Interior architect Marta Nowicka’s expert eye for refurbishment comes to the fore in this stylish coastal house. Absolutely quizzes her about it
How did you find Coastguard’s Cottage?
Having spent years driving around East Sussex looking at derelict seaside properties and writing to the owners to get nowhere, I found Coastguard’s Cottage one Sunday night on Rightmove after an extensive search. I called the agent first thing Monday morning, viewed the property and made an offer which was accepted by Wednesday.
What sort of state was it in?
The house had been rented for years to the same family, who fostered many children so by all accounts the house was always full of kids running wild – perfect by the sea. They were also into collecting old cars, vans, buses and boats so the common areas around the cottages resembled a dump.
When I visited it inside, all the pipes, radiators, kitchen and anything metal had been totally stripped out so the cottage was by then a graphitised shell. Looking beyond that, I could see that all the original features like the coastguard’s special gun cupboard near the front door was intact and all the timber floors, linen store and stairs were salvable – the fact that it needed a huge amount of work was fine as that’s what I was looking for.
The refurbishment included opening up the attic as a bedroom, making new timber windows as per the original ones, creating new bathrooms, tanking the lower ground floor, cladding some walls with insulation and tongue and groove. However, I didn’t want to lose the patina of age and experiences so left the damaged, uncarpeted stairs plus the rough walls. By removing the fireplaces to leave exposed brick the cottage feels unfinished and a bit wild, so site specific to its context. Two of the discarded unusable boats left are still in the garden – one a planter, the other a laundry line prop.
What is it like in winter?
Winter is not for the faint-hearted. When the wind blows in off the sea the atmosphere is BIG – the spray of the waves crashes on the windows, the roof timbers creak like that of a ship at sea, the whistling wind can be so loud to drown ambient noise and conversation – an immersive experience for sure.
This is the perfect time to light the open fires, candles and dim the lights, to hunker down with a good book, long drink and time to experience the unique sea location from the cosy interior – the scale of the rooms are perfect to feel warm and safe with their two-foot thick walls. We love winter weekends here as it is ok to do nothing bar relax by the fire, occasionally popping out for a blustery beach walk to collect more firewood.
What do you like best about it?
Where to start? This place is real escapism – the minute you arrive the rest of the world, work and routine seem miles away in another time zone or continent, even if you’ve just travelled down from London, which is only 1.5 hours away. The atmosphere of the location is all-encompassing and heavenly – when the tide is out you have eight miles of beach to walk on often with no one else in sight as Jury’s Gap is one mile down from the busy cafes of Camber Sands. This off-beat location between fields and sea means you can enjoy a simple, more solitary, natural lifestyle away from the crowds and modern life.
The rustic cottage is easy going, functional and cosy so it’s totally relaxing with a spacious functional kitchen. As I love to cook (it’s my passion and hobby) I’ll spend a lot of time looking out the window at the sea whilst concocting a feast. Otherwise, I love to go for 5-mile walks and runs on the wet sand, lie on the sun hot pebbles, make fires in the walled garden from beach wood, swim when the sea is still or best of all sunbathe on my stripy deckchair with a builder’s cup of tea.
The Coastguard’s Cottage at Jurys Gap is available to rent through Dom Stay and Live. In tune with the wider trend for designers and architects to open up their homes, Dom collates the best on offer, founded as part of Marta Nowicka’s passion for converting derelict commercial buildings into stunning places to stay in and live in. Dom comprises Marta’s own properties as well as homes which meet her rigorous architectural criteria. All Dom properties are clever concepts with unique architectural features and a natural calmness and serenity.