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We don’t have a front door, they said.
We like English beach huts, they said.
What do you think, they said?

Cliché as it is, ‘the rest is history’. Short of giving Ikea a run for their money and flat-packing a Bournemouth beach hut, shipping it around the globe and sandwiching it (is that even a word) in an ungainly fashion to the front of the client’s house, this is testament to how a small idea, tight budget, amazing family and super-cute collie, can ostensibly, make the equivalent come to life.

While it’s not hard for me to go off on a tangent nor lose myself in a string of unrelated analogies, I can almost understand how Mary Shelley felt as she wrote Frankenstein. OK, leaving aside the grotesque, sapient creature as the end product of unorthodox scientific experiments, this client has created a wonderful result from the desire to add a whole new dimension to their home and capture the essence of part of themselves they left 14,500 km’s away. Fortunately, it was created through a fairly orthodox approach and heap of council approvals!

It’s got that subtle cheekiness about it, much like the cool kid at school….“Yeah, I got it!”

Without taking anything away from the design or idiosyncrasies of a small, simple build, there’s nothing ‘architectural’ or ‘clever’ about this addition, but it beholds so much more than the materials or space it occupies. In fairness, I had never thought this was something to write about; there’s really just not much there to comment on.

What captured me was how much time, love and thought had been put into it. True, the house did not have a front door – really, it didn’t. Access was to the side, straight into the dining area – don’t ask. So, of course, it was screaming like a child awaiting its next feed, for a blatant front door. If houses went to ‘homeschool’ and congregated in the playground at break, this one would have been teased for its lack of an obvious entry point; let’s just say it was late to blossom!

I am captivated by spaces that transcend the essence of design and construction to become something intangible to most, yet part of a family fabric. This is about them and how they live their work-life balance, which spills over into their home and is more about creating truly authentic spaces than getting lost in architectural ‘detail’. It’s not flawless and it’s not an overwrought grandiose vision; it is, quite simply, what they wanted.


There were aspects of this project that were challenging, more so than many projects several times the size and budget, but as always, renovations throw up the most unlikely of proverbial hiccups that, on reflection, are repackaged as ‘challenges’ and digested as learning sent to make us stronger and more agile in the next build.

In terms of a design brief – it doesn’t get simpler. We need an entry that’s more than a doorway and set of welcoming steps. The beach hut comment is genuine and as a structure, it blends into the existing house without fuss and makes no apologies for the transformation it offers the building and the owners. It’s got that subtle cheekiness about it, much like the cool kid at school that has an air of confidence about them; “Yeah, I got it!”

It’s not flawless and it’s not an overwrought grandiose vision; it is, quite simply, what they wanted.

I’ve commented on this before, but small (and often inexpensive) ideas can make an overwhelming difference. And similar to a previous blog, it demonstrates the tangible benefits of working collaboratively in a project with the client and architect/designer. While we all would have liked to take credit for it, the clients made a last-minute decision to line the ceiling on the rake rather than stick with the plan and have a flat (albeit high) ceiling.

In hindsight, we could ponder why this wasn’t at obvious choice from the outset, but that’s the beauty of considering the building in the process as it slowly takes on a personality of its own; the cool kid just got cooler!

And in a bid to give the existing house something to brag about, a new skylight was added. Where the old one barely made the cut, offering a tad more glow than an 1840’s Victorian candle lantern, today’s protégé captured the northern light, catapulting it through the lofty roof space, fanning out into the kitchen to give it a new lease of life. Add to that a brave but perfect choice of floor tiles and the end result is a wonderfully magical space, both inside and out.

The decked area which could have been so easily paved to save just a few dollars now offers a quiet spot for an evening Gin & Tonic at a fraction of the cost as those served in Kalgoorlie! Although too many can be overwhelming for some!

A change from brick to timber in the build-up provided a neat storage area underneath the deck suitable for those random items that never seems to fit quietly in the garden shed; kayak, tent, spare roof tiles, misbehaving children.

I can see the entry is already more than just an expression of its namesake. It is a meeting point, somewhere to relax and the culmination of several smaller renovations which can now be enjoyed as one. For the family, the muddy boots and sandy thongs will take their seasonal place alongside damp paw prints on the new tiles.

For me, I smile at the thought of how much this project meant to the family and the joy it now brings to them; I imagine Mary Shelley would be envious!

Thanks for reading

I’ve read about ‘artistic license’ and from spending a number of my younger (even younger than now!) years embraced in the arms of an advertising agency, I became well accustomed to the phrase. Latterly, I realised it was a ‘creative’ way of justifying a headline or proposal, without the intent to offend or substantiate; the Mark Twain quote, ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’, was basically a mantra. But I liked it, even if the Advertising Standards Authority preferred evidence-based proof and ‘8-point’ disclaimers.

So, my recent find comes with its own disclaimer: I may have used some creative license in the title but in no way was the preceding business, deemed to be trash – let the metaphor play out!

“Everything had its place and it had a reason for being there.”

Lily Bean opened last year, then suddenly closed earlier this year. Details are irrelevant, but it left an empty (albeit well appointed) space and a headache for the landlord (Kelly). Some would reach for the paracetamol, a leasing agent, and meditation App. But for Kelly, amongst other thoughts that I can’t reproduce on this site, she thought, why not reopen the café herself…and that my friends was exactly what she did.

On paper, the design and finishes shouldn’t work.

One could portray the interior as slightly eclectic and quirky, almost thrown together. Yet, there’s more to it than that. The timber benchtops and exposed brick (yep, done well!), pressed tin counter front and antique mirrors live in a symbiotic relationship. I get the impression the backgammon set lodged against the window gets used and isn’t there simply for effect. In a pseudo-hypnotic state, I was drawn to flick through the pages of ‘Native American Architecture’…What the! Everything had its place and it had a reason for being there.

“They are like puppet-masters; the show just doesn’t work without them”.

Teapots and sugar bowls, which in another environment could be deemed kitsch, couldn’t have been chosen better. The contemporary exposed grey concrete floor is partly covered by antique rugs….RUGS! Who does that?! And, gets away with it!

It feels like you’ve taken a step back in time yet the atmosphere is warm, inviting and far from ‘ye old’, with the average age of customer and staff combined, way below the age one would naturally expect from someone who owns a sofa my Nana would be proud of.

I see a reoccurring theme with the few coffee shops I’ve written about recently. While the design and ‘renovation’ of the building is what I’m fundamentally interested in, it’s the staff that makes it all come together. They are like puppet-masters; the show just doesn’t work without them.

Customers names are brandished around in a cool American accent by a hair-free* barista. Brooks (really, cool name!) is cheerfully entertaining the customers alongside Zoe and Aimee, with smiles most cosmetic dental surgeries would pay to have on their advertising.

*I refer merely to facial hair. The cap could be concealing a further hair-free zone and as for the rest of him, that’s beyond my comprehension.

I recognise that my journalistic efforts are merely for personal enjoyment and I have more chance of being selected for the Cornish accolade of ‘Best Cream Tea 2018’ than winning a Pulitzer prize, but I find inspiration in certain places to write, work, read. Some just make you feel like hanging around for a while; some inadvertently encourage you to leave. Here I like to stay.

Even the selection of music feels like they’ve meticulously picked each song, with Spotify and Soundcloud nowhere in sight.

I hear laughter from customers and staff alike – it feels like a piece of ‘home’, even if the sofa, cane chairs (sprayed gold!) and rugs may not work together so well at home.

While I rarely make comment on the coffee or food selection (my culinary counterparts do that all too well), I couldn’t help but notice that the muffins are ‘made with love’.

A statement on the menu, which feels totally genuine – I think they might indeed love making them. In a children’s fantasy the muffins would have personalities of their own and run the coffee shop, everyone would love them and the ‘Santa Clause / Donna Hay combo-character’ would be the ever-cheerful baker making lives happier by the day. Crikey, even that’s pushing the limit of ‘artistic licence’ but you see my point.

The Coffee Saloons in the UK (see previous article – ‘A New Sheriff in Town’) would love this place, it’s how they see the world of coffee too.

I’m far from anti-establishment and don’t go out of my way to find occasional designs or sites than shun the ‘norm’, but I do get a kick out of seeing something that most designers would struggle to comprehend in a non-critical manner.

There’s usually a single item that stands out…the first impression…the Jerry Maguire ‘You had me at Hello’…but at Lily Bean, I’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint one thing. Push me and I’m split between the brickwork and timber, but in isolation, they would be bland. Here it all melds together as a single impression.

Hats off to the team, I’m looking forward to coming back for a game of Backgammon, Connect Four and getting lost in my Nana’s sofa for quite some time.

The final culmination of a few grey hairs, tears and awesome effort from the team adn wonderful clients!

I like a challenge...

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