Bought unseen

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

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