When a rare opportunity to buy an apartment in their favourite holiday location of south Devon cropped up in 2012, Wendy and Ian Hodges-Jackson jumped at the chance. The two-bedroom flat had beautiful views over the sea to Burgh Island Hotel, made famous by regular guests Agatha Christie and Noel Coward, and was within weekend reach of the couple’s Hertfordshire home.
‘We love this part of south Devon and have been taking our holidays in this development for years,’ says Wendy. ‘The flat hadn’t been refurbished for a long time, but we knew it could be somewhere special. Our Hertfordshire home is an old farmhouse, so we wanted a completely different feel here.’
Ian runs an engineering business and works regularly with developers, so he drew up the plans, gave the builder a schedule of work, specified the materials needed and appointed local contractor/builder Jeremy Gilbert to manage the project, although Ian oversaw the refurbishment by visiting regularly. Using local labour, floors were removed and ceilings renewed, the fireplace was taken out of the living room and the wiring was redesigned in order to allow the installation of a sophisticated lighting, sound and Wi-Fi system.
- The owners: Wendy Hodges-Jackson, who manages her own property portfolio, and her husband Ian, who runs his own business services engineering business, live here with children Ella, 12, and Ollie, 10
- The property: A two-bedroom apartment, built in 1998
- The location: Bigbury-on-Sea, south Devon
- What they spent: The couple bought the apartment for £485,000 in 2012 and have spent around £130,000 improving it. It has recently been valued at around £650,000
Major changes were also made to the two bathrooms. The couple planned to turn their own en suite into a dedicated, walk-in shower room, while the old shower room, which served the twin bedroom, would become a bathroom. ‘The idea of creating the new shower room was that no one would have to trek through the flat in wet swimming gear to have a wash in the old bathroom,’ says Wendy. ‘But we wanted to keep at least one bath, so we could choose between a quick shower and a relaxing soak.’
The old en suite to the twin room had a Jack-and-Jill door system, enabling entry from both the bedroom and the hallway, but, for privacy reasons, Wendy and Ian decided to block up access to the hallway. ‘This also gave us more wall space in the bathroom, and therefore more options for the layout,’ explains Wendy.
Deciding on decor
The couple asked a local estate agent for help in finding an interior designer, and Paul Hervey of PHI Concepts was recommended to them. ‘He was amazing and a real inspiration,’ says Wendy. Brought on board to freshen up the place, Paul’s first impression was that the apartment looked ‘old-fashioned, with lots of pine furniture and peachy colours – very 1980s in style and not at all luxurious.’
His advice to the couple was to create a Ralph Lauren/New England style interior, but with a twist. ‘A seaside theme may seem very obvious, bearing in mind the location of the apartment,’ says Paul. ‘But I knew it could be done in a gentle, subtle way that would be timeless and still relevant in 20 years’ time.’
Creating a contemporary kitchen
Ian and Wendy decided to start with the kitchen, which was originally painted a creamy yellow and had vinyl-fronted units, a wood-laminate worktop and a breakfast bar that blocked access to the seafront terrace. ‘The dining area was tiny,’ recalls Wendy, ‘and the kitchen itself looked isolated and unloved in one corner. We wanted to open up the space and let the cooking, dining and living areas flow together.’ Another hindrance was the kitchen’s vinyl flooring, which didn’t marry well with the laminate floorboards in the living space. ‘These artificial divisions made the large room feel smaller,’ Wendy explains.
‘We decided to go for a contemporary makeover and include a new island unit,’ she adds. ‘Paul suggested using two colours – a mocha on the wall and floor units and a limestone shade for the new island. We also gave the worktops their own contrasting colours.’ For the splashback, she chose plain glass tiles that were practical yet light and bright against the pale walls. The old mish-mash of carpets, tiles and laminate that constituted the flooring was replaced with distressed oak boards that unified and enlarged the apartment and could be softened with rugs.
As there was no utility area, appliances such as the cooker, dishwasher, fridge and washer-dryer were all incorporated in the wall units. The large island was designed mainly for storage, but a neat overhang from the work surface has also provided space for a breakfast bar and two stools.
In place of the old, rectangular dining table with metal base, Paul suggested a more inviting round design in rustic wood with a glass top. Easily seating four, it faces the stunning view over the sea to Burgh Island, and its curved lines offer easy access through the sliding doors out onto the terrace. The wooden window frames, which had been a depressing brown, were painted white to give an airy feel and, throughout the flat, the standard, chunky-looking storage heaters were replaced with a more slimline, flat-fronted design.
Perfect for relaxing in the sunshine with a drink and a book, the balcony is accessed from the open-plan kitchen/dining/living space. The Lyon outdoor dining set is from Eastward
Making the most of location
To make the most of the view and add much-needed cupboard space, Wendy requested a built-in window seat, which was commissioned from a local joiner. Paul suggested neat recessed handles for the doors and added a tailored, denim seat pad. ‘Denim is a great material to use in sunlight,’ he explains. ‘As with a pair of jeans, it gets better with wear.’ Most of the windows were finished with smart, Roman blinds that fold away neatly to give glimpses of the sea.
Previous owners had furnished the living area with heavy, black seating but Paul knew that sofas in light, walnut leather with a distressed finish would look more appropriate here. ‘The more wear and tear they get from jean buckles or sandy feet, the better they will look,’ he says. ‘They age gently, like a pair of shoes.’ In tune with the softly worn look of the sofas, Wendy chose a wooden coffee table with an industrial-style, galvanised top, ‘which almost looks as if it has been washed up on the beach!’ she says. In keeping with the utilitarian theme, she also opted for an aluminium trunk with a leather trim as a side table.
Fixtures and fittings
With the bathroom spaces redesigned, they needed a major overhaul in terms of fixtures and fittings, too. The wet room-style shower off the master bedroom was given a slightly raised floor to allow for drainage, as well as a taupe colour scheme that included ceramic floor tiles with a timber-look finish. The en suite off the twin bedroom is a slightly darker shade and has subtly different, ceramic wood-look flooring. As a final luxurious touch, power showers were fitted, and underfloor heating was installed beneath the new ceramic tiles. ‘The heating is Wi-Fi operated, so we can control it from anywhere in the world!’ adds Wendy.
The couple inherited wall colours that were largely neutral but which varied from room to room. To encourage a feeling of space, they opted for a canvas-white shade throughout and a slightly darker colour for woodwork. Paul suggested creating a feature wall in each room using a variety of designer wallpapers, and picked out blue and white as the dominant shades, which are repeated throughout the flat. Wendy’s brother Samuel J Grant, a specialist decorator, was brought in to do this work.
The refurbishment took around three months over winter, and the family were able to move into their luxurious holiday home in February 2013. Now they relax there as much as their schedule allows, making it a much-valued bolthole away from the stresses of work. While the children play in the sea, Ian tries his hand at kite-surfing, while Wendy loves walking and watching the ever-changing scenery. ‘Whether it’s summer or winter, the views are glorious,’ she says. ‘It’s a great place to escape to, away from ordinary life.’