How to channel the Dungeness spirit in a contemporary style? Step into the converted railway carriage beach house of Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire, the pattern-happy duo behind interiors brand Mini Moderns.
BY CLAIRE BINGHAM
Lighthouses, clapperboard cottages, sea cabbages and shingle shores... The raw beauty of Dungeness in Kent was the inspiration behind the Mini Moderns' 2014 ‘Hinterland’ range of wallpapers, fabrics and accessories, taking its cue from the evocative mood and hues of this slice of south-east English coastline. And a run-down railway carriage on the beach proved to be just the place to showcase its creators' colourful, quirkily retro collections.
A bolthole from the pair's live/work studio in south London, the lovingly converted carriage is the result of a fortuitous weekend in Rye, where day-trippers Keith and Mark first came across the unusual two-bed property for sale nearby. Late Victorian, it was put on the beach in the 1920s when the railway ceased to run. Drawn to the tremendous sense of calm and feeling of ‘otherness' that defines Dungeness, the designers were looking for a joint 'do-up' project and retreat. The original mismatched wood-clad interior has been revamped channelling a clean Scandinavian style, with warm woods and white paint making the compact space appear bigger and lighter.
Embracing the expansive views, untameable landscape and poppies that flower in late spring, Mark and Keith let nature take centre stage. Their beach house rule is a blanket ban on internet and television. 'We don’t have WiFi. We don’t have TV. It is a total break,' says Mark. Keith adds: 'Dungeness is one of those places that feels very different. There is an amazing quality of light and you're in touch with the changing seasons. You have the sense of really getting away.'
Which means there is all the more time for socialising. Part of a busy creative scene, the area has always been a hub for fishermen and artists alike, and was once home to film director Derek Jarman. 'Dungeness is a place full of legends and myth and you very quickly become part of the storytelling thing,' says Mark. 'Everyone has a tale to tell.' And as stewards of the railway carriage, Keith and Mark's journey has just begun...
Pictures by Andrew Boyd andrewmboyd.com