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Publication Date: 2011-11-07


Seaside Style: A Luxury Bed and Breakfast in Britain

It was not so long ago that the typical British seaside town was a dismal bastion of cotton candy, fish, and chips, and “kiss-me-quick” hats. But change is afoot with iconic areas such as Brighton and Southend quietly enjoying a renaissance. This is thanks in part to enterprising people like Liam Nabb and Louise Oldfield, owners of The Reading Rooms, a luxury bed-and-breakfast in the southeast coastal town of Margate.

In its heyday, Margate consisted of grand Georgian buildings to house wealthy Londoners who would decamp for the summer. Celebrities of the time, such as Lord Nelson, Keats, and Turner would travel by steamboat up the Thames estuary to spend the season in town and take the waters. Once the moneyed began holidaying in rather more exotic locales, these wealthy Georgian towns suddenly became a destination for the masses bearing more similarity to Coney Island than to their grander past.

Nabb and Oldfield were taken with the beauty of the sea at Margate, its chalky cliffs, and the nearby Kent countryside, but it was the grand 18th-century homes that really had them smitten. The couple, who had begun life together in Italy, were no strangers to renovating (Nabb had also studied architecture in Italy) as they spent the last 10 years restoring then selling flats in London’s Hackney neighborhood. Living outside England had afforded them a different perspective and they saw potential in the undesirable flats atop commercial shops that most buyers shunned. These were often large, bespoke places with high ceilings and attractive details.

Using the same approach honed in their London renovations, Nabb and Oldfield went about restoring their 1760 five-story Georgian house, ripping out the cheap additions and revealing the original fireplaces and structure. They left as much of the house as intact as possible, including fascinating traces of old plaster and the original coving. Each of the three guest rooms is unique and all enjoy their own floor.

“The line of the sea in the distance can be seen from the top floor so here we used gray and white with the plastered walls revealing some distressed turquoise,” explains Oldfield. “Room Two looks over the tree tops so there is a lot of green and the dark oak floors bring out the earthy colors, which works with the exposed brick of the fireplace.” The room on the first floor features floor-to-ceiling windows and “over- the-top grey mirrors above the bath that makes it quite dramatic,” says Oldfield. “Our bed and breakfast is here to create an experience that is different from a home. We want guests to feel comfortable but to also connect to Margate’s history.” They’ve already garnered five stars and plenty of accolades and with the opening of the Turner Contemporary museum there, Nabb and Oldfield have helped restore Margate as a fashionable destination.

Article by Sarah Lonsdale


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