never did anything about it until our son didn’t get into any of the schools we wanted near where we lived in north London,’ explains freelance fashion brand consultant Conrad.
‘We didn’t know this part of Cornwall at all; we were originally looking at St Ives but got gazumped on a property at the last minute.’ Luckily, soon after, an estate agent called with a place for sale near Bude, and it was love at
first sight. ‘I knew the farmhouse was just perfect for us, so we went ahead and bought it.’
Set on seven acres of land, the property included two dilapidated barns, and the couple set about renovating The Red Barn straight away so they could rent it out. The second barn, The Cob, is also now a holiday let (venn-farm.co.uk). ‘These buildings were part of the appeal of the house,’ says Conrad.
With the help of Conrad’s father, a retired architect, the Allens also did some initial work on their own house, adding a new hall with a built-in office area and knocking down a wall to make the sitting room larger. Then, in 2013, they commissioned architects Feilden Fowles, who were behind the renovation of The Cob, to design an extension to house a kitchen-diner/ family room and upstairs bathroom.
‘We’d seen a home that they’d designed for my sister’s friend in Wales and absolutely loved it, so that’s why we chose them,’ says Conrad. ‘Before, the kitchen was narrow, dark and poky, so we wanted something that really let in the light. I enjoy cooking and now there’s a bright, sociable space for friends and family to gather while I prepare meals.’
As you would expect from a couple who work in fashion and retail, Conrad and Karen, who is a brand director, are aesthetically driven. ‘ We like furniture and design, light and colour,’ explains Conrad. ‘ We have lots of mid-century statement pieces that we’ve placed alongside junk-shop finds – I’d say our taste is pretty eclectic.’ The couple have kept the property’s original character – beams and fireplaces – adding pops of colour with reupholstered seating in teal and tangerine.
On their land, the Allens have a vegetable patch, eight chickens and a wildflower meadow that was seeded with the help of the Devon Wildlife Trust. It’s the coast, however, that is still the main attraction for them. ‘Bude is a proper working seaside town and it has a lovely feel,’ says Conrad. ‘In summer, we head to the beach most days after school. The boys love surfing and our favourite spot is Northcott Mouth, which isn’t too crowded. We’re so happy we took the plunge and moved here.’
DINING Area/ FAMILY room Blocks of bold colour bring warmth and depth to this bright space. The Sissinghurst sofa, £2,420, Matthew Hilton, has this look. Bespoke table by Marcus Coates
MASTER BEDROOM Wall panels and industrial lighting lend a nautical note. aravalli throw, £175, donna Wilson at scp. funiculi wall lamp, £142, twentytwentyone
STUDY AREA A bespoke desk built into an alcove is a neat use of space. Universal shelving system, from £318, Vitsoe