A little local knowledge proved key when the owners of this fabulously-located house bought it without actually viewing it. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely, says Tony Hall
How a gamble on buying a Brancaster home without viewing paid off handsomely
THEY SAY location is everything when it comes to buying a property and this fantastic home on the North Norfolk coast surely proves the point. Situated in an idyllic situation near Brancaster, it has a commanding view right over its own land, onwards to the marshes, creeks and coast. Not overlooked in any respect, the stunning views are what makes this home so really special.
Owner James Spilsbury, originally from Bingley, West Yorkshire, was always interested in boats and sailing and on leaving school he took a degree in maritime business and law. He went on to work in commercial ship brokering, first in Singapore and then Monaco, specialising in tankers for the transport of LPG worldwide.
Phillippa, his wife, grew up on a Lincolnshire farm and got to know the north Norfolk coast and this area around Brancaster some 30 years ago as the family had a holiday home here. After school she studied fashion at Loughborough and interior design in Chelsea, as the interior of this house illustrates so well.
However she then took a different direction, opening a wine bar and doing event organising. “It was actually my mum, Robbie,” recalls Phillippa, “who met James first at the Monaco Tennis Masters, where she persuaded him to donate a prize to be auctioned at a ‘Born Free’ event I was
organising, so that’s how we got together.
“Our first home together was at Èze-surMer, near Monaco, where we completely converted a 1950’s villa. Just like here, we bought it primarily for the setting, overlooking the sea with panoramic views over the water and up the hillside. We used Tunisian builders who proved excellent.”
“After ten years in Monaco,” continues James, “my job moved to London, so I commuted from our family home in Stamford. In the intervening period, Phillippa had introduced me to this area and we bought a small holiday home just down the road from where we are now.
“So when it came on the market we already knew its stunning location, but were on our way back to Monaco. So we put in an offer without actually viewing it. An opportunity such as this is a once in a lifetime thing, so we had to do it. That was 2014 and we used Darren Hardy from Sleaford, whom we have used before, to do the renovations, and as you can see we are delighted with the results.”
“We have turned the internal layout through 180 degrees, to take full advantage of such a fab setting,” adds Phillippa. “My favourite room is the kitchen/dining area which retains the old fireplace and gives us panoramic coastal views to die for. It’s a great space for entertaining, loads of
people, who can spill out onto the terrace.
“Last New Year we had 30 friends over, plus 20 kids. The original kitchen was where the sitting room is now, so completely reconfiguring the interiors and modernising has created open plan throughout, with two sets of French doors onto the terrace on the coast side and the walled garden on the other.
“We purposely didn’t want doorways but one big communal space, which our children Alfie and Millie love as do our collection of five dogs, Henry the Labrador, Ronnie the English bulldog, and Burtty, Bimbles and Annie the Chihuahuas; quite a menagerie.”
Using her interior design experience, Phillippa has sourced interesting items and artifacts from a number of places. Some of the designer antique furniture has been found at the Newark Antiques Fair, one of the biggest in the country, held several times a year. Some pieces have been bought online from suppliers such as Maison du Monde and Julia’s Driftwood. Locally Phillippa likes Birdie Fortescue in Burnham Market and has found several interesting items in the fair held at Brancaster Village Hall.
The new layout has created not just the stunning kitchen/dining but a central games room leading onto the living area. Also on this ground floor are three bedrooms, a family bathroom and cloakroom. Upstairs, off a galleried landing to the left, is the master bedroom and en-suite.
To the other side are two additional bedrooms and on the top floor a bedroom and a family bathroom which has a ultra modern bath situated by the window taking in those wonderful views. “Our balcony to the master bedroom,” Phillippa tells me, “is our favourite item in the house. Sitting out there for breakfast watching the sun rise over the coast is so special.”
“I enjoy golf and playing squash and generally doing stuff with the kids,” continues James. “Alfie is really into fishing and Millie into roller skating. As a family we like walking the coastal path along to the beach at Brancaster, over the sand dunes with the dogs, or over to Wells for crabbing with the kids. The Jolly Sailor, our local boozer, is great for us and the children and The Orange Tree for the food. Total relaxation is a breakfast at Thornham Deli followed by a family picnic on the beach, with a glass of wine.”
“We are very fortunate,” concludes Phillippa, in having the local knowledge to act very quickly to secure this unique house. Our future plans are, as soon as circumstances permit, to make this our family, forever home, in a part of North Norfolk where I spent so many happy childhood memories.”
Living area: Sofas and coffee table from Christy Interiors at Hockerton Tel: 01636 816471. Lamps and curtains from Birdie Fortescue, Burnham Market. Other lamps from Julia’s Driftwood
Master bedroom: All furniture and fabrics from Christy Interiors at Hockerton
Childrens’ garden bedroom: Beds by Multiyork.
Pool table and entrance hall: Leather chairs from Newark Antiques Fair. Console and chest from Birdie Fortescue, Burnham Market. Tel: 01328 738634
Union Jack twin bedroom: Beds by Multiyork. Tel: 01379 783413. Union Jacks from Newark Antiques Fair
Bathroom with view: Bath from The Cast Iron Bath Company Tel: 01723 585896
EXTERIOR: Built in the 1920’s. Renovated by James and Phillippa 2014/5
James, Phillippa and the dogs