This holiday cottage in Robin Hood’s Bay is one of the most characterful properties on the coast. Sharon Dale reports.
Artist Martin Decent has been painting for as long as he can remember but for the past two years he has barely put brush to canvas.
Instead, he has put all his talent into creating a different kind of masterpiece and thanks to his efforts, Greenfield Cottage is now one of the most spectacular holiday homes in Robin Hood’s Bay.
Full of character, quirky finds and inventions, it’s all the product of Martin’s passion for collecting and making. The property is the opposite of lets that play safe for fear of offending. So there are no leather sofas, magnolia walls or brown carpets. The interior is colourful, maximalist and wildly inventive.
“I’m a hoarder and I like things that are unusual. I used to keep it all in the garage of the old house but I’ve been able to put a lot of it to use here,” he says.
Martin and his wife, Diana, bought the cottage after selling their large family home in Sheffield.
“Our three children are grown up and we didn’t need such a big place, so we sold it and bought a smaller house in Sheffield, which freed up money to buy this holiday cottage.
“We’ve been visiting Robin Hood’s Bay for 30 years and it was always a dream to have a home here one day,” says Diana.
The Victorian property, which is used by the family and also operates as a holiday let, was chosen for its charm and its location. Tucked away above the busy main street, it has few passers-by but is seconds away from the harbour and has views over the bay.
The three-bedroom home had been loved and well cared for and, as far as Martin was concerned, it was a blank canvas, which he could decorate using his collections, curios and imagination.
One of his greatest passions is Victorian tiles and they have been put to use in almost every room. He teamed them with a Victorian fireplace to make a surround for a new wood-burning stove in the sitting room, while York’s Katharine Boyd was commissioned to make stained glass panels for the bay window and the door, which add more colour.
A batch of Georgian bricks has provided the perfect plinth for reclaimed panelling.
“It also meant that I could insulate the walls,” says Martin, who made an ingenious TV cupboard out of a blanket box and came up with the idea of redesigning the kitchen.
It previously comprised of just a sink and a cooker, so he built a half wall, which helped create separation from the sitting area while providing space for extra cabinets. They were made by The Pine Station in Batley, painted in Farrow and Ball and topped with a slim run of worktop.
Keen to add more individuality, he knocked a chunk out of the kitchen wall and made a miniature tunnel running into the void under the stairs. It is lit, lined with tiles and has a mirror at the back with half a jug stuck to it. “I call it a folly or peculiarity, which looks like it has been there forever, and I especially like that the jug appears to be whole,” says Martin, who also made the driftwood and pottery clock and popped a porthole in the wall so you can see from the stairway into the living space.
“I paid £100 for that 20 years ago and knew I would find a place for it one day,” he says.
Another trompe l’oeil is the faux alcove made from old ships’ doors and mirrors he found on eBay.
Diana approved and is generally happy to give her husband free rein with interiors though says: “I don’t like taxidermy so I drew the line at that and I don’t like Rococo style.”
Martin managed to sneak a Rococo shelf on the first floor landing, which is also home to a printer’s tray full of fossils, which he collects from the bay.
The bedroom features another of his inventions, homemade bedside lights made from washstands filled with pebbles cast in resin. An old ox yoke he found in France hangs on the wall, and a peat shovel is propped up in a corner. Both look surprisingly good.
The other two bedrooms are on the top floor and it’s well worth the climb. The doors are original and are likely to be from old ships. They open onto panoramic views over the red rooftops and out across the bay.
The decor follows the same theme as the rest of the house with a Victorian crib repurposed as a bookshelf and a child’s feeding chair covered with sea glass and wired to light the stairway at night.
The walls throughout are full of original paintings by well-known artists and they are all for sale. There’s only one of Martin’s own pictures as he is low on stock after taking time out to transform the cottage.
An award-winning painter, he is best known for his scenes of the Peak District, though, inspired by the history of his holiday home and the village, he recently turned his hand to writing.
His whimsical book is for guests to read. “I’d describe it as part fairytale and part fact. It’s just a bit of fun, a bit like the house,” he says.
For more information about staying at Greenfield Cottage, Robin Hood’s Bay, visit www.greenfieldcottage.co.uk