Imagine a house, perched high up above a beach, with views down to the sand and across the horizon.
Imagine it’s a 1930s home, lovingly restored by an interior designer, who has kept the authentic wooden floors and tiled fireplaces but added beautiful bathrooms, a stylish kitchen and contemporary, luxurious bedrooms.
Imagine if you could rent this house and spend hours sitting looking at the views from a window seat in the bedroom or from the large patio/balcony outside the living room.
Our dreams came true when we booked Tamarisk Beach House with Unique Home Stays, a company which specialises in luxury property in the UK. I have often pored over this website but usually left it too late to book, my favourites having already been snapped up. However, planning ahead for a post-Easter break with Rory and Juliana, still on holiday from university, I found this house was available and quickly paid the deposit before anyone else pinched it from under my nose.
One of the best things about Unique Home Stays is that, unlike some agents, they offer larger properties to smaller groups at a discount. Tamarisk Beach House, for instance, accommodates up to six adults and two children but our small group of four could make a booking at a reduced rate as long as we left two of the bedrooms unoccupied. So we had the advantages of a larger property without having to pay a premium.
The house was a few minutes walk from the award-winning three mile beach of Woolacombe Bay in Devon; an ideal location. Unlike some self-catering properties, this one felt like a real home. The kitchen cupboards had lots of assorted mugs, two or three ranges of crockery, a variety of glasses. We discovered the dresser in the dining room had drawers full of board games. There was a great laundry room with a clothes horse and wash basket and, inside the front door, plenty of room for hanging up coats and kicking off muddy boots. A few steps down into the garden, a small door led to a hidden treasure trove of outdoor furniture under the house itself.
What else did we love? The welcome hamper was full of delicious treats including biscuits, muesli, popcorn and apple juice plus there was a bottle of Prosecco waiting for us in the living room. There was free WiFi, a DVD player and a selection of movies. Everything was designed to be comfortable as well as stylish: lots of cushions and throws on sofas, chairs and beds. Bedrooms had ensuite bathrooms with tubs and showers plus there was an extra downstairs loo.
The owner, who lives next door, welcomed us to the property when we arrived, showed us around and asked which bedrooms we were likely to use: cue frantic dashing up and down the stairs, choosing our favourites. We plumped for the striking master bedroom on the first floor, which had the magnificent views, and the downstairs double which had a romantic pale pink and cream palette. We had to say no to the gorgeous family rooms: a double bedroom with adjoining children’s twin room and bathroom.
The house was bought in 2012 by the current owner. She was delighted that we were appreciative of the work she had done over two years to bring the house back to life. The previous owner had a very theatrical background, a number of actors in the family and an uncle who had won an Oscar in the 1930s. Tamarisk Beach House certainly retained a touch of glamour, reflecting this history, with interesting prints on the walls, unusual sculptures and colourful splashes of red, green and orange.
During the Second World War, Woolacombe beach was used for training exercises for the D-Day landings in Normandy. Tamarisk Beach House (under another name) became an officers’ club for the American service personnel stationed in Devon at the time.
I found this little bit of history fascinating. As I sat reading a book in the living room, by the original fireplace, I found myself imagining past conversations in that very room: sombre talk of war or maybe the odd flirtation at a cocktail party. In the evening, standing on the balcony with a glass of wine as I watched the sun set over Lundy Island, I wondered how many people had stood in that same spot, watching the same sun …