Ex­cep­tional in Egmere

Through the key­hole of a beau­ti­ful home


YOU COULD be for­given for not know­ing any­thing about Egmere, one of Nor­folk’s ‘lost vil­lages’, vil­lages that had ceased to ex­ist by the end of the mid­dle ages. To­day it is a hamlet, with around a dozen or so dwellings. The im­pres­sive church, which dates from the early 14th cen­tury, is in ru­ins, al­though the tower still stands full height.

It lies about a third of a mile from the hamlet, both of which are sur­rounded by rolling farm land owned by The Holkham Es­tate, which un­til re­cently owned most of the dwellings. They had been built around 1873 as farm labour­ers’ cot­tages and were ex­tended at a later date.

As I have found many times, bring­ing you these fea­tures on peo­ple and their homes, their love of the area of­ten de­vel­ops early on in child­hood from vis­it­ing the county on fam­ily hol­i­days.

Such is the case for Natalie Kirby. Her fa­ther Paul, from the Le­ices­ter/Not­ting­ham area, spent many a hol­i­day in Wal­cott in the 50s, so the fam­ily bond with Nor­folk was es­tab­lished.

Mum Pepita was born in San Se­bas­tian, but spent most of her life in Madrid. She stud­ied pol­i­tics and lan­guages, which led her to Eng­land. Un­der the im­pres­sion she was off to Lon­don on her own ad­ven­ture she was some­what sur­prised to find her­self be­ing set­tled into halls of res­i­dence in Le­ices­ter.

In the sum­mer of 1968 she met Paul. While rais­ing Natalie and her brother Sven they man­aged to start an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing busi­ness called Charn­vel, re­cently in­volved with the wind farm at Sher­ing­ham Shoal.

“Two hol­i­day events of early child­hood I re­mem­ber,” re­calls Natalie, “be­sides stay­ing in this lovely area, were ice creams at Wells and fa­ther hir­ing a dinghy at Stiffkey in 1975, which cap­sized with me in it. He is rub­bish with boats.

“It had al­ways been my am­bi­tion to one day

have a home here, but al­though I work for the fam­ily busi­ness, where I have worked in ev­ery de­part­ment, from ac­counts and the draw­ing of­fice, to pur­chase man­age­ment and qual­ity as­sur­ance. How­ever, hav­ing just one wage, most homes up here are just too ex­pen­sive for me. I have searched each week for years on both Right­move and the EDP prop­erty pages and fi­nally per­se­ver­ance has paid off.

“In 2014 I spot­ted that the Holkham Es­tate was sell­ing off these pink cot­tages in batches, all by sealed bid. It was a huge gam­ble, but one not to be missed,” con­tin­ues Natalie. “I came to look, stood in the gar­den with waist-high weeds, gaz­ing at this pink ren­dered cot­tage, looked up at the sky, a typ­i­cal wide Nor­folk sky, and there and then felt I be­longed.

“Fol­low­ing a long chat with dad, as the prop­er­ties were of non-stan­dard con­struc­tion, I set­tled on my of­fer but added eight to it as my magic lucky num­ber. For­tu­nately that just clinched it.

“The build­ing work was dic­tated by funds and a very strict bud­get and took a year, with dad do­ing lots, but I am just so happy with the end re­sults. We came of­ten on a Fri­day night, rent­ing close by, to fol­low progress and get stuck in. I knocked down walls to cre­ate two large down­stairs ar­eas, the kitchen/ din­ing space with bi-fold doors to the ter­race, and the spa­cious sit­ting room. Up­stairs I have kept one side for my­self, the mas­ter, plus Ol­lie’s bed­room, man­ag­ing to put in an ad­join­ing en-suite with Jack and Jill doors.

“On the other side of the land­ing is the guest bed­room, also with an en-suite, for my par­ents. In the mas­ter I have a large ar­moire/ wardrobe. It so re­minds me of The Tales of

Nar­nia, in that I am look­ing for a magic im­age in the back when it is opened! In the plan­ning, I in­tend, once again as funds im­prove, to add a proper din­ing room on the back, en­larg­ing the kitchen with a cen­tre is­land.”

I ask Natalie her start­ing point for the in­te­rior de­sign. “It all be­gan with find­ing a worn door with a grille at Holt An­tiques,” ex­plains Natalie. “I thought it had a Span­ish feel to it, with the weath­ered worn paint colours of grey and dark blue, so I have used it in an al­cove in the sit­ting room.

“Fol­low­ing the colours through, I de­cided on wide floor­ing boards done in a grey Dan­ish ‘Lye’ fin­ish, through­out down­stairs, then picked up the same feel in paint colours up­stairs on odd walls and fur­ni­ture. I picked out the blue in items such as the so­fas, so the whole process was or­ganic and fol­lowed through. I have also loved sourc­ing finds lo­cally, such as the old desk in the liv­ing room, from Young Blood in Wals­ing­ham. Things come to me; I think you at­tract things that you love.

“I am a food lover. I en­joy do­ing a warm ar­ti­choke salad with poached egg, or chickpea and chorizo stews. I am amazed how both Wells and this coast has re­ju­ve­nated with­out be­ing spoilt, with more in­ter­est­ing shops, cof­fee houses, pubs and restau­rants.

“The choice of lo­cal pro­duce is amaz­ing, with the Wals­ing­ham Farm Shop nearby a firm favourite, so it fol­lows on that my kitchen is my favourite room and within it is my favourite item, the large pantry cup­board. When you open the doors ev­ery­thing is to hand and on dis­play, glasses, crock­ery, ev­ery­thing in its place.

“Oliver and I, plus my part­ner Paul and his son Oliver, like go­ing for a walk to the sea at Wells, maybe get­ting the lit­tle train back.

“The boys love the new ice cream par­lour there. We also like go­ing to the Globe Inn, both Ol­lies play­ing football on The But­t­lands, and us with a glass of wine to hand out­side.

“Mum and Dad love the area so much,” con­cludes Natalie, “that they have now bought the cot­tage next door. Liv­ing here is very ther­a­peu­tic, I find. A walk along the lane down to the ru­ined church re­minds you of the his­tory of this ro­man­tic spot. This cot­tage and hamlet re­ally is a case of ro­mance re-found.”

“I came to look, stood in the gar­den with waist-high weeds, gaz­ing at this pink ren­dered cot­tage, looked up at the sky, a typ­i­cal wide Nor­folk sky and there and then felt I be­longed”

GUEST BED­ROOM: Bed from Feather & Black. Bed­ding from John Lewis. Chest of draw­ers a fam­ily piece. Wall hang­ing from The Rug Com­pany. Lights from John Lewis. Throw by Bronte Tweeds. Mirror from La­timer De­signs. ‘You Rock’ cush­ion from Thorn­ham Deli Life­style, 01485 512194


Units by Bench­marx, rug from Zara Home, tiles by John But­ler. Soul Food sign from Heals, pantry cup­board from Heidi in West Bridge­ford Notts. Ta­ble from Ikea, chairs from Heals, green cush­ion from Birdie Fortes­cue, Burn­ham Mar­ket, 01328 738634. Lit­tle cush­ion from Thorn­ham Deli Life­style

MAS­TER BED­ROOM: Bed from Feather & Black. Bed­ding from John Lewis. Ar­moire from Loaf. Bed­side ta­ble from Holt An­tiques. Sign from Lit­tle­blood. Rug from Next. Mirror from La­timer De­signs. Wall colour Ch­ester­ton Grey by Far­row & Ball


Suite and tiling from Plum­bline in Not­ting­ham

EX­TE­RIOR: Was a farm labourer’s cot­tage, added to over the years. Painted in tra­di­tional pink. Built 1873. Pre­vi­ously owned by the Holkham Es­tate

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