See inside this charming Victorian seaside home in Felixstowe
- Credit: GAP Interiors/Nick Carter
When she first viewed her Felixstowe seaside home, Charly Peacock knew the ornamental peacocks she spied in the conservatory were a good omen...
Charly Peacock lived in the depths of the Suffolk countryside for four years before she discovered the seaside town of Felixstowe. "Once I discovered it, I was hooked"! she says. "I liked the faded grandeur of it all. I could see how it had once been, and it reminded me of Brighton before it became trendy."
Having found the place she wanted to be, Charly immediately took to the internet and found a house she liked the very same day. She made an appointment to view it, looked at a couple of others that were smaller and had already been refurbished, so decided on her first choice. Two months later she moved in with her two daughters, Flora and Cassia, their wirehaired Jack Russell, Scrabble, and black Persian cat Luna.
In a quiet street near the seafront, the late Victorian, semi-detached property is the kind of warm and inviting house for which Felixstowe is known. With seven bedrooms, three bathrooms a large sitting room, kitchen/breakfast room, utility room, downstairs cloak room, and a garden there's plenty of room for everyone to enjoy life by the sea.
Indeed, it was the space and the high ceilings, plus the conservatory, that grabbed Charly's attention. "The first day I came to look at it it was pouring with rain. I looked up in the conservatory and saw two metal peacocks, and felt it was a sign. I'm not usually superstitious. But we kept them in the position they were in originally and only take them down to clean them."
Charly has made some changes, however. Originally there was a boiler room, a tiny breakfast room, a cupboard type kitchen and bathroom with a Champagne coloured suite next to the conservatory. A door into the conservatory has been knocked through and a family sized kitchen created, where Charly has manged to seat 14 for dinner. A downstairs toilet was added, while the old kitchen became a utility room and access to the larder has been made easier.
Charly has held onto the quarry tiles that made up the utility room floor, but old floor boards that needed replacing proved difficult to match, so were replaced with new. "We made the new ones dirty by walking on them, then sanded them and stained them until I got the colour I liked. I prefer them now they've had a bit of wear and tear," she says. The builders worked fast. "They started work on the kitchen in mid November and it was complete for Christmas lunch."
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The ideas for the changes are Charly's own, with a little help from her friends. "I have a friend who's an architect. He helped me with the logistics of the bedroom suite and the re-jigging of the kitchen." In the en suite bathroom, Charly fell in l love with the basin, but couldn’t find the right piece of furniture on which to place it. "A friend suggested making a work surface from a piece of oak. I purchased an Ikea kitchen worktop, cut it in half, got four pieces of of 2x2 and a carpenter assembled them."
Living in the property while the work was being done could have been difficult, but Charly says there were few problems. "My builders were brilliant and worked hard, and weren’t too expensive - it's all been very easy." She describes her style as "a bit of a mix". "It's quite modern, but there are bits and pieces of inherited stuff, also things I pick up at auction and charity shops. My daughter, Laura, always says my taste is very retro.
"I'm an avid reader of magazines, and I cut out images that I like. People such as Conran inspire me, as do some design books. My style has evolved over the years - I was young when I first realised there was such a thing as style. Friends of my parents used to import wood burning stoves and their house was always full of artists and designers. They had great style and I was struck by that from an early age."
The house is tonal, using a single palette pull everything together. "It's partly for practical reasons and partly economic. Even if I were to use a different colour - other than white in the kitchen, for example - I find when you come to match them later they never come up the same. White is so easy to paint over when it gets dirty. Originally there were dark green ceilings and it looked hideous, so the first thing I did was paint everything white in the hallway as I couldn’t bear seeing the green every day. I have used other colours in the drawing room –Chalky Downs by Dulux, ad in the spare bedroom is Dimity by Farrow and Ball."
Creating a coastal look, says Charly, is all about texture - making collections of similar items, collecting baskets, hats, stone, driftwood. "Whenever I go to the beach I come back with bits and pieces even though I shouldn’t." She confesses to keeping some of the clutter in the cellar. "I'm quite organised and the girls are quite tidy, and anything else gets thrown into the skip. We got rid of lots of things when we moved in."
Now that the refurbishment's finished Charly says she's ready for the next project. This was the first renovation she's managed on her own and she feels a huge sense of satisfaction that she's been able to realise the house’s potential. "But if we move I'll choose the same area, as I love it here," she says.