On the seashore:

How a Sheringham cou­ple have up­dated a won­der­ful sea view apart­ment

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: Tony Hall

Sheringham home is a coastal gem

An in­ter­est­ing thing about my job is the fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple one meets and the di­ver­sity of imag­i­na­tive prop­er­ties they live in. Such was the case with Mal­colm Bass, who wrote me a let­ter telling me about his life and how, with wife Sheila, they had started a new chap­ter of their lives in Sheringham, in their flat which over­looks the coast.

The prop­erty had been bought by Mal­colm’s par­ents in 1970 for the princely sum of £5,500. The block of six flats was built in part of the orig­i­nal gar­dens of the Burling­ton Ho­tel. When Mal­colm in­her­ited the prop­erty it came just at the right mo­ment in his life, as he was ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment.

“Sheila and I met 20 years ago,” says Mal­colm. “We were both sin­gle at the time, set up on a blind date by well-mean­ing friends, de­spite both pre­vi­ously de­cid­ing that any fu­ture ro­man­tic at­tach­ments were best avoided.”

At that time, Mal­colm had just sold his busi­ness, a fam­ily up­hol­ster­ers es­tab­lished in Lu­ton in 1932 by his fa­ther Ken­neth. Sheila was also due for re­tire­ment af­ter 18 years as man­ager of a GP prac­tice in her home town of Maid­stone.

“Our luck had changed and we were free to es­cape to Norfolk, set­tle in the flat, get mar­ried and be happy” says Mal­colm.

Con­vert­ing the flat to their lik­ing took time, as it was in a 1970’s time warp, av­o­cado bath and all, but the in­te­rior con­fig­u­ra­tion was unique due to the fore­sight of Mal­colm’s mother Nel­lie and her power of per­sua­sion with the builders.

“We aimed to cre­ate a ‘coun­try house’ style,” says Sheila, “as we owned a mix­ture of an­tiques be­tween us, some in­her­ited, some bought per­son­ally, which needed to come to­gether sym­pa­thet­i­cally.”

Mal­colm’s work with in­te­rior fur­nish­ings had taken him to lo­ca­tions in the UK and near con­ti­nent, in­clud­ing the pavil­ion at Lord’s Cricket Ground, grand flats and houses in Lon­don, the man­sion and prop­er­ties at Lu­ton Hoo, a Scot­tish cas­tle and vil­las in France and Switzer­land. In con­trast, he has also made sim­ple cur­tains for a hos­tel in Lu­ton for the homeless and cre­ated and fit­ted cur­tains for the rear win­dows of a Rolls-Royce limou­sine be­long­ing to the Saudi Royal fam­ily, to pro­vide pri­vacy.

His abil­ity to turn his hand to all types of prac­ti­cal work and de­sign meant this flat re­fur­bish­ment be­came an in­tensely per­sonal project for them both. Ex­cept for the elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing work, they have staged each space on a room by room ba­sis, with in­ter­vals in be­tween.

Pe­ri­ods of chaos were kept to a

min­i­mum by con­cen­trated ef­fort in­clud­ing clear­ing up and tidy­ing away each af­ter­noon, so keep­ing evenings peace­ful.

“My first project was to cre­ate a work­shop space in the loft above this top-floor apart­ment, in which to make kitchen units, wardrobe doors and trans­form the orig­i­nal flush doors. All ma­te­ri­als were car­ried through the loft hatch, with larger items dis­man­tled, then re­assem­bled. Apart from the drill and jig­saw, only hand tools were used.”

Need­less to say Mal­colm is justly proud of his en­deav­ours and was de­lighted when the last bit of wood-chip pa­per was stripped off, a glazed par­ti­tion and door, plus a false chim­ney breast re­moved and they could do the fi­nal area, the liv­ing room.

“We found a pair of carved wooden columns in Coun­try and Eastern in Nor­wich that now frame the new cen­tral area from the vestibule, off which are a toi­let and bath­room and the guest bed­room,” says Sheila. “Mal­colm cov­ered the walls of that room in toile fab­ric.”

“It is un­usual, prob­a­bly, for such a long time to be taken over a small apart­ment, but we have al­lowed the ideas to evolve grad­u­ally, let­ting our per­son­al­i­ties and way of life in­flu­ence pro­ceed­ings,” says Mal­colm. “This tai­lor-made con­cept means that our home is very much our haven and we are de­lighted with the re­sults.”

Un­til re­cently, Sheila held part-time jobs in fash­ion and as a health care re­cep­tion­ist, which brought so­cial in­ter­ests and new friends, help­ing her to set­tle in to Norfolk life. Mal­colm has con­tin­ued to work for a few cus­tomers, both lo­cally and fur­ther afield, in be­tween this labour of love on the flat, which he says he has very much en­joyed.

Mal­colm prefers to keep in touch by the oc­ca­sional hand­writ­ten let­ter as he re­gards a com­puter as a ‘thief of time and imag­i­na­tion’. “The fam­i­lies tol­er­ate, my ec­cen­tric­ity with benev­o­lence,” he adds smil­ing, “My grand-daugh­ter took seven years to re­ply to a long let­ter I sent on her 18th birth­day, but found she so en­joyed writ­ing with a pen that a steady stream of cor­re­spon­dence has en­sued.”

With life slow­ing down, they en­joy the coast, paint­ing,

Mal­colm’s abil­ity to turn his hand to all types of work meant this was an in­tensely per­sonal project

gar­den­ing and for Mal­colm, swim­ming in the sea. “The coast from here to Blak­eney and a bit be­yond is our favourite,” says Sheila, “so a visit to the Dun Cow at Salt­house makes a good pit­stop. It has a lovely at­mos­phere, open fires and good ser­vice. But hav­ing re­ally set­tled, I en­joy be­ing at home, read­ing and en­joy­ing the views. My daugh­ter Me­lanie and part­ner Rod­ney now live in Sheringham and are a source of com­fort and com­pan­ion­ship to us both. Most of Mal­colm’s fam­ily are scat­tered fur­ther afield, with his youngest daugh­ter in Aus­tralia. Although Mal­colm and I meet­ing was sheer chance, our lives now in Sheringham are won­der­ful.

“What keeps us so young? It’s laugh­ter and the fun we now have here in Norfolk.” tony­halleyepix.com

‘We have al­lowed the ideas to evolve grad­u­ally, let­ting our per­son­al­i­ties and way of life in­flu­ence pro­ceed­ings’

HALL­WAY: Columns from Coun­try and Eastern, (01603 663890)

ABOVE: Units made by Mal­colm; hob and oven by Stoves; paint­ing on cup­board by an Ital­ian art stu­dent on course

TOP RIGHT: Columns from Coun­try and Eastern (01603 663890) RIGHT: Din­ing Ta­ble from Elm Hill An­tiques Nor­wich; shut­ters by Hil­larys; clock bought in Sheringham; ta­ble lamp from Stiffkey Light­ing, oval ta­ble from Peasen­hall An­tiques Suf­folk (01728 668844)

LEFT:Bed­ding from The White Com­pany; cur­tains in a JAB fab­ric; left hand ta­ble from Long Melford An­tiques (01787 379638); head­board made by Mal­colmBE­LOW: Bed­head from Jar­rolds Nor­wich (01603 660661); pictures by Mal­colm; wall fab­ric by Monkwell (01825 761055); tall boy fam­ily piece; ot­toman made and cov­ered by Mal­colm

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