Falmouth offers beach and sea on one side and a bustling town and harbour on the other. It’s a town that stays lively both in summer and in winter because unlike so many harbour towns it doesn’t only rely on the tourist industry. Falmouth has a sense of unique style and a sense of space not found in many other Cornish harbour towns making it feel unique and substantial. Exeter University brings young talented students and their families to the town which allows quirky, innovative shops and eateries to thrive making Falmouth a modern and progressive town which stays busy throughout the year. Sailing is a huge part of Falmouth’s culture with a heritage rich in maritime history and a strong future in super yacht building and as a port for some pretty enormous cruise liners and naval boats. The Tall Ships were here in 2008 and will be back in 2014 securing Falmouth’s position on the global sailing map. Every year Falmouth hosts its own Oyster Festival, Shanty Festival and the enormously popular Henry Lloyd Falmouth week which brings in some pretty impressive bands each evening. It’s an exciting town because it’s fresh, diverse, ever evolving and fast becoming the jewel in the South Coast of Cornwall. Just on the outskirts you have two beautiful unspoilt areas; the Roseland and The Lizard and only a 45 minute drive to St Ives on the North Coast. As well as offering its own entertainment for visitors it’s an ideal base to explore the rest of Cornwall. Falmouth seemed the perfect place to open our B&B and the perfect place as a family to live throughout the year.
I was born in Cornwall and grew up on a dairy farm just outside the lovely town of Fowey, 30 miles from Falmouth. I have fond memories of following my Father up to the milking parlour at 4 am in the morning fascinated by the cows and their inquisitive nature or driving tractors at the age of 6 and arguing who’s dad had the best Massey Ferguson at school lunch time. My childhood days were filled with freedom and endless adventures on land and on the water, I promised I would always give that back to my children one day, so I have always had a place in my heart for Cornwall and the lifestyle it offers to its residents. At 16 years old I felt that it was time to see the world and went to college in London going on to work in catering and opening my own restaurant which ran for 18 years and in turn lead me to work in media, travelling the world dealing with many different cultures and learning how they did business, sitting in many boardrooms lucky enough to witness some brilliant business minds in action and learn from them. As one of them once said “you will never lead the life you really want by working for someone else” and these words have always stuck with me, perhaps I should also add “you will never worry as much as when you work for yourself”. This is where I met Vanessa. I always knew that I would return to Cornwall when the opportunity was right.
I was born in a quiet, leafy area of greater Manchester spending most of my time helping my granddad grow fruit and veg. I helped my dad decorate since I can remember and was always appalled at their scheme. I drove my family mad I think and I was always re designing my little box room. Finally I was old enough to go to art college to get rid of my creative frustrations and onto Manchester University to study textiles where a funny thing happened. I got sick of designing and painting and wanted to work in an office. That took me to London and a fantastic and creative I might add career in glossy magazines. Working for a blue chip company made me grow up and realise that creative is only good if the style is not more than the substance. Suddenly interior design skills the unlimited marketing and sales skills learnt from publishing became perfect skills to make creativity commercial.
What Got Us Here?
Cornwall was never far from our minds though and we would travel from London to Cornwall at any opportunity we could. In about 2006 we started researching Cornwall and the trend for tourism in the county.
All the signs showed that Cornwall was fast becoming a destination for great food, short mini breaks and luxury hideaway holidays for the discerning individuals turning their back on the usual resorts around the world and heading for something on their own doorstep.
The world of Publishing was changing, we were ready to do something for ourselves and therefore we wanted to use the skills we had learnt along the way and put them to the test. We felt that it was time to get down to Cornwall and start to be part of what was fast becoming a hot spot. We decided that we wanted to open high end accommodation, something between a traditional B&B and a hotel, we chose to open a B&B which offered fantastic design and unique style, oodles of comfort and above all amazing service but and here’s the most important thing….at an affordable price.
We felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of a boutique B&B charging hotel prices, were they not boutique hotels? We felt this ageing trend offered us a new one. We needed to find a town that was on the up with plenty of potential, one that was progressive as well as able to showcase the culture of Cornwall. This is when we found Falmouth.
Vanessa, “The moment I walked into Highcliffe I knew it had what we needed. So many B&Bs I’d seen seemed to be lots of rooms off narrow corridors with the dining room squeezed somewhere amongst them. Highcliffe had a huge front door and a wide and imposing hallway with the tallest Victorian ceilings. Even draped in burgundy curtains and covered in dark green carpet the lounge and dining room felt light and spacious. I hadn’t even seen the bedrooms before I’d decided I was phoning Simon to tell him I was putting in an offer. When I did see the bedrooms they also had light and space. Each room had mismatching fabrics and old dark furniture but they also had original sash windows, high ceilings, harbour or Pendennis Castle views, picture rails and original wood four panel doors.
If you’ve got high ceilings, the design world’s your oyster. It was all there and I couldn’t believe we’d found it. Many people warned us of the extensive amount of work needed but for me it was about the five year plan. Five years of hard work would guarantee a fantastic building by the end. A satisfying plan I felt. I saw Highcliffe as a house that needed to be put back to its glory days and I tell you what, I think it wanted me to buy it. Simon walked through its doors two weeks later and the decision was made. Whilst trying to buy Highcliffe the global economy crashed and the world became a different place over night. You know it was a funny thing but suddenly everyone was looking to ‘staycation’ in a beautiful place without spending any money – that would be our business plan then ...
…so the refurb and hard work really began, endless days of dust, noise, footfall of booted workmen, skips arriving and filling up before the end of each day, plumbers shaking their heads and builders saying “it’ll cost you”, decisions leading to mistakes and moments of despair , but we eventually found a great builder, plumber and a team who got as excited as we did about “project Falmouth”.
Then moments of joy would happen once a room was completed or a bathroom finally stopped leaking. These were moments we would cherish to get us through the tough times.
The first 18 months of the refurbishment was managed by Vanessa on her own while Simon commuted from London on a weekly basis coming back to Falmouth for the weekend: to keep the banks happy that one of us still had a salary coming from regular work. Throughout the whole refurb we were open to guests who we would like to thank for their patience as well as encouragement as things progressed.
We will probably never finish the designing or decorating as we will always want to tweak, add or even change as time goes by and as we continue to learn how the house wants to work.