A Perfect English Townhouse

Extract from Perfect English Townhouse by Ros Byam Shaw, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Seaside Inspiration - The home of Melanie Molesworth

'We saw the particulars for this house a long time before we decided to view it,' says Melanie. 'It had been hanging around for ages, was more than we wanted to spend, and enormous. A friend who loved Lyme Regis persuaded us that we should have a look at it, and when we did, it was obvious it had potential. We asked another friend, architect Ed Howell, for ideas and he came up with a plan for dividing it so that we could have a rental property, and an income.' They took the plunge, sold their house, ditched the idea of a London flat, and moved in. 'It was 2011, and I was very hot and cold about it, very nervous. But actually, it's been amazing.'

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A new staircase, leading from one of the two front doors, arrives at a small landing where this door with its glazed surround opens into the huge 18 metre living room and kitchen. Framed in a glass-fronted cabinet on the wall are fragments of china and pottery found by Melanie on the beach.

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Melanie and Martin inherited a fitted kitchen that was already in place, but have given it a facelift by painting it Farrow & Ball Mole's Breath and replacing the handles. New white brick tiling, open shelving, and a wall-mounted metal saucepan rack completed the transformation. A sofa covered in navy linen, just seen to the left, marks the division between the kitchen and the sitting room.

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To the left of the big, arched window that lights the kitchen, a table holds a framed pressed seaweed by Molesworth & Bird propped against an old seed tray, another find from Bridport Market. To its right is a painted Swedish sofa. A broken piece of brick, deliberately placed, takes on the status of a small sculpture. Lou-Lou the cat watches proceedings from under the table.

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The huge sofa, big enough to seat six, came with the house, and has been re-covered in a dark grey linen. A white IKEA table stands between the two armchairs, one covered in a floral fabric by Paul Smith for Mulberry. The window overlooks the culvert for the River Lym, which runs beneath part of the house.

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The main bedroom is one of the rooms directly above the River Lym, which runs in a deep culvert down through the town and into the sea. The Victorian chair is covered in vintage William Morris fabric, and the table beneath the window has one set of legs propped on blocks of wood to compensate for the slope of the old floorboards. 

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Perfect English Townhouse

by Ros Byam Shaw

Published by Ryland Peters & Small

Available on Amazon, £20.40