A cottage on the Suffolk coast is the perfect place for work and play
PUBLISHED: 14:00 21 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:54 20 February 2013
Forget about the drab winter and be inspired by Cally and Harry Cole's colourful Suffolk coastal cottage. The couple left behind the bright lights and big city living of New York to set up their own curtain company in the county
Forget about the drab winter and be inspired by Cally and Harry Coles colourful Suffolk coastal cottage. The couple left behind the bright lights and big city living of New York to set up their own curtain company in the county
It would be hard to imagine a more idyllic place to live than the small but bustling village of Orford on the Suffolk Heritage Coast. There is a National Trust nature reserve, an RSPB bird reserve, a 12th century castle and a fine medieval church, as well as those essential factors that make day to day living enjoyable like a good smattering of shops, restaurants and pubs.
Being able to live and work in Orford would be akin to winning the lottery for most of us so little wonder then that Cally and Harry Cole of The Natural Curtain Company can feel they have made the right lifestyle choice, though it involved some agonising on Callys part.
Im a city girl through and through, she says. I spent the first 30 years of my life in London before moving to New York where our eldest daughter Ruby was born and I loved every minute.
As Harry, who was brought up in Suffolk says: Cally was not exactly thrilled by the idea of moving to the country but the thought of bringing up our family there made it decidedly more palatable!
The change from urban to rural life went hand in hand with a massive career change for them both and for their partner in the company, David Adeane. The three met at the University of East Anglia in Norwich before Harry went into his family business, an engineering company making scientific instruments, Cally became a teacher focusing on special needs and David became a property developer.
By the time the three got together in 2006, Harry had decided to leave the engineering business prompting the Coles return from the States. Their second daughter Wilhelmina, had been born and they had moved to Orford and a charming 18th century farmworkers cottage.
The cottage had been renovated and extended in the 1990s with a contemporary wing providing a spacious area on the ground floor for cooking, eating and entertaining with a neat section siphoned off on one side for cloakroom and utility room.
The extension has glass walls and a zinc roof built like an aircraft wing with an overlapping flap halfway along to accommodate the change in ground level. There is no gutter along its edge so rainwater cascades off and falls into pebble covered drains set into the paving stones below. When the rain is heavy, the effect is spectacular, creating a wall of water beyond the glass and when it freezes hard, a beautiful border of icicles forms around the rim of the roof.
The interior decoration of the house is simple and fresh with most of the walls, doors and windows painted in stone white
The rest of the ground floor is in more traditional cottage style with cosy beamed rooms and open fireplaces which are used occasionally. With energy efficiency in mind, the cottage is well insulated, the glass walls are comprised of two layers with argon gas sandwiched between to keep the cold out and the warmth in and there is underfloor heating below the original relaid Suffolk floor bricks.
Upstairs, a landing bedroom was enclosed to turn it into the perfect childs bedroom and the main bedroom was given French windows which lead on to a little balcony with views over the garden to the sea beyond. Another bedroom on the first floor became the family bathroom and opposite the bathroom, a ladder staircase installed in the 1990s renovation leads up to a large attic bedroom with more fabulous views of Orford Ness and the sea.
The interior decoration of the house is simple and fresh with most of the walls, doors and windows painted in stone white, the exception being the contemporary beamed ceiling of the wing which is a soft, grey blue. On the floors downstairs there are neutral tones with old bricks in the original rooms; there is a concrete floor protected by layers of sealant in the extension and upstairs the bedroom floors are carpeted in a looped pile cream Berber.
All of the soft furnishings curtains, blinds, bedspreads and cushions are, of course, are by the Natural Curtain Company. Initially the concept for the business, an online company offering made to measure curtains and Roman blinds in 100% natural fabrics, started with David Adeane.
As Cally recall0s: David and I are both passionate about textiles and spent hours talking through ideas on fabrics and designs. I was really excited by the idea. They established a strong visual concept for the company but what we needed was someone with a very practical mind, a good business head and a strong sales and marketing background, and it was obvious, Harry was the missing link!
Existing curtain websites were complicated and difficult to negotiate, fabrics were usually synthetic and the end product was cheap and mass produced. The final anomaly was that though some websites allowed you to choose everything on line, you still had to call up to place the order, which we felt rather defeated the object! Harry explains.
The ethos for their company was to be simplicity and at the beginning they were cautious, offering a choice of 50 fabrics linens and cottons, silks, velvets and crewel work and different options for headings and linings. They sourced fabrics at competitive prices from European textile fairs and conducted market research by making over a thousand pairs of curtains and blinds at cost price for friends, and friends of friends to get the quality just right.
All this research and preparation was obviously key to the companys success but it rather pales into insignificance in comparison with getting the website right, as Harry remarks wryly: It would sap most peoples will to live!
The big plus is that the company has been growing steadily since the day they launched. They increased their fabric selection to 100 and then to 200, having discovered that a really good choice of fabrics is pivotal. The partners all agree on the virtues of an online business. Its a 24/7 shopfront and because its open all the time we get orders at 3am in the morning its working while we sleep.
This, of course, is only part of the appeal for Harry and Cally. They run the Suffolk office from Orford (they also have a showroom and office in London) which means that Cally is around full time and Harry part time with their children, Fred aged three, Ruby and Wila, five and six. The latter are both at the local primary school which is in walking distance.
Their lifestyle is much more relaxed a million miles from where it would have been in corporate America land. As Harry says: Now we have the website up and running, its easy and simple to negotiate and we and our clients have confidence in it, we can feel we have a very good life/work balance.
The Natural Curtain Company,
Tel: 0845 5000 400