Discovering Bexhill on Sea

Bexhill on Sea has a renowned art deco heritage and I have long regarded it as a sort of Deco mecca, but I am going to stick my neck out here and admit that when we first got there I was not impressed. It is the sort of seaside place that is suffering from lack of employment and it felt a little downtrodden (if you live there, please forgive me and read on). We had driven for hours to collect some lights I had bought on ebay (thank you, Mum!) and I was expecting to see plenty of Art Deco

The De La Warr Pavilion did not disappoint and the sun came out right on cue. The building is used as a cafe/ gallery/ meeting space and is by no means immaculate, but the bones of it are still as clean and pure as ever, and it was refreshing to see it living in the current day rather than being a museum

I do love a good staircase
I do love a good staircase

The staircase wasn’t easy to photograph because there was a bearded violinist* hanging around who was intent on diving into every shot as I lined it up. But I love a challenge

Fluid and fiddler-free
Fiddler-free Fibonacci in action

Any schoolchild could tell me that the success of its curves is due to the golden mathematical ratio identified by Fibonacci. I failed to grasp the concept when Charlotte brought it home at at age 8, but at least I recognise it in practice

This is a public building, beautifully sited and built to withstand heavy usage. There are no flourishes here, no quirky art deco details and in fact no attempt at decoration at all. The building simply functions and serves, while adding to the landscape

The pavilion still looks stunning from outside too, and the view is directly out to sea. It’s incredible to think that this building is now 80 years old and despite being built in built in 1935, it remains modern





There were other happy surprises for us as well. The Bexhill seafront has a lovely terrace of beautifully-kept arts and crafts villas, with long elegant gardens leading down to gates onto the promenade



And there was a wonderful home on the seafront which had been turned into a work of found art and proclaimed the legend, ‘Let the sea all worries wash awai’

Do you think the scooter is part of the display?
Do you think the mobility scooter is part of the display?

We had very little time to do justice to this very British seaside town, and for all we know we may never go back, but I am pleased that we finally got there. Perhaps the most surprising thing to me was that there was no sea of like-minded people armed with cameras and that most of the people we saw walking around were clearly local. The focus of the building was on usage rather than admiration, and perhaps this is testament to its success

There is a lovely light by the sea
the promenade

 * I say ‘violinist’ only because he was carrying a violin. I didn’t hear him play it or use it as anything but a prop, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt.. There were also 2 girls doing vocal exercises at the bottom of the stairs. I haven’t referred to them as ‘singers’ because anyone craving attention can warm up their chords in public. At least they moved out of the way before I started taking pictures

The Bogey Drip (a bench in chandelier heaven)

As we headed down Berwick Street on the edge of Soho, a mirage appeared in the form of a narrow shop-front with a chaotic window crammed with scruffy-looking chandeliers and lanterns. As we crossed the road I could barely contain my excitement …

(A bit of background: Until about a year ago chandeliers were ‘not my sort of thing’. Yet when I wanted an injection of glamour in our bedroom, somehow only a chandelier would do. I was actually slightly embarrassed that I wanted one and I expected an anti-bling backlash from Baz and C, but they egged me on to find something I liked. I did, and once it was installed by Ray the sparky I was seduced by the effect of the light. This started a crystal-fuelled frenzy and it’s very lucky that the French house came along to save our simple little bungalow from being turned into a Disney castle)

… As we entered the shop, the man re-stringing a large chandelier by the door invited us to look around the chaotic jumble of ‘stuff’ hanging from the ceiling and standing on the floor. As there was no obvious path through the cluttered room we ventured up the stairs, the walls of which were similarly festooned in grubby ormolu wall lights and sconces

Five floors of fragile orphans lay ahead. At each level there was one small room, cluttered with unloved lights dripping down from ceilings and walls, and strewn on tables and benches. Filthy and unrestored, they were all waiting to be renovated to order and re-homed. Some were no doubt more desirable than others but to my untrained eye they were all beautiful in their decay. I doubt I would have left empty-handed if I’d been on my own

Insane. How would you ever find anything?
How would you choose just one?

Back downstairs, I admired a large crackle-glazed glass shade dangling from a bronze hanger, which the owner referred to as the ‘bogey drip’ on account of its shape. He told us he nearly sold it recently, but when he took it down from the ceiling there was a dead mouse in it and the lady buyer ran screaming from the shop, never to return. When he told me the price I nearly screamed and ran off too

Chaos and intrigue
Chaos and magic on every floor

I said that I could easily spend a week looking around. ‘Well,’ he suggested theatrically, ‘We have a bench on the stairs. It’s 250 quid a month or you can rent it by the hour.’

Bright lights and a bench to rent by the hour. That’s pure Soho!!

Autumn sun and pebbles, a weekend at West Bay

A weekend by the seaside is always a treat. We have just finished restoring the bedrooms at the West Bay flat and it looks amazing, so I treated myself to this painting by Avril Larsson of the Bridport Art Society. The colours and composition will work brilliantly against the white walls

Catch of the Day
‘Catch of the Day’
Our bedroom, now restored and relaxing
Our bedroom, now restored and relaxing

West Bay enjoys East-West light, making the coastline (and our little flat) especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset. The beach is a mix of pebbles and sand, and the huge bright golden cliffs full of fossils and deep faults look as though they could have been designed by Gaudi. On Sunday morning we threw on some layers and headed East along the beach towards Bradstock before the sun was fully up. The fishing boats were just leaving the harbour, the tide was out and the low sun caught the textures beautifully. It evoked Paul Weller’s haunting lyric, ‘Like pebbles on a beach, kicked around, displaced by feet…’

Stone stacks and found art are commonplace here
Stone stacks and ‘found art’ often appear
East Cliff in October sun
East Cliff – Gaudi-esque in the October sun

Baz spotted a Peregrine Falcon from the beach. We saw it land on a high outcrop and we climbed the steep mud path up East Cliff to get a better view. We found a spot to watch him for a while before he started to take the air through his wings and he took off towards West Bay, probably unseen by families and dog walkers on the beach

Peregrine on East Cliff
Peregrine falcon perched on East Cliff
Peregrine falcon resting
The view from the top

There is no season when I don’t love to be beside the seaside, but the soft autumn sun is a reminder to us all to make the most of every possible day outside and lodge the colours in our minds to carry us through to spring, like an animal feasting before a winter sleep

Vive l’Evolution!

I was chatting with a local shop owner, a very nice guy whose own house renovation is nearly finished. Having small children, he and his family spent a year in a rented house. He said that while he was pleased with the outcome of the project, some elements might have been more successful had they stayed in the house and allowed them to ‘evolve’ over time. This rang very true with me, because one of the things I love about buildings is the way they can adapt and evolve to suit purpose. I am glad that Baz and I have never had the budget to remodel our home in one hit, though I realise that this says as much about me and my acceptance of ongoing chaos as it does about people who are sensible enough to do things that way

At the house in France, it was tempting to walk in and assign rooms immediately. Initially I  wanted to move the kitchen and could see no value in keeping the current one. Now I appreciate it much more, having spent time alone there with the luxury of having both a kettle and a fridge (chamomile tea and sandwiches tasted like heaven). It has lots of natural light from the stairwell and is a really charming little room

a truly vintage colour scheme
a truly vintage colour scheme

The 1950s/60s double-drainer sink scrubbed up like new. There’s no running water yet, but I was able to bring water in from the garage tap to wash up. The chimney breast is quaint and it has a shelf where I put wine bottles, against the backdrop of truly vintage grey paint and yellow and black tiles (note that I haven’t mentioned the hideous units and fabric pelmet yet). There is a useful metal work surface too. In fact, I realised not only how comfortable I was there with so little, but how having too much comfort might actually take the fun out of it a bit. There will have to be changes, but I’m no longer in a hurry to make those decisions and I want to see what else the house has to tell me.

Running water might be nice though…..?

Here comes the flood / a mural dilemma

The rains which hit Cannes area with such devastating consequences on Saturday 3rd arrived with us on the following Tuesday. It was an insane deluge and the thunder and lightning was quite entertaining through the skylight over the staircase. For the first hour the guttering coped with the water, but then I heard the tell-tale drip as the house could no longer resist. I stayed calm but it was going to be a long night

I put a large container in place to collect the worst of it and added towels to reduce the impact on the surrounding marble. This is not the first flood the house has seen and it is unlikely to be the last before we get the roof repaired. I could do no more than that and it was a depressing scene so I shuffled off in my flip flops to the salon to remove wallpaper as a distraction

Not my favourite pic of the stairs
Not my favourite pic of the stairs

When I first viewed the house in May I glimpsed some plaster where someone had pulled at the wallpaper, revealing the edge of a design. I decided that working on this was the best way to take my mind off the leak

I started taking paper off and exposed this stunning, though badly damaged, 17th century painting of two lions guardant

17th century lions revealed
17th century lions revealed

It is very fragile and as I did not have the expertise or materials to stabilise it I moved onto another wall in the salon to strip some more paper, only to find yet more designs, some of which are as bright as they can ever have been. The indications are that these designs are all round the room

some kind of urn?
some kind of urn?

We are keen to preserve this history under glass, and we feel privileged to have something as special as this. However (and I never thought I would say this) it creates a strange ‘be careful what you wish for’ dilemma. My problem is this; if there are, as it seems, numerous bits of painting around the room, am I supposed to strip everything back to the bare plaster and expose them all? It may sound wonderful and it is the sort of thing I have often dreamed of, but this is also the biggest and most exciting room I have ever had the chance to decorate, and I don’t know that I am prepared to allow the décor to be entirely dictated by someone who died around 300 years ago!

The ‘wrong’ brown

I like to think that I have catholic taste when it comes to colour, and my home truly has no colour scheme as such. I don’t like to be tied down, and the idea of having things all in a certain colour just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t have matching kitchen accessories, for example, I simply buy what I want in the colour I like – job done. Hence, the look could be described as chaotic, or more charitably as eclectic

But I struggle with certain shades of brown. It’s not that I don’t like brown, because I do. There are just some browns that I find depressing. One of these is the rather lavatorial brown which has been sloshed around on many of the 17th century doors in the French house. Not only this, but someone has embellished the panels (very badly, complete with dirty-looking drips) in a deep cream/ yellow, which gives a completely revolting effect to some very grand old wooden doors. The backs of these doors, which are finished in a dark stain, look gorgeous but I didn’t have much luck when I tried to strip paint off so we will have to look into the best way to restore them to their full beauty

the Good
the Good
the Bad
the Bad
the 'Really...?'
the ‘Really…?’

After a week alone in the house and having had some bad news from home, the brown got into my head and became more of a problem than the lack of any running water and heating (it was very cold at night), so I eventually caved and spent 2 hours on covering it up very quickly on a group of doors, just to give me a break

What a difference a grey makes
What a difference a grey makes

This colour is ‘mono’ by Little Green. It wasn’t the one I intended to use, but I didn’t have my glasses on when I read the paint tin label and I had painted 2 doors before I realised that it wasn’t drying as expected and spotted my mistake. It’s a smart and strongly pigmented blue-grey, a much cooler grey than I meant to use but a vast improvement anyway. Sanity was restored… short term, at least

Getting busy with the fizzy

Charlotte lamented recently that ‘humanity has evolved too far’, because every time she has a spanking new idea for her art, whether towards her GCSE or just for her own interest, she finds that someone has already thought of it. And done it

I know how she feels. We have now decided to keep the little sunburst drinks cabinet in the UK as it is so typically British and so 1930s. I fancied a mesh-covered soda syphon to sit on it, but I’d never use it and could not justify having one purely as an ornament, so I decided to up-cycle one into a lamp base because I (obviously) like anything booze-related. Google tells me that this is not even slightly original and that companies already buy them up, convert and resell them. Buying a ready-made one just didn’t appeal to me, so I grabbed one off ebay. (For argument’s sake I’ll call this the first of my birthday money). There are so many types of syphon available, from the bright metallic ones of my 70s childhood back to gorgeous elegant coloured glass examples, but I just love the texture of the mesh over the chunky glass, and it reminds me of my years working behind bars (oh dear, that doesn’t read well, does it!)

wonky shade, but you get the idea
wonky shade, but you get the idea

The one-piece electrical fitting cost me £5.80 on Amazon and could equally be used on other bottles, etc, so I may buy more in the future. All I had to do was take out the chrome top and delicate glass inner tube – and pack them away safely in case I ever need to restore it to usage. I then just stuffed the fitting into the top of the glass. No electrician required, and cheap as chips

Ray the sparky was round yesterday and he had not seen a fitting like this before. I have topped the base for now with a shade which is still a little drunk from an accident last Christmas where I swept it off the dinner table and it’s only held together by brown tape, so I need to make a new one using the old frame. I will search for a suitable remnant of fabric at the market this weekend ….

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