Suffolk’s prettiest homes: A 1950s cottage in Felixstowe

PUBLISHED: 12:39 11 June 2019

The Hideout

The Hideout


A 1950s cottage at Felixstowe gets an authentic period makeover in the hands of its enthusiastic owner Dave Girling | Words: Jayne Lindill

We're used to refurbishing period houses, decorating in styles that recall Georgian splendour, Victorian embellishment, Edwardian elegance and even Art Deco glamour.

But what if your house was built in 1954? Why, you lovingly revive its Mid-century Modern charm, of course.

That's exactly what Dave Girling did when he found a simple seaside bungalow, tucked away, just yards from the beach in Felixstowe.

Basically sound, but in need of some love and attention, it was just the project Dave was looking for. After years of working for a well known supermarket chain, in 2018 he found himself redundant and looking for a new direction in life.

The Hideout at FelixstoweThe Hideout at Felixstowe

"My wife, Shirley, and I had talked about getting a property somewhere in Felixstowe, and I fancied doing a holiday let," he says. "It was a question of finding the right place, though."

In their search they looked at plenty of properties, but the bungalow kept calling to Dave. "It had two bedrooms, a large lounge and a lovely light, enclosed back garden. It's also just a couple of minutes' walk to the beach, so really it's perfect."

Keen to have Hideout, as they aptly named it, ready for this year's summer visitors to the resort, Dave got cracking as soon as the property was theirs in September 2018.

He enlisted the help of a local builder and plumber who had already worked on the couple's home between Ipswich and Felixstowe, and called in trades to do the essential work of updating plumbing, electrics, the central heating system and new windows.

The HideoutThe Hideout

He helped with whatever was within his capabilities and did all the decorating himself.

Apart from creating an en suite bathroom at one end of the property, in addition to a revamped main bathroom, Dave has left the interior layout pretty much as it was.

Having the two bedrooms adjoining each other might be awkward for someone living here all the time, he says, but it's proved ideal for a holiday cottage, neatly organising the sleeping and living accommodation into two halves of the property.

The living room is the entire width of the cottage and has plenty of space for relaxing as well as dining, and Dave has installed an efficient, modern kitchen that still manages to reflect the mid-century style, complete with a serving hatch to the living room.

The HideoutThe Hideout

He's even managed to find a retro service bell so the cook can summon diners to collect food and drinks from the hatch.

There's some debate as to exactly what Mid-century Modern style means. Some apply it to anything between about 1933 and the mid-1960s, others confine it strictly to the 1950s. There's no denying its appeal, however, and it's enjoying quite a resurgence.

We're normally quite dismissive of the 1950s, as a time when life was overly conventional and austere. But it was a time of great elegance and panache, and some of the best design comes from this era.

Interiors and furnishings from the decade have a clean simplicity, confidence and individuality that's hard to find today without paying a lot of money.

The Hideout at FelixstoweThe Hideout at Felixstowe

In a world of mass produced, bland, cheap and cheerful stuff, it's refreshing to find rooms furnished with tables and chairs made of real, quality timber, properly finished and upholstered, and cabinets and shelving that are functional as well as good looking.

Much of the success of Hideout's interior design comes from Dave's carefully chosen colour palette of blues, corals and greens, contrasted with geometric patterns.

This keeps it fresh and yet still echoes the period and reflects the seaside location. Hideout nestles in a part of Felixstowe that was popular with well-to-do Edwardian holidaymakers. Relaxing in the little garden on a still summer's day and you'll probably hear the thwack of ball on racquet at the nearby tennis club.

Furnishing Hideout was a labour of love for Dave and Shirley. He admits to hanging out in antiques centres and says they've filled their own home with an eclectic collection of items, including a Leonard Squirrell painting they were lucky to stumble across.

The HideoutThe Hideout

In fact, Dave is a talented painter in his own right and some very attractive work graces the walls of The Hideout.

Most of the furniture, such as the G Plan dining table and chairs, and decorative items, like a classic Metamec starburst clock, he picked up on ebay and other similar sites.

But he's also trawled local outlets such as Old School Antiques at Wickham Market, where he found a display cabinet made in 1954, and the antiques centres at Yoxford and Marlesford.

The fireplace in the living room is particularly impressive. Dave removed an old electric fire and replaced it with a wood burner. He created a surround from some old timbers he picked up in Felixstowe, the fender came from his own kitchen at home and the glossy, royal blue tiles cost him just £5 for the lot.

The Hideout at FelixstoweThe Hideout at Felixstowe

A folding kitchen table in perfect condition came from a caravan, and two armchairs bought off ebay for £25 he re-upholstered himself, using a friend's leather coat that was surplus to requirements.

Some rooms, such as the kitchen and bathroom, are brand new, of course, to ensure maximum comfort for residents. Appliances are pure 2019, although it's not difficult to find retro looking toasters and kettles.

"If you're going to do this you need to go the whole hog," says Dave, "you need to create the total look."

He's certainly achieved that. Hideout is charming and a little bit eccentric, but it's also comfortable and sophisticated in its own way, and never oppressively 'vintage' or 'quirky'.

The HideoutThe Hideout

Dave's pleased with his efforts. He's enjoyed the whole project and is thinking about where it might take him next, another property perhaps, styled in the year it was built.

Hideout in Felixstowe is available through Suffolk Secrets

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