Loving life in Southwold
PUBLISHED: 11:56 24 February 2015
Interior designer Sheila Brough's Southwold home is an oasis of calm in the busy coastal town
Words and photos by Tony Hall
I’ve got to know the seaside town of Southwold very well over the years, so what surprised and impressed me about Sheila Brough’s new home was its immensely calming ambience.
Southwold has become a favourite with so many people that it’s often very busy. There are even car stickers that boast ‘I’ve parked in Southwold.’
To happen on an oasis in the town centre that is quiet, soothing and with a gorgeous interior is indeed a real find.
“As soon as I viewed,” explains Sheila, “I liked the fact that it is not overlooked, either front or back.
“The road gets very little traffic and I have a view across a green. In the garden, where I added an extension for a kitchen, dining, living room, likewise, no houses directly overlook me.
“Naturally, as an interior designer and experienced property developer, I felt it very important to continue that calming aura, so have used a palette of muted greys and whites. I collected some pebbles from the beach and painted each one in a colour I was thinking of using, to compare them all. I could then match the paints I used to the colours of those seven different pebbles.” Those stones are now mounted on a piece of driftwood and hang by the front door.
Sheila, grew up in Oxton near Southwell in Nottinghamshire. After leaving school, she went to university to study French. After her degree, she joined British Midland Airlines as a trainer in sales and reservations. Her job involved several moves, including to Amsterdam for three years, a city she loved.
“It was so laid back – the lifestyle, the cycling, just a great place to be. I was >>
>> also based in Dublin for two years, another good location.” Later, pregnant with daughter Alice, now 23, home was a grade two cottage in Melbourne, Derbyshire. When her daughter was four, Sheila took a course in psychology, which led to teaching and working in mental health, before becoming operations manager for a large Ofsted inspections company, until the company was taken over.
Always interested in renovating her homes, Sheila concentrated her efforts on that. Southwold beckoned – she had relatives living in the town and had spent many happy holidays there.
Her first Southwold home was in Chester Road.
“I so loved actually being a resident, rather than a holiday maker.” A couple of years ago her current property came on to the market and Sheila immediately saw its potential. Having heard what a good job she’d done with the refurbishment, I was keen to see the results.
I was greeted at the front door by Sheila and constant companion, Hamish the dog, and stepped into the hall. The original entrance to the kitchen/scullery at the end of the hallway has been blocked off, providing space for a downstairs shower/cloakroom.
On the left a door opens into a spacious sitting room with a study/snug beyond. Two sofas in muted grey, gathered around a matching upholstered coffee table set the scene. In the period fireplace, which had been boarded over when Sheila bought the house, there’s now a wood burner for winter nights.
The room’s classic proportions, and a bay window looking out over the green, make this living space light, airy and very restful.
As we pass through the study/snug end of the room, Sheila points out a picture of a cow.
“That is my favourite – it reminds me of my childhood growing up on our farm.” We go straight into the new extension, constructed the full width of the property, with bi-fold doors looking on to a beautiful garden, and a lantern roof providing even more light.
This space – combined kitchen, dining and living space – has the ‘wow’ factor. Although new age and contemporary, it blends seamlessly with the period house and is a total joy.
“I’m delighted with the way it’s come together,” says Sheila. “Needless to say it is not only my favourite room, but where I spend most time. It’s a very sociable space. I love entertaining, which I have done more of here than in my entire life. It lends itself to dinner parties, but likewise lunches for my friends, when in summer we can throw open the bi-fold doors and the garden becomes an extra room.”
Upstairs, Sheila has furnished three bedrooms and a modern family bathroom. She has used muted colours throughout, on walls, bedding and accessories, adding occasional pieces of antique furniture to complete the look and feel.
As we return downstairs, Sheila points out a piece of wood on the wall in the kitchen/diner.
“It’s a wonderful shape, Elizabethan timber, and I got it from Websters reclaim.” Sheila also likes to find interesting pieces of driftwood or metal on the beach, while walking Hamish, a 57-variety Jack Russell, now eight years old.
“He’s become so well known that people often say ‘Hello Hamish, how are you’, forgetting I’m also there.
“I enjoy walking in Dunwich forest or the nature reserve as well. In my spare time I love going to antique fairs, but also enjoy my two hobbies, gardening and cooking, with a bouillabaisse followed by shoulder of lamb kleftiko firm signature dishes.”
“My life now here in Suffolk is great,” she says. “Certainly a good move. It’s a lovely house to live in and having the beach so close with the big skies is such a bonus. Southwold is one of those places that has changed little over the years and has a special magic for me.”