“Do what you want” was the brief given to interior designer Sophie Rowell, founder of Folk Coast, from the owner of a top-floor gem in Folkestone, on the south coast of England. Having full creative control helped compensate for restricted access to the aptly named “the turret”; even the headboard of the bed couldn’t make up the 3-foot-wide, 38-step spiral staircase (it eventually had to be brought up to the bedroom balcony via the nearby garden).
“Everything had to be done by hand on site, so there was a lot of thought behind it,” says Rowell, who brought in a team of local artisans to create a bespoke dining area in the living room. Luckily, she enjoys problem solving and her brand of creativity sings in this space. (Example A: the flowing shower curtain sewn from vintage linens.) The sofa, made up of two frames covered in vintage kanthas, surmounted by a soft cushion covered in striped cotton and resting on bulbous beech wood legs, was also built in situ.
The uninterrupted sea views visible from the tower lined with leaded windows excuse the somewhat awkward layout of the property and make the apartment suitable for use as a Airbnb. Due to the house’s listed status (by which permission must be granted by the local council to make structural changes), the bathroom remained up the stairs out of the living area, so Rowell enclosed the exposed piping with tongue and -groove, painted it Pale Wedgwood by Little Greene, and hung salvaged jelly molds on the back of the door. “It’s probably the most transformative space, because it was such horror before,” she says.
Clusters of vignettes add warmth and charm to the vacation rental, with Rowell creating pockets of interest using artwork, ceramics, plates and even pottery lids. “I didn’t organize it the way I would decorate someone’s house,” she explains. “Here was the freedom to be more experimental and not worry too much.”
This experimentation is clear in the bedroom, where a burgundy and brown striped wallpaper by Adam Bray for Hamilton Weston sets a warm and dramatic tone. Rowell commissioned a local light maker Studio Fosbery for pendants, ingeniously crafted from kraft paper. The mismatched bedside tables are original Lloyd Loom pieces she found on Facebook Marketplace and painted in Farrow & Ball’s Preference Red. “I don’t like things to be symmetrical,” Rowell thinks of her style. “If it can go a little far, then I will.” The designer kept the hacks affordable by using rope for the stair railing (she found it on a cheap website that provides red carpet events) and cladding the plain fire doors in pale blue beads.
Nothing is more original than the view of the en-suite bathroom, where the designer has completely removed the door and installed a playful wooden frame in its place. It wasn’t such a strange decision considering there are no toilets in there; Rowell kept the existing tub and refreshed the tile, fully enclosing the bathing area with a floor-to-ceiling wall to delineate it from the bedroom.
The kitchen color scheme was inspired by a post she saw on the Instagram account @Planet Wesanderson, who shares photos of locations worthy of the director’s whimsical films. “There are [an image of] a red headlight and a bright blue sky behind it, and it was just amazing,” Rowell recalled. The brown tile countertop was a budget decision: rather than installing a substandard stone or laminate countertop, she decided to opt for an unexpected alternative. The upper cabinets, covered in Blazer Red by Farrow & Ball, contrast sharply with the pottery-inspired blue base cabinets, while the walls were also covered in tongue and groove to add character, and a vintage Tiffany light completes the feel. picturesque. “They’re so old school, but I’m bringing them back,” she laughs.
What’s positively contemporary, however, is the flooring throughout. Rowell praises vinyl (used in the kitchen, bathroom and toilet) for its color range and durability, but it’s his discovery of washable sisal that drives him the most. “It’s amazing and completely waterproof. I have it at home and even managed to remove an oil stain with soap and water,” she shares.
Available to rent since last summer, the Turret has unsurprisingly received a lot of love from guests (one reviewer went so far as to note how comfortable the bed was, which is always a big plus in an Airbnb). “What’s not to love,” says Rowell, whose own home is just around the corner. “The view is so special; it is a real sanctuary.