By the sea

A stylish coastal re­treat in Corn­wall


Back in 1988, new­ly­weds Vanessa and Richard Owen set sail from their na­tive Eng­land for New Zealand. Af­ter a few long so­journs en route, they fi­nally ar­rived at their destination six years later and have lived there ever since. It was their pas­sion for sail­ing that drew the cou­ple to the Te Puna In­let 13 years ago. ‘ We used to sail past it and stop to pic­nic on the beach,’ re­calls Vanessa. ‘Then we dis­cov­ered that a stretch of land was for sale, and knew we could cre­ate our dream home here.’ But rather than build a new prop­erty on the land, the pair had a more left-field idea. ‘We had a spe­cific no­tion of our New Zealand nir­vana, which en­tailed a beau­ti­ful Ge­or­gian-style house,’ ex­plains Vanessa. ‘Of course, there aren’t many of them along the coast, so we knew if we wanted one, we would have to bring it here.’

Af­ter a two-year search, the cou­ple, who now have four chil­dren – Dione, 25, Poppy, 23, Milli, 19 and Reef, 11 – found a for­mer re­tire­ment home in a nearby town and trucked it, lock, stock and bar­rel, to the site. They stripped the house back to its bare walls and re­con­fig­ured it to suit their life­style, while re­tain­ing its high ceil­ings,

tim­ber floors and wrap­around ve­ran­das. For­tu­nately, as prop­erty de­vel­op­ers who had al­ready ren­o­vated more than 20 homes, the cou­ple were un­fazed by the project. ‘We worked on one room at a time, com­plet­ing each be­fore mov­ing on to the next,’ re­calls Vanessa. ‘It was the only way we could man­age it with four chil­dren and a full-time busi­ness to run at the same time – I could re­treat to the com­pleted spa­ces and pre­tend the house wasn’t a build­ing site!’

The kitchen ex­ten­sion, which was added five years ago, is the true hub of the home, with its gen­er­ous ta­ble and de­cid­edly Bri­tish Aga. ‘In so many ways we are Ki­wis, liv­ing for the great out­doors and catch­ing cray­fish by hand, but then we come home and make a pot of tea on the Aga, much to the mirth of our friends,’ she says.

Still keen trav­ellers, the fam­ily rents out the house for three months each year, which Vanessa took into con­sid­er­a­tion while dec­o­rat­ing, favour­ing a style that she de­scribes as ‘ bombproof ’. ‘The traver­tine floor­ing in the kitchen copes bril­liantly with all the sand and salt, and there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing pre­cious here,’ she says. The pal­ette is in­spired by the sur­round­ing coast, with muted blues,

greys and whites running through­out the home. ‘There is a very spe­cific light by the sea – a lot of these colours would look en­tirely dif­fer­ent, of­ten quite drab, fur­ther in­land,’ ex­plains Vanessa.

Af­ter learn­ing that the orig­i­nal owner of the house, a Scots­man, had at­tempted to repli­cate English oak pan­elling by treat­ing To­tara, an in­dige­nous wood, Vanessa dug out his for­mula and painstak­ingly repli­cated the method. ‘It was in­cred­i­bly com­pli­cated and in­volved rub­bing potash into the grain,’ she re­calls. Vanessa’s tal­ent for up­cy­cling is ap­par­ent in ev­ery room, from the lamp­shade in the hall, fash­ioned from a log bas­ket given to her by a friend, to the cof­fee ta­ble in the sit­ting room, for­merly a ven­ti­la­tion grille sal­vaged from a li­brary in Auck­land. ‘I have reached the point in my life where I only want to be sur­rounded by things I truly love, so I’m con­stantly re-eval­u­at­ing the decor and giv­ing pieces away,’ she says.

And de­spite how much they have done, Vanessa says the house will never be fin­ished. ‘It gets heav­ily used by us and our guests all year round so there’s al­ways some­thing that re­quires re­plac­ing or is in need of a lick of paint – it’s a labour of love.’

STUDY In or­der to cre­ate a fo­cal point in this room, the cou­ple fash­ioned the fire­place from of­f­cuts of wood, then plas­tered it over. Find sim­i­lar Ge­or­gian wing chairs, price on en­quiry, at Leather Chairs of Bath

HALL Nods to the cou­ple’s Bri­tish her­itage add a homely touch. The Happy Jack shop­per bag is sim­i­lar, £15, No­ton­the­high­

KITCHEN The ta­ble, once used for play­ing ping-pong, has been with the fam­ily for more than 30 years and is on its eighth top. Pen­dant light painted in Oval Room Blue, £60 for 2.5L, Far­row & Ball; for a sim­i­lar in­dus­trial de­sign, try Sk­in­flint, £390

KITCHEN By po­si­tion­ing the Aga in front of the win­dow, the cou­ple are able to en­joy the beau­ti­ful views while cook­ing. Four-oven range cooker, from £12,110, Aga. Tra­di­tional ket­tle in Al­mond is sim­i­lar, £90, Le Creuset

HALL The paint­ing hon­ours Vanessa and Richard’s 30th wed­ding an­niver­sary. Paint­ing by Paula Coulthard, price on re­quest

REEF’S BED­ROOM The Warhol-style print im­mor­talises the fam­ily’s first dog, Spot. try etsy for sim­i­lar cus­tom pop art prints

BATH­ROOM His-and-her sinks bring a lux­ury ho­tel touch to the room. or­chard eden coun­ter­top basin, £ 49.99, Vic­to­ria Plum, is a match

MILLI’S BED­ROOM A mono­chrome theme gives this room a calm, so­phis­ti­cated air. Clas­si­cal rat­tan bed, £882, Sweet­pea & wil­low, is sim­i­lar

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