Through the Keyhole: The Quarry, Ilfracombe

PUBLISHED: 16:06 23 October 2013 | UPDATED: 16:07 23 October 2013

The roll-top bath gives the main bathroom the wow factor

The roll-top bath gives the main bathroom the wow factor


Set back into the striking cliffs of Ilfracombe, KATE WILLIAMS discovers a Victoriana villa in North Devon with more than a touch of vintage

Also known as The Big House Devon, The Quarry is a seven-bedroom, four-bathroom Victorian villa filled with original features but has an added artistic flair throughout thanks to it owners. Well, what do you expect from a house whose neighbours include Damien Hirst?

Almost growing out from the expanse of cliffs overlooking Ilfracombe, The Quarry shows off its spectacular high ceilings and stunning tiled floors which the Victorians were famous for and has been restored and upcycled with furnishings from boot fairs to the local dump.

Back in 2003, when the property market was booming and house buyers were frantically ‘doing up’ houses and selling for a profit, The Jacksons were on the lookout for a new home.

Restaurateurs and club owners Kirstie and Paul had their hearts set on a remote home on Exmoor but when an Ilfracombe estate agent talked them into viewing The Quarry, it was love at first sight.

“We definitely didn’t want to live in Ilfracombe, we didn’t want to live in a town,” says Kirstie. “But as soon as we saw this house, we thought, ‘Wow!’

“It looked nothing like this then,” she laughs. “All the fireplaces and most of the original features were boarded up and it was a state — and very crumbly!

“A really lovely couple lived here and had done for a long time. They’d put electricity in because it was all gas lights when they bought it. They did a few things in the 1960s and that was it. So it was a complete renovation.”

Paul and Kirstie, who was pregnant with her first child, got to work on the house, uncovering some fantastic original tiled flooring in the hall and kitchen as well as Victorian fireplaces which had been boarded up for warmth.

The ground floor was a series of smaller rooms so Paul began to take walls down to open the space up, creating a huge kitchen-diner and vast living and dining area, celebrated by the almost floor-to-ceiling windows.

Living on the third floor whilst the majority of the restoration work was being completed and with Kirstie heavily pregnant was certainly a labour of love.

“I look back now and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ I don’t think I’d do it again like that,” admits Kirstie.

And then the roof fell in.

“It was 2004 when Boscastle was flooded and all that rain took its toll and the roof caved in. We had to move out for the best part of a year for our daughter to be born. Then we ran out of money and didn’t finish it for ages.”

But the Jacksons got their beautiful family home, eventually, and filled it with personality. Although The Quarry is every inch a Victorian villa with its original features sympathetically restored, the interiors are awash with an eclectic mix of shabby chic and retro style throughout.

With a love of the reclaimed and a helpful creative twist each, Kirstie and Paul have created a wonderful new home furnished with ‘old’.

His experience in furniture making has served The Quarry well as Paul was himself able to make the kitchen units in their entirety from reclaimed wood.

Finding flat-fronted cupboards and chests from auctions and sales, Paul saved them an absolute fortune by producing impressive, reclaimed kitchen base units and topped them with a stunning granite worktop. And the Aga gives the large kitchen that special feel of warmth and comfort.

Paul has also made beds for the house and both Kirstie and Paul have added their own artwork to many of the walls.

The reclaimed and upcycled theme floats through the house seamlessly. It shouldn’t because it’s a true Victorian building, but it does and it works.

Wandering auctions, sales, boot fairs and reclamation yards is a hobby for the pair so it was easy to find interesting pieces and furnishings with the right price tag.

“It was a financial thing too,” explains Kirstie when questioned about her motives for picking up Victorian sinks at the local dump. “And it was the right time, I think. Everyone was doing up houses and getting rid of lots of stuff so the local tip was laden with goodies. I don’t think it’s like that now! Then eBay began and people cottoned on to the fact they could maybe get more money.

“We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on things for inside the house so we bought secondhand and saved a bit.”

This was not the case for all things however.

The roll-top bath is the centre-piece for the main family bathroom on the first floor, a piece of artwork in itself. The large room is kitted out with rain-can stand-alone shower, Victorian-style toilet, basin and radiators, and the all-important fireplace.

“Paul wanted the bath. This bathroom was his baby really. It cost a small fortune but it was worth it,” Kirstie smiles.

With wooden ‘tiles’ around the lower half of the walls saved from parquet flooring of one of Paul’s old nightclubs and shiny, black painted floorboards — an idea the couple had pinched from another house — the bathroom really has the ‘wow’ factor with the luxurious bath and traditional taps taking centre stage.

“We didn’t really have a specific style in mind, we just filled it with stuff we like,” says Kirstie honestly. “We buy far too much and then have to store it!” But the effect is impressive and the ultimate finish gives a welcoming and homely feel to a large property.

With ornate plastering on the ceilings, huge sash windows and stained glass complimenting the wonderful light, The Quarry has such eclectic character and having been lovingly and painstakingly restored to a tune of over £150,000, the house has been ‘saved’ to an extent.

A change in circumstances has led the Jacksons to move to Bath but it has enabled them to let The Quarry out as holiday accommodation, making it the perfect venue for family holidays and friendly get-togethers due to its size. The guest book is filled with wonderful comments of parties and good times which the relaxed atmosphere of the villa clearly emanates. Those who have a love for period properties and shabby chic interiors would relish within the vast walls of The Quarry.

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