Seaside on the inside
Beach holidays have inspired a glorious new style of interior design
Promenades and brass bands, Mr Whippy cones and deckchairs used to be the order of the day at the seaside, but now beach style is quite a different matter. Economic cutbacks have seen brass bands all but disappear, and our sea dreams are more about mattress ticking, bleached wood and wicker in a wooden shack on the sand, rather than tea dancing at the Metropole Hotel. But, as a nation, we still love to be beside the seaside, and several interior styles have grown up around it.
There’s the Ralph Lauren/Calvin Klein beach-house look: expensive cashmere blankets, mahogany four-poster beds and painted antique French country furniture; or the more faded and distressed English style of chipped paint and wooden floors.
A newly published book, Coastal Style, shows how to create both, with fabulous photos and decorating ideas in New and Old England. The Barton family, who feature in the book, have converted two railway carriages in West Wittering in West Sussex into a charming, relaxed coastal retreat. The ‘retired’ carriages, called The Dodo, were placed there as budget holiday accommodation back in the 1930s. Running water and electricity were installed in the Bartons’ carriage in the 1970s, but so was Formica and brown paint.
Recent redecoration has brought light to the interior. ‘We wanted the place to be sturdy, with rugs and loose covers in ticking and plain heavy linen to be washingmachine friendly,’ says Kate Barton. The floors are all painted except for the entrance hall, which is laid with a rough seagrass to act as a brake for young children who might run into the house with wet feet and slip. The Dodo has an outside hotwater, roll-top bath and shower.
Sally Hayden and Alice Whateley, the authors of Coastal Style, have plenty of ideas on how to furnish a seaside home, starting with advice on fabrics (always plain) and colours (a pale palette, including blue and white). They show how tongueand- groove panelling suits both kitchen and bathroom, and how bringing the outside inside is a key component of the look – driftwood, shells in jars and pebbles.
Interior designers India Hicks and David Flint Wood have filled their home in the Bahamas with found objects. In Britain, a trip to a local antiques centre could yield 1950s seaside pictures, old glass bottles and white pottery. The thing that’s absolutely forbidden, though, is new technology: televisions and screens. The seaside is about outside, picnics, board games and books.
Coastal Style by Sally Hayden and Alice Whateley, with photographs by Paul Massey (Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99).
The Dodo at West Wittering is available to rent: 01730-814002, www.thedodo.co.uk
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920