Explore this gorgeous coastal bolthole near Southwold
PUBLISHED: 12:32 22 May 2018
When Christina Wilson and Robert Elms set eyes on a coastal bolthole near Southwold, it was the garden sheds that clinched it. Words & Photos: Tony Hall
Stolen Glimpses is the title of a beautiful, recently produced book, mainly of pictures, by Christina Wilson, with words by her husband, author and broadcaster Robert Elms. It’s a wonderful insight into her life, loves and the locations she enjoys.
Having also read Christina’s long running blog, Sweet Nothings, I was interested to catch up with her at the couple’s delightfully restored, early 1800s Grade II listed cottage at Wrentham, about four miles from Southwold.
Called Lime Blossom, after two Lime Trees in the garden, the property is, in fact, two cottages, converted with great sensitivity to retain the period detailing, into one stunning home. The result, as you might expect from this creative couple, is fascinating.
Christina studied architecture at North London Polytechnic. She worked in public relations for fashion company Comme des Garçons before opening an art gallery for young artists and photographers in a small shop in Golborne Road, West London.
In 1990, pregnant and affected by recession, she rented the shop to Rough Trade Records. Later, she worked at Elle Decoration magazine, an interior design ‘bible’, which accounts for the immense style with which Lime Blossom cottage is decorated and furnished. These days, Christina has rekindled her passion for
“I love photography,” says Christina. “I got my first camera aged 17. I did a course with a friend at Maida Vale Education Centre, in black and white photography, and film processing. Some years later, in 2006, I went to the London School of Printing to do a full time course. Digital followed and my first job was for a children’s clothing brochure.
“Besides many subsequent commissions, in 2008 I started my blog, Sweet Nothings, words and photographs, and now drawings as well. I try for a picture every day, on lifestyle, interiors and travel. I had never done art, but went to life drawing classes and initially, although terrible, I loved it. I now like doing botanicals.”
Robert is best known for his daily radio programme on BBC Radio London. “Everything you need to know, about music, architecture and chats with guests, mainly about their lives, loves and dislikes of London,” he says.
A London boy through and though, it was while studying at the London School of Economics that he got involved with the club scene. With a love of music, he wrote for NME and The Face in the 1980s, and was a chronicler of the New Romantic movement. In the 1990s he was in Loose Ends on Radio Four, and Travelogue on Channel 4.
Christina recalls how she and Robert came to own Lime Blossom. Nineteen years ago, they bought a small house in Spain, in an area unknown at the time, Vejer de la Frontera. They had three young children, and taking the family to hotels was expensive.
Having rented houses in the village, they decided to buy a 12th century property, in the Moroccan style.
“Very higgledy piggledy but with loads of heritage and style,” says Christina. Over the years they have restored the property, creating a stylish holiday home, and as there are flights to Seville, they visit often.
Ten years ago, while living in central London, they decided to buy a small cottage by the sea and chose Whitstable in Kent, close to a shingle beach.
But when their eldest child left university and began renting in London, Christina and Robert sold the Whitstable cottage to help her afford the mortgage on a one-bedroom property in Brixton.
“We still hankered after a seaside retreat and, fancying a change, and knowing the lady who previously owned this cottage, whose home it was for 20 years, we came up to see it.
“We loved the nice atmosphere, the large garden sheds, which I don’t have in London, and decided to buy in April 2016. It was the sheds that clinched it!”
Updating the cottage took about six months. “I have really enjoyed putting this cottage together and finding all the furniture and artefacts for it,” says Christina. “I often on the drive up from London, detour to visit local antique shops, where many items in the cottage are from.
“For the colour scheme I’ve chosen muted shades reflecting the sea, coast and countryside. One of my biggest joys is having a large garden, unlike our Georgian London house.
“It already has a large outbuilding, which I am turning into a studio, for painting and making pottery, which overlooks a country style garden designed by Laura Arison, who won gold at Hampton Court Palace.”
She and Robert love discovering villages for themselves, like Dunwich and Framlingham, where Christina’s favourite antique shop, Dix Sept, is located.
“There’s just so much going on along this heritage coast, particularly at Snape Maltings, the concert hall and shops, which makes a great day out, then possibly lunch at Aldeburgh, by the sea. Close at hand, by contrast I love the beauty and isolation of Covehithe.
“It can be very windswept and so reminds me of the beaches near our house in Spain. Memorable moments include the sunsets at Walberswick, the sun on the water on the River Blyth and the light on the marshes locally, truly stunning. As soon as we arrive here, it really is a home from home. Very comforting.
“My garden room especially feels like a totally different part of the cottage, a design which I did deliberately. I love the lightness and serene quality and am now learning the piano, which I keep in there. I love playing Mozart.
“Coming to this area of Suffolk has been a breath of fresh air, escaping city life, for total relaxation.”
Lime Blossom Cottage is available for holiday lettings. Contact: Heritage Hideaways
Stolen Glimpses is available at Darsham Nursery
About the house
Owners: Christina Wilson & Robert Elms
Property: A pair of farm labourers’ cottages converted into one holiday home
Built: 1800s (Grade 2 listed)
Location: Wrentham, near Southwold
Bought: April 2016
Room: Garden room, the lightness and serene quality
Item: A Willow pattern plate in the kitchen
Interiors shop: Dix Sept in Framlingham.
Part of the county: The Heritage coast.
Day out: Snape Maltings, for the shops, the calligraphy centre, Aldeburgh to eat by the beach. Back to Snape Concert Hall in the evening
Walk: Covehithe – windswept and isolated
Pub: The Anchor at Walberswick
Cafe: Darsham Garden Centre
Most memorable moment in Suffolk: Watching the light and the water on the River Blyth Estuary looking to Walberswick at sunset