On the seashore:
How a Sheringham couple have updated a wonderful sea view apartment
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