Suffolk’s prettiest homes: A graceful Victorian townhouse in Southwold
PUBLISHED: 10:58 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 04 June 2020
Sian Millar knew she’d found her perfect seaside home before she’d even set foot in the graceful Victorian Southwold townhouse | Words: Jayne Lindill - Photos: Suffolk Secrets
Who doesn’t dream of owning a bolthole? A place to escape, unwind and feel at peace with the world, if only for the briefest of weekends. Your own space, in your favourite, much loved location, to visit whenever you please. Bliss.
Anyone who’s spent hours scrolling through property websites, gazing at the mouthwatering choice of cosy country cottages and coastal retreats, yearning to make something their own, will warm to Sian Millar’s story.
Sian has always loved Southwold since she first went there in 2014. So, when she sold her business in January last year she seized the opportunity to invest some of the sale proceeds in a property in the seaside town.
She imagined buying a small, cosy fishermen’s cottage as a weekend getaway for her and her three girls, Abbie, 16, Isabelle, 12, and Nancy, nine.
“I was browsing Rightmove while at the airport one afternoon and saw that Northcliffe had come onto the market. I knew I would buy it immediately.”
Sian called the agent and told them that she wanted to view it but she was in Japan for a couple of weeks.
“I think they thought I was nuts when I said something along the lines of ‘Please, please, please don’t let anyone else buy it! I promise you I will buy it when I’m back!’ I viewed it the day after returning from Osaka and made an offer the same day.”
Northcliffe is a graceful, charming, Southwold townhouse in an ideal seafront location. Sian found that in a previous life it had been a B&B, but the vendors had converted it back to its orginal role as a comfortable home.
“When I bought it, the whole house was tired and in need of a bit of a makeover,” she says. “Looking around it on my first visit, I immediately fell in love with the Victorian grandeur of the house – the huge rooms, the high ceilings, the attention to detail in the cornicing.
“I could imagine having family gatherings here in the summer, with the kids running out onto the beach, as well as in the winter, playing games around the table in front of the log burner.”
Sian has some experience of managing renovation of properties, having project managed the build and refurbishment of a couple of homes previously.
“But Northcliffe was by far the biggest project I’ve taken on,” she says. “My vision was to create a property that made people say ‘Wow’ when they walked in.
“I wanted something quite different to the usual seaside feel of red, blue and white nautical style. I’m a big fan of colour and I wanted this project to reflect that with bold and striking colours, but also fabrics and prints that felt luxurious.”
So, local interiors consultant Jos Marriner came on board. “Jos was recommended to me and, after speaking to her on the phone, I knew she was the right person to work with.
“She was as enthusiastic as I was and completely understood what I was trying to achieve with the refurbishment.”
Sian and Jos worked together to create mood boards for each room, pulling together all the different looks and colours they wanted to use, adding finishing touches for each room – large accent lamps, silver gilt art deco-style mirrors, art work, cushions, rugs and accessories to create a feeling of luxury and elegance.
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They used local trades and suppliers at every step of the project and opted for independent companies for furniture, fabrics, curtains, blinds, upholstery and ornaments, sourcing items as locally to Southwold as she could.
Their use of colour thoughout the house is spectacularly effective. The marine blues are there, in sumptuous fabrics for armchairs and beds, in the stylish kitchen, and the cheery front door.
But there are also subtle hues of cloud grey, contrasting with ice cream tones in cushions and curtains. And who can fail to be wowed by the riot of colours in the velvet upholstered dining chairs and matching tableware? It’s so joyful it makes you laugh out loud.
They also cleverly blend period and contemporary style, respecting the building’s Victorian heritage, and they successfully achieve that most difficult of things, an environment in which people of all ages and gender can feel at home. Is Sian pleased with it?
“I’m thrilled with it – the ‘wow’ factor is definitely there and I love reading all the comments from guests in the guest book after they’ve stayed.” Northcliffe is indeed a beautiful house, luxurious, comfortable yet with the feel of a family home.
It makes an excellent holiday destination, accommodating groups of up to 14. The bedrooms are large and spacious, and four have en suites.
The two front bedrooms have plush sofas to sink into, as you enjoy your first morning cup of tea and watch the sunrise over Sole Bay. . . that’s if you can ease yourself out of the sumptuous super-king-sized beds.
A double room and a quad bunk room at the back of the house share a family bathroom. The house has a large lounge, and a snug which is a great space for kids to escape to (and adults when they can claim it!).
The kitchen is huge – practical and beautiful – while the dining room has a table that comfortably seats 14. Sian has also set out a massive table and chairs at the front of the property, so people can eat al fresco directly overlooking the beach.
“It really is the best place to have breakfast in Southwold,” she says. Which is what she and her girls like to do whenever they get an opportunity. Northcliffe is as much for them to enjoy as it is for their appreciative guests.
“I’ve made sure that the kids and I spend time in the house. I love the property so much and I’m delighted with the results of all our hard work.
“As I drive into Southwold, I immediately relax. It’s equally beautiful on a cold winter’s day as on a hot summer’s day.
“It really is our happy place.”
Northcliffe on Southwold seafront, overlooking the beach and Southwold Pier, has six bedrooms for up to 14 guests.
Available through Suffolk Secrets: suffolk-secrets.co.uk