- The story so far
- I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org (All work © Jan Patience)
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
The Blue Cabin By The Sea
This 'Escape' feature appeared in the September/October issue of Homes & Interiors Scotland.
Shhhh... Can you hear that noise drifting in through the open window? It’s the sound of the sea. Wave upon wave lapping against the old harbour wall. Day and night, the tides ebb and flow at this hidden cove on the Berwickshire coast, just as they have done since time began. Fishermen come and go, visitors come and go and still the tide washes in and washes out. Leaving hermit crabs scuttling in rock pools and small fishing boats marooned on sand until the water starts to lap around their edges, as if pushing them out to sea in search of fresh booty.
Welcome to The Blue Cabin by the Sea. Where life is ruled by the tides and the seasons as opposed to the artificial parameters imposed by modern life.
To get to it, you have to make an effort. Arriving by car, you are given a key to a padlock which opens a gate and allows you to drive down a steep track leading to the harbour. On reaching the opening of a tunnel, you decant your kit into a wheelbarrow provided for that purpose and, torch at the ready, make your way towards a distant chink of daylight. The car has to be returned to the top of the road and deposited in the car park.
The tidal nature of this harbour near Cockburnspath (famous for its association with the artists known as The Glasgow Boys), means the far side of the beach and the Blue Cabin are only accessible via this tunnel apart.
I spent a long weekend there with my husband David and our two children, Ciaran, 8, and Mia, 6 and, as the kids will testify, there’s a real sense of adventure in the act of getting to the Blue Cabin, never mind the Swallows and Amazons-style adventures which follows on when you have bedded in. Once you push the wheelbarrow over the soft white sand (no mean feat), you have to leave it at the foot of the stairs before climbing up to front door with luggage in hand.
Friendly and welcoming from the outside, with its burnt ochre framed windows and intense blue wooden frontage, inside, the cabin does not disappoint. A labour of love on the part of its owners, Edinburgh-based architect Ben Tindall and his artist wife, Jill Watson, the attention to detail in this small, perfectly-formed space, is a lesson in how less can mean more.
From the way in which the curtains hang over the internal shutters, to the seaweed-inspired metal hooks and handles designed and made by Jill, to the Orkney chairs in the living room and even in the choice of books on the shelves and the artwork on the walls, this is an exercise in simple holistic design.
There is a story behind every item in the house. The hand-painted Chinese tiles came from Seton Castle and were given to Ben by a friend, while the shell-edged mirror about the wood burning stove was made by Ben from shells he’d collected from all over the world. In the hall and in the second bedroom, there are shipping charts collected by Ben, many of which are marked up and have particular personal resonance to past journeys.
Nothing has been left to chance in this hut, which started life as a holiday cabin in the 1920s. When he began drawing up plans to renovate it and rent it out as a holiday let a couple of years ago, Ben realised he had to strip the interior back to the bare bones and reconfigure the space completely.
The interior doesn't feels cramped, despite its dinky dimensions. Perfect for a family of four, or a couple, the cabin has two bedrooms, each with traditional box beds; the front bedroom having a double bed and the back bedroom, bunk beds.
The bedrooms are differentiated from the rest of the house by being painted sea green with the fretwork in the box around the double bed is inspired by the seaweed out in the harbour. There is storage built into every available space – under the beds, by the beds and on ledges at every turn.
This is designed to be a warm, comfortable house in all seasons. It even has Wi-Fi, a TV and all mod cons in the galley kitchen, which is a set exercise in how to maximise space.
Because we were there in August, we spent much of our time out on the terrace overlooking the harbour. Almost every meal we had at the Cabin was made on the simple barbecue to the side of the house and we all agreed it tasted so much better outside, gazing out to sea, or scanning the ground for escapee crabs, caught by Ciaran with his make shift reel.
There’s a very real sense of restoration to be gleaned from a few days spent at the Blue Cabin. It seeps into world-weary bones unnoticed until you find yourself having to pack up and leave it behind. The Blue Cabin By The Sea. Hard to find and even harder to leave...
IN THE AREA
If you can tear yourself away from The Blue Cabin By The Sea, there is no shortage of things to do and see in the locale. In terms of fine walks, the top of the road marks one end of the Southern Upland Way, a ten to 15 day walk across the Scottish Borders. There are also some fine coastal walks, including the 16km walk along the John Muir Way, from Dunbar up to the dramatic vantage point of Dunglass Dean.
Near Dunbar is the National Museum of Flight, where you can get up close and personal with Concorde. There’s also the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick in which you can put names to the faces of the birds flying over the Cabin.
Culturally, you are just minutes from Cockburnspath, where The Glasgow Boys would paint during their summer breaks. Also on the doorstep is Paxton House, an outstation of the National Galleries of Scotland.