When owner Paul Pasquale purchased this Grade II listed two-bedroom terraced property back in 2018, it was in a derelict state and in much need of a complete renovation. Originally built in 1834 by Oxford University, to house merchant ship captains; now, it’s a successful AirBnb, thoughtfully decorated to echo the stories told by the returning seafarers who once called this home.

Before embarking on his property journey, 57-year-old Paul spent a great deal of his career travelling around the world, working as a cameraman for Reuters news agency. He explains: ‘After 25 years, I decided to ditch my camera and do something for myself. I was lucky and had a property in London that had done quite well, so after selling it I decided to start a business in hotels. I bought a hotel in Bournemouth which needed a huge amount of work, as it was still stuck in the 70s.’

Paul and his partner Carolina ended up embarking on a ‘huge adventure’, completely gutting and re-vamping the property which resulted in a successful coastal business. But, he says, ‘the problem was, we had to live in the hotel, and we realised that we disliked hosting in that way and having to be there with people constantly. So, we decided to sell up and diversify and get into the AirBnb sector.’

Great British Life: Paul wanted the decor to reflect the townhouse's maritime connectionsPaul wanted the decor to reflect the townhouse's maritime connections (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

After purchasing a few flats, Paul had a small budget left over for a house but could not afford anything in Bournemouth.

‘I decided to look a bit further afield in Southampton. I didn’t really know the city well, but I started to realise how much opportunity was there and how much I liked Southampton. When I discovered the townhouse, the original sale had just fallen through.

‘It was one of those instantly-fell-in-love with it moments, despite the fact it was trashed from top to bottom and needed completely gutting. It was really hard to imagine at that point, what it was going to be. I wanted it to be a holiday let with a difference and I wanted it to reflect what Southampton stood for. The tradition, the sea faring culture – I felt the house deserved that.’

Great British Life: Cosy nooks for watching passers byCosy nooks for watching passers by (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Paul already had a strong affinity with the ocean, having completed a PADI divemaster course in Egypt. He remembers: ‘I ended up guiding tourists on dives around the Red Sea and Gulf of Aquaba. One of my favourite dives was the SS Thistlegorm which is a sunken WWII British conveyor ship. Come to think of it, perhaps I got my real inspiration for Kraken House from diving this wreck. It’s truly incredible but tough diving.’

Paul delved into the history of the property, discovering that, ‘all of the houses on that road were designed to house merchant sea captains.’ He continues: ‘They were different to navel captains; they were not held in as much regard. Although they were captain’s houses, they were done fairly cheaply and designed to be built fast and without any kind of luxurious aspects.’ He explains he had to ‘dig deep’ as ‘information was very difficult to find’ but it was important for him to know as much as possible about the story behind the home.

Great British Life: The lighter, brighter bathrooms are in contrast to the rest of the houseThe lighter, brighter bathrooms are in contrast to the rest of the house (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Paul went on to dedicate a huge amount of time and energy into the design of the property, travelling far and wide to pick-up interesting pieces. He explains: ‘I kind of embarked on a little journey that almost became an obsession. I wanted to try and reflect the colours of a deep ocean with greens and dark greys, and I was getting my head into what a sea faring captain in those days would have likely brought home as souvenirs to show their families.’

Kraken House has been transformed into a grand and immersive space, mirroring the depths and tones of the sea; dark, moody, with a strong personality. The colour palette is heavily characterised by various shades of blue and green, combined with dark-stained timbers.

Great British Life: The dark bedrooms are cocooning and luxuriousThe dark bedrooms are cocooning and luxurious (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

The walls are adorned with fascinating memorabilia and artefacts – from crocodile’s jaws to old captain outfits and vintage scuba diving equipment. Whilst maintaining a traditional British feel throughout, there are flavours of more exotic lands, with African masks and sculptures carefully placed to make a statement. ‘Sourcing memorabilia was the most fun I had but was also very hard at time. I have a stuffed parrot in a cage which is one of my favourite items’, smiles Paul. ‘The other day I found an octopus toilet roll holder and thought, “my god, I have to have that” so I drove 20 miles to get it. You could argue that is a lot of effort to go to for a toilet roll holder, but I thought, well it’s for my baby. That’s how I feel about the place now.’

In contrast, the two bathrooms have a lighter approach, playing on texture with vintage mirrors and patterned tiles. The townhouse’s exterior is equally appealing, boasting a bay window for added character and sash frames. There’s even a modest-sized back garden.

Great British Life: 'Kracken' touches are littered throughout, such as the gold octopus above the master bed'Kracken' touches are littered throughout, such as the gold octopus above the master bed (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Understandingly, the property is very popular with those about to embark on cruises from the marina. Paul shares: ‘A lot of Americans and Chinese stay, which is great’. Currently, there is a man staying who is studying maritime science which Paul says is ‘very fitting’.

When Paul isn’t looking after his properties, he loves walking his two dogs and spending time with his partner Carolina and his 15-year-old son. He shares: ‘I’ve started studying again – I just can’t seem to stop myself, even at my age. I’m studying to be a property surveyor’.

Guests staying at Kraken House are never short of things to do, being just a short stroll from an array of sought-after cafes, restaurants, and bars of Oxford Street. Paul says: ‘I always recommend visiting the SeaCity Museum and the fantastic shopping at West Quay. If they do tire of the area, it’s not too far from Portsmouth, so there’s The Victory and The Mary Rose to see over there as well.’ krakenhouse.co.uk

Great British Life: Paul found sourcing the memorabilia the most funPaul found sourcing the memorabilia the most fun (Image: Mattea McKinnon)