A COLOURFUL RENOVATION
A bright, bold palette of Farrow & Ball paints has breathed new life into a period house on the Suffolk coast
Clever design ideas and a bold Farrow & Ball palette have breathed new life into a house on the Suffolk coast
ASOME PLACES HAVE YEAR-ROUND sense of holiday about them: pretty houses, open skies, salt in the air. Thorpeness has that spirit in spades. Originally a fishing hamlet, it was converted at the start of the last century into a purpose-built private resort (a sort of East Anglian version of the Italianate village of Portmeirion in north Wales) and was owned by a single family until individual buildings started to be sold off to pay death duties in the 1970s.
When architects Christopher Ash and James Soane spotted the corner house in a terrace of three Thorpeness cottages for sale on Rightmove two years ago, they instantly realised its potential as a 21st-century holiday home. The whole terrace – built in 1914 in a timbered Tudor revival style, like much of Thorpeness – had been a thriving boarding house during the village’s heyday, but the pair had a more individual vision for it that would combine a level of sophistication with a simple, laid-back charm.
Apart from the black-and-white exterior, the house retained very little character: previous owners had installed PVC windows, internal doors glazed with frosted glass and a gas fire in the sitting room. So it was a blank page for Christopher and James, whose company, Project Orange, specialises in matching architecture with sympathetic interior design. “The fun of embarking on a project like this,” Christopher points out, “is considering all the
OPPOSITE The yellow front door of the Tudor revival house sets the tone for the striking hues seen throughout the property THIS PAGE Rich Stiffkey Blue brings sophisticated depth to the walls, ceiling and units in the kitchen
possibilities.” They started by replacing all the doors and windows, using photos of the original holiday village as reference. “We found the actual company in Long Melford, about 50 miles inland, that made the original doors and commissioned them to make copies for us – traditional four-plank doors with Suffolk thumb latches,” he adds. The Artex ceilings were replaced with simple panelling to match the style of the area and the date of the house, walls were lined with tongue and groove up to dado height and a woodburning stove was installed in the sitting room in place of the gas fire.
The chimney was on the point of collapse, so had to be rebuilt as part of the renovation work but most of the changes were dictated more by aesthetic principles than structural necessity. The layout at the back of the house has been altered so you no longer see straight into the kitchen utility area from the front door. Now the large dining/living room has a view through to hand-built blue-painted cabinets, “with all the cooking mess kept out of sight,” Christopher explains. “We’ve made the kitchen read differently by wrapping it in tongue and groove to hide the
boiler and an overhead beam, and we put in a fireplace to fill the alcove where the old fridge used to stand.”
This is a perfect holiday house – but not a typical one. You won’t find many of the usual seaside accessories. “We didn’t want to fall into the coastal cliché of a sailing boat on a mantelpiece,” Christopher admits. Instead, there are distinctive pieces from flea markets and local shops – and the walls have provided a home for all the old prints and maps they’ve been accumulating for years. In nearby Saxmundham, they found a shop run by a Dutch craftsman and upcycler who was selling a beautiful long table with the kind of driftwood quality that’s robust enough to withstand red wine stains and plenty of scrubbing. They commissioned him to make them an even longer one – large enough to seat ten – and he managed to source ten bentwood chairs to go with it, which he painted black to complement the grey tones in the table.
Not wanting the house to be “all neutral good taste”, James and Christopher experimented with strong, punchy Farrow & Ball colours (especially in the bathroom, where you don’t spend enough time to find them overpowering). The dining room panelling was initially painted in the vibrant burnt orange of Charlotte’s Locks, but they decided this looked too much like “a bolshy teenager’s bedroom” – the antithesis of the cottage’s peaceful atmosphere – so switched it for Mole’s Breath, a moody but soft grey that works perfectly with the table and chairs. The kitchen is mostly in Stiffkey Blue, a rich, glowing shade that – used for the fireplace and the ceiling above it, as well as for walls and cabinets – feels more town house than beach house, especially with vintage olive-green Hornsea pottery on the shelves and a stuffed pheasant on the mantelpiece. The sitting room, in soft Parma Gray and with the original brick fireplace painted white, has more of a classic seaside scheme, pretty and cool with splashes of bright orange and plenty of bare wood to add warmth. The only paint they used that isn’t Farrow & Ball
is on the front door, which is the same yellow as the others in the terrace. Christopher and James inherited the local builder who had worked on the house in the past, and he happened to have buckets of yellow paint left over from previous maintenance work.
Upstairs in the five bedrooms (there were six, but one has been converted into a second bathroom), restful shades of blue, aqua, grey, pink and yellow reflect the fresh coastal light and highlight the angles of the steep attic ceilings. The cottage’s outdoor space is limited to a terrace at the front, with a pebble beach area that extends around the side to the yard at the back, while the firstfloor front bedroom has a little balcony that looks over rooftops to the dunes, beach and sea beyond. And who needs a garden when you’re just a few steps from all that?
The property is available to rent throughout the year. For more information, visit 2thedunes-thorpeness.com.
ABOVE Walls in Parma Gray create a fresh backdrop for a bright classic sofa RIGHT Vintage landscapes bring nostalgic charm to a comfortable corner OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE LEFT Bold use of Drawing Room Blue gives the impression of panelling; vintage china is displayed on the kitchen shelves; tongue-and-groove in Mole’s Breath showcases simple rustic furniture; yellow bathroom walls sing against a blue landing