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“Do whatever you want” was the brief given to interior designer Sophie Rowell, founder of Cote de Folk, by the owner of a bijou, top-floor apartment in Folkestone on England’s south coast. Having full creative control helped make up for the restricted access to the aptly named “the Turret”; not even the bed’s headboard could make it up the 3-foot-wide, 38-step spiral staircase (it eventually had to be brought in over the bedroom’s balcony via the neighboring garden).
“Everything had to be handmade on site, so there was a lot of background thinking,” says Rowell, who used a team of local craftspeople to create a bespoke seating-slash-dining nook in the living area. Fortunately, she relishes problem-solving, and her signature brand of creativity sings in this space. (Example A: the flowy shower curtain stitched together from vintage linens.) The sofa, consisting of two frames upholstered with vintage kanthas, topped with a squishy cushion covered in a stripy cotton, and grounded on bulbous beechwood feet, was also constructed in situ.
The uninterrupted sea views, visible from the lead window–lined tower, excuse the property’s somewhat awkward layout and destined the apartment for use as an Airbnb. Owing to the home’s listed status (whereby permission has to be granted by the local council to make any structural changes), the bathroom remained at the top of the stairs off the living area, so Rowell boxed in the exposed pipe work with tongue-and-groove, painted it in Pale Wedgwood by Little Greene, and hung salvaged jelly molds on the back of the door. “This is probably the most transformative space, because it was such an eyesore before,” she says.
Clusters of vignettes add warmth and charm to the holiday rental, with Rowell creating pockets of interest using thrifted artwork, ceramics, plates, and even pottery lids. “I haven’t curated it in the same way that I’d decorate someone’s house,” she explains. “Here there was freedom to be more experimental and not worry so much.”
That experimentation is clear in the bedroom, where a burgundy-and-brown–striped wallpaper by Adam Bray for Hamilton Weston sets a cozy and dramatic tone. Rowell commissioned local light-maker Fosbery Studio for the pendants, which are ingeniously made 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’m not into things being symmetrical,” muses Rowell of her style. “If it can go a bit off, then I’ll do it.” The designer kept the affordable hacks going by using rope for the staircase’s banister (she sourced it from a cheap website that supplies red carpet events) and cladding the plain fire doors in pale blue beading.
Nothing is quirkier than the view to the en suite bathroom, where the designer removed the door completely and installed a playful wood frame in its place. It wasn’t such an odd decision considering there is no toilet in there; Rowell kept the existing bathtub and refreshed the tile, fully enclosing the bathing zone with a floor-to-ceiling wall to delineate it from the bedroom.
The kitchen’s color scheme was inspired by a post she saw on the Instagram account @wesandersonplanet, which shares photos of locations worthy of the director’s whimsical films. “There’s [an image of] a red lighthouse and a vivid blue sky behind it, and it just looked amazing,” recalls Rowell. The brown tiled counter was a budget-driven decision: Rather than install a substandard stone or laminate worktop, she decided to go with an unexpected alternative. The upper cabinets, swathed in Farrow & Ball’s Blazer Red, contrast sharply with the pottery-inspired blue base cupboards, while the walls were also covered in tongue-and-groove to add character, and a vintage Tiffany light tops off the quaint feel. “They’re so old school, but I’m bringing them back,” she says with a laugh.
What is positively contemporary, however, is the flooring throughout. Rowell praises vinyl (used in the kitchen, bathroom, and toilet) for its breadth of colors and durability, but it’s her discovery of washable sisal that she’s most animated about. “It’s incredible and completely waterproof. I have it at home and even managed to get an oil stain out 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 comfy the bed was, which is always a major plus at an Airbnb). “What’s not to love,” says Rowell, whose own home is located just around the corner. “The view is so special; it’s a real sanctuary.”
Go-to local vintage shop: The Potting Shed for amazing Tamegroute pottery from Morocco and vintage kanthas from India.
My favorite online decor site: Beata Heuman’s Shoppa for the best handles, light fittings, and fabrics.
The biggest splurge on this project: The sofa handmade on site, made from four different fabrics.
The best “save”: Keeping the bath and tiling around it to make it look and feel more special.
Who to Know
The nicest contractor I’ve ever met: Dan and Raff from My City Refurb. I use them on all my London projects; they are the nicest guys who can turn their hand to anything.
Pristine painter: Hattie Eavis for hand-painted murals and tiles.
Other highly recommended craftspeople: Ben May from May Renovations.
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