Fern, our lovely Editor over on Rock My Wedding, recently had the pleasure of staying at Chapel House, overlooking the sea in historic Penzance Cornwall. Knowing how much you love an interiors feature we thought you’d like to take a peek and find out a little more. Fern chatted to owner Susan Stuart about how the neglected Georgian town house became an elegant boutique hotel.
I had been coming to Penzance for many years and loved both the town and the area from the outset. I’d always dreamt about the possibility of living here. Chapel House was love at first sight. It was a combination of things – the beautiful hall, the light and the views. The property had been abused and neglected for years. There was a lot of serious structural work to do, most of the windows either needed replacing or serious attention; we replastered throughout, rewired and replumbed. The house needed to be made fit for 21st century and beyond.
The house was built for Admiral Samuel Hood Linzee in around 1790. He ran the naval base in Penzance during the Napoleonic and was one of the most senior people in Nelson’s fleet. During his career, he captained the Temeraire, subject of Turner’s famous painting. In 1838, the house was bought by the Carne family, one of the local family dynasties who had made their fortune in copper mining. Caroline Carne lived in Chapel House from her early 20’s until her death in 1901 and was an amazing woman – an early railway investor, a philanthropist and collector – she built her own museum to hold her collections! For much of the 20th century Chapel House was an hotel or lodging house. Having been unoccupied for a number of years in the 1930’s it became a home for evacuees in WW2. for 20 years prior to me buying it Chapel House was the home of The Penzance Art’s club – a lively part of Penzance’s social scene.
The house is full of original features with a fantastic glazed screen in the entrance hall, marble fireplaces, the beautiful staircase and arched window in the hall and elegant arches on the first floor landing. Most of the rooms had their original shutters (although they’d been nailed open) which have been restored and are now in use.
I worked closely with Keith Bell of Loci Architecture throughout the project. Together we developed a vision for Chapel House which he was able to translate and communicate to the builders and craftsmen working on the house.
I was determined from the outset that the space should feel like a home not a hotel so I kept this ambition in my mind at all times….it’s not hard when the maximum number of guests is 12. It’s just like having a big group of friends to stay.
The Fixtures and Fittings
I am not a great fan of “old look” bathrooms. When they were first put into houses they would have been a modern addition and I think that should still apply. The clean and simple modern lines work well in a Georgian setting. I sourced the fixtures from Cabuchon, Ashton & Bentley, Duravit and Bette. The showers are by Pura and bath spouts by Dornbrecht.
Sadly we were unable to re-use most of the floorboards as they were full of nails and in bad repair. The upper floors are new unfinished engineered oak and the rest we sourced from a local salvage yard.
Throughout the house, I opted for sea colours and predominantly greys but I knew grey wouldn’t work beside the granite floor in the kitchen area. Our local granite is very brown and there would have been a horrible clash. I knew a blue would work and chose the lighter colour as it changes and softens throughout the day with the light. The darker blue is a colour match for F&B Stiffkey Blue and has a flatness about it which softens any coldness from the lighter colour.
For the rest of the house, paints were Dulux based on Farrow & Ball colours. The floors Vintage Steel, the drawing rooms and first floor bedrooms were a match for Blackened, the hallway a match for Cabbage White and the upper floor rooms were Clouded Pearl.
The Finishing Touches
Most of the antiques were pieces which I brought with me from London and which I’d collected over the years. The large corner cupboard in the drawing room I bought from LASSCo and was originally in St Giles in the Fields in London. Modern pieces came from Iroka in Hayle, the mid century dining room sideboard is Swedish by Nils Jonsson and I bought it from Daisy Laing, a local retro furniture shop. My lovely Danish dining chairs were left to me by a late friend. The art in the bedrooms and kitchen are pictures which I’ve collected over the years. The halls and drawing room are works produced by students of the Newlyn School of Art. New works go up every eight weeks and it’s a way of giving aspiring artists exposure and the opportunity to sell their work.
It’s impossible to have a fixed budget and timetable when you’re dealing with a big old building that has been neglected for so long. The thing to bear in mind it that it will always cost more and take longer than you think…the thing to do though is make sure you talk and meet with your architect and builders TOGETHER all the time. We worked as a partnership – I was project manager and we communicated. It’s all about communication. I would certainly do it all again; I loved the project and I miss the builders!
Who else would like to join me on a jaunt to Penzance?! I’m in love with the light and airy rooms – so much inspiration. I think the bathrooms are my favourite element closely followed by the gorgeous colour scheme. How about you?