A longtime fan of the seaside town of Deal, four years ago Belinda Benton moved into one of the prettiest properties on the town's most handsome street.
‘I must have walked down this street a thousand times,’ says Belinda. ‘The magic never leaves me. I love everything about it.’
But it took an interior designer’s vision to reinvent what was a neglected boatman’s cottage – once very much more shabby than chic – into the inviting, relaxing and elegant home it is today, decorated in calming and soothing coastal colour schemes.
Calming coastal home
Belinda's relationship with Deal began decades ago when her parents bought a holiday home just along the road. The family visited often and she noticed how relaxed she felt with the seaside atmosphere and charming Dickensian muddle of the conservation area.
The Dutch House has an easy elegance and a deeply welcoming atmosphere. Most of all it feels comfortable and luxurious, but in a quietly understated fashion. And with its fresh Dulux pink painted exterior, it has become a bit of an Instagram star.
How does she achieve this alchemy? ‘I don’t really have a signature style,’ Belinda says. 'I like the look to be visually harmonious – nothing should dominate. It’s more about creating the right feel. You know you like it but you don’t know why.’
The 17th-century cottage needed entirely renovating when Belinda bought it four years ago. The previous owner had lived in it until she was 103. In the 1970s, she and her architect husband had added an extension, which definitely hadn’t stood the test of time.
By redesigning and opening up the back of the house into the substantial garden with her open-plan kitchen idea, Belinda has added much-needed flow and created a highly sociable area for friends to mingle.
The cream kitchen palette complements the rustic wooden table and original beams in the adjoining sitting room, while the wood-panelled ceiling enhances the coastal vibe.
The house has an L-shaped garden, which is unusually large for the tightly packed conservation area; most houses have a courtyard at most.
As much attention to detail has been exercised outside as in, and Belinda has created a lovely terrace area for outdoor living and dining.
Clever paving and built-in concrete seating areas are ingenious patio ideas that feel very well thought-out. The patio is artfully relaxed but has been planned to give her large family lots of space to relax when they visit.
A pizza oven is an outdoor kitchen idea to make the most of outdoor living in the warmer months
Coastal living room
The cosy living room opens onto the kitchen. It is a masterclass in subtle styling and coastal living room ideas.
Painted in Paint Library Slate III, splashes of yellows, reds and pinks add warmth.
Despite being low, the living room is light and bright, not least because of the old shop window.
These steep, spiral staircases are typical of Deal. As used here for the bound stair runner as a staircase idea, natural flooring is Belinda’s preferred choice for her projects, as it keeps the feel look smart, yet relaxed at the same time.
At the top of the house is the master suite, which runs from the front to the back of the house.
The coastal bedroom ideas include white-painted wooden panelled walls and ceiling beams, a fresh palette and natural textures. Subtle colour and pattern are provided by the curtains and bed throws.
The dreamy coastal bathroom makes up the other end of the master bedroom suite, with its deep, pink-painted cast iron bath and double vanity basin.
Her move to the town also presented the opportunity for Belinda to join forces with her architect-trained daughter, Hannah, to create the design studio, Studio Benton. The new offices are a short cycle from her home, and Belinda also recently created a timber-clad garden room, which doubles as a home office / studio space, and occasional guest space.
More formally styled than Belinda’s home, it’s hard to imagine this is a newly built outbuilding.
The studio includes another bathroom and has an outdoor shower for rinsing off saltwater after a swim in the sea, which is just 30 metres away.
'I’d long dreamt about living permanently by the sea but it’s only now that I can work from here that I’ve been able to settle,' says Belinda. 'I fell in love with this house as soon as I saw it.' And we can see why.
Words Kathryn Reilly
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Rachel Crow is a senior content editor, contributing gardening content for idealhome.co.uk, and is currently the acting editor of Ideal Home’s sister title, Period Living magazine. She was deputy editor of Period Living for 10 years and has written for lifestyle magazines for many years, with a particular focus on historic houses, arts and crafts, and gardening. Rachel started out her journalism career on BBC radio, before moving into lifestyle magazines. Always harbouring a passion for homes and gardens, she jumped at the opportunity to work on The English Home and The English Garden magazines for a number of years, before joining the Period Living team, and more recently the wider Ideal Home team.
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