Gallery Of Remarkable Renovation
When curtain maker Annette Poole decided to move from Battle to Hastings, she researched lots of properties before finding a hillside home to suit her family. After three years of renovation work, she has created a unique interior to reflect her creative eye and passion for soft furnishings.
There’s something in the sea air down in Hastings, a creativity that crashes out of the waves and up into parts of the town. Arriving at Annette Poole’s symmetrically stylish front garden you can see that the tide of inspiration has definitely splashed into this house.
Annette had looked at lots of properties when thinking of moving down from Battle to Hastings – but only from the outside. This house was the only one she looked at inside, but by the time her house in Battle had sold, it had been taken off the market. Another person might take this as a signal to start looking elsewhere, but not Annette. She probed deeper and discovered that the owners were renting the property out and were still keen to sell. Happily Annette and her family moved into the house just over three years ago and she began the transformation.
The previous owners had done work to the house already; it had recently featured in Ideal Home magazine. Many of us would be happy to move into a house that had just been photographed for a magazine and not want to change a thing, but, when Annette shows me the pictures, to my surprise the rooms are almost unrecognisable – they could have been of a different house altogether. “It just wasn’t my style,” says Annette. “We lived with it for a while and then I just gradually did each room when I could afford to.”
Most of the transformation has been done with the magic of paint. Lesson Number One: Be bold, it’s only paint. “The worst that can happen is that you’ll have to paint over it again,” says Annette. But there have been a few structural alterations too – the addition of an en suite bathroom for the master bedroom, a new ceiling for the landing and the replacement of a long and low kitchen window with one that allowed for a sink unit to be put back under it. “And I don’t like to look at dirty grout,” adds Annette cheerfully, “so all the tiles have been replaced with tongue and groove.”
Redecoration began in the hall. This was a large project, because the landing upstairs is huge. The walls above the stairs are very high, which also happily means that there’s lots of space to hang pictures on the landing and plenty of room for some enormous, and enormously stylish, chandeliers, sourced from Robert Amstad at Hastings Antiques Centre – not far away in Norman Road, St Leonards.
Next, Annette tackled the kitchen, which, from her point of view, was not a practical use of space. “I got fed up with walking round the island unit in the middle,” she says, “so that was one of the first things we removed.” Then the window was changed to allow for the sink to be relocated and new kitchen cupboards installed. None of the changes were instant though. “We spent one Christmas with no water in the kitchen – we had to wash up in the bathroom and use paper plates,” Annette laughs, adding, “you soon learn to choose your meals with care – some foods go right through paper plates!”
I notice a striking print that’s being used as a splashback for the cooker, which works very well as a replacement for tiles, especially as there’s never much wall space in a kitchen. The lockers in the dining part of the kitchen were originally destined for one of the bedrooms upstairs, “but they were so heavy and hard to move that they just had to stay there,” Annette says.
Annette is a curtain maker and ideas for colour schemes have often come from bits of fabric – scraps left over from jobs. She is very sensitive to colour. “I think I’m OCD about it!” she laughs, “I don’t like it if the colour scheme doesn’t work.” This extends throughout the house. Grey is a predominant backdrop, blending into all the individual schemes within each room and seamlessly uniting the whole house together. “When you look at the house, and the garden, you’ll see that I actually use very few colours. Lesson Two: Use one predominant colour in different shades to unite spaces. “Grey works well because it offsets all other colours, so you can use it to mix and match with and then use different colours as accents.”
This sounds so simple, but it takes an experienced eye – and one that people would happily pay for. When I suggest to Annette that she could be an interior designer she laughs and says she’s happy just making curtains. “I’m not bossy enough and wouldn’t want to impose my ideas on people.” From where I sit, making curtains is a terrifyingly clever thing to do by itself anyway. I once made a Roman blind – a window blind that went wonky in many directions. I know that curtain making of all kinds is a huge skill and one to be in awe of. Nevertheless it becomes clear as we look around that curtain making is just one of Annette’s talents. She has also created many of the artworks on the walls too; there are some unnerving and quirky dolls’ heads in glass frames, some framed pieces using paper sculpture and then there’s the taxidermy.