There is a particular joy in returning to visit a home you have seen only very much in the ‘before’ stage. In this case, the last time I saw Kimberley Watson’s flat in a Regency terrace on Hastings Old Town seafront, I literally had to step over rubble from opening up the fireplace to get inside.

Despite the chaos the space did have good bones, with the uniquely satisfying proportions of houses of that era and a beautiful floor-to-ceiling bay window in the sitting room, opening on to a balcony looking across to the sea. But even beyond that – and knowing from Kimberley’s work as an interiors stylist (often for this magazine) that she would make it into something special – there was one detail from that first visit which made me determined to return to see it finished.

In the muddled area to the rear that she assured me would one day be the kitchen there was a large vintage dolls house. It seemed an odd stage of the renovation to be moving in treasured possessions, so I asked Kimberley why it was there. “It’s going to be a kitchen cupboard,” she said. A light went on in my head – this I would have to see.

So, on arriving at the flat this time, now reconfigured, with a bedroom where there hadn’t been one before, and styled with Kimberley’s amazing flair, the kitchen was the first place I headed for… and there it was. The dolls house, mounted on the wall, all the wallpaper still in place inside, a perfect storage space for cereal, tea bags, etc. An utter delight.

I can only imagine how it would feel to rent this flat on Airbnb – where London-based Kimberley makes it available, when she’s not taking a seaside break herself – and find that dolls house cupboard in the kitchen. I think my squeal would be audible from the beach and that is just one of many details to delight over in Kimberley’s finished scheme. The realisation that you are entering somewhere out of the ordinary hits you the moment you step over the threshold. The first thing you see on the wall opposite the front door – only about four-feet away in the very compact hallway – is a set of splendid French double doors. 

The scale of them in the confined space, draws your attention to the lovely high ceilings and gives an immediate sense of grandeur, plus an understanding that this might be a small place, but it has big idea. It’s also the first of the many professional styling ‘hacks’ that Kimberley has used to make her flat so special. Another is that she found the doors, plus a matching set, for a very reasonable price on eBay. So many of the brilliant effects in the flat have been achieved with minimal outlay, either because of the places she sourced them, or through thinking laterally how to do something, as with the dolls house kitchen cupboard.

Stepping into the sitting room, another example of savvy sourcing comes into view. An impressively large parlour palm turns out to be, like all the house plants, a very good fake – and an amazing bargain. “I noticed they were taking down a display in River Island’s flagship store on Oxford Street,” says Kimberley “and they were getting rid of all the fake plants. I bought this one from them for £8 and managed to get it home to Hackney on the bus.”

London is Kimberley’s base, but after she inherited money from her late mother she decided to invest it in a getaway. Like many people who buy in Hastings, her familiarity with the town came from a South London childhood, with many outings to that stretch of close seaside – although she says the sea wasn’t her original motivation for the choice of location.

“I was looking for somewhere that suited my budget,” she laughs. “Until now I’ve never been a huge lover of the sea, but since having this place, I absolutely love it.”

The view over to it is wonderfully framed by that bow window in the sitting room – but there is so much else that is interesting to look at in the room, you might be forgiven for not even noticing it. 

First of all there is the wonderful vivid teal blue of the walls and ceilings, painted in a colour from Papers and Paints, the specialist shop in Chelsea, which is Kimberley’s favourite source of decorating materials.

Kimberley knew this was the colour she wanted for this room from the moment she bought the flat and then, in a kismet way that seems to have happened a lot with this project, things seemed to fall into place around it.

“I found the bureau at Ardingly – and it was the colour I had already decided I wanted to paint the flat. Then, when I started stripping the walls, I found several layers of wallpaper and one of them was the same colour as the bureau. I found the mantelpiece on eBay, with wood painted to have a marble effect, the perfect colour to go with the floor which was already painted.”

The final touch in the blue/green scene is the marble hearth, which Kimberley found by chance on eBay. “It was in Dorset, so a friend and I collected it after a weekend there. It was the perfect match for the painted surround,” she says. The curtains, in a yellow that contrasts brilliantly with the teal walls, were another of Kimberley’s lucky finds – and cost precisely nothing. “A friend who is a gardener told me that one of his clients was getting rid of some curtains and didn’t want anything for them, just to have them taken away. They are silk, handmade and interlined.”

Another of these lucky breaks happened with the wall lights on either side of the fireplace. “I had the electrician here for just one more afternoon and I realised I didn’t have any wall lights for him to install in the sitting room. I went rushing out to the junk shops of Hastings Old Town and luckily came across these in Roberts Rummage in the High Street. They are made of agate – and were only £5 each.”

But while Kimberley does seem to have had plenty of these fated lucky breaks with her renovation, she has also made a lot of her own luck, making an effort with small details, which make a big difference to the overall feel of a room.

In this spirit, she had surrounds made for the two sets of double doors, copying the original trim around the bay windows. She put in dado rails and skirting, and created the effect of panelling by tacking up old picture frames and painting them the same colour as the walls.

Kimberley also found a way to echo the original ceiling rose in the sitting room, bedroom and kitchen. “They are plastic, from B&Q…” Painted the same colour as the ceilings, they look just the part. Also in rich evidence in the sitting room is Kimberley’s stylist touch, with a wonderful blend of ornaments and cushions, which are a mix of eBay and charity shop finds – she is a vigilant visitor to such establishments – and TK Maxx specials, combined with carefully chosen anchor pieces.

The wonderful Murano glass chandelier was a charity shop scoop, the jungly cushions from TK and the lovely brass and glass shelves more of an investment, from Swoon Editions. The sofa was off eBay, along with the table which became available from the same owner. “I even bought her floral carpet for my London house,” laughs Kimberley. 

The same combination is found in the kitchen, at the back of the flat, where an old Welsh dresser has been updated with dark grey paint and new beetle-shaped metal handles. The dresser was saved from a friend of Kimberley’s, who was going to put it in a skip, until she decided she could make it work as her main kitchen unit. A piece of marble (eBay) has been fitted into the top and an induction hob set on that. The Belfast sink sits on a unit that was being taken out of a friend’s bathroom. 

What about the light fitting? I ask. “I found it on the street,” says Kimberley. For someone with an eye as refined as hers, treasures truly can be found anywhere.

In this kitchen, one special feature was already in place: the original stone wall, which was revealed when flaking plaster was chipped away. Kimberley sealed it and left it to add an earthy touch to this quite otherworldly residence.

The bedroom, on the front side of the flat, has a special atmosphere all of its own. You enter from the sitting room, via the second set of double doors, which Kimberley leaves open allowing extra light to pour through from the large window in the bedroom, in a kind of ‘when is a wall, not a wall?’ arrangement.

It also allows a glimpse of the glorious rhubarb pink paint (also from Papers and Paints) on the walls and ceiling in here. Stepping inside, it has a wonderfully camp feel to it, very romantic, like a film set from the 1950s. 

The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed – gifted to Kimberley by a friend – made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw. There is a fluffy pink sheepskin rug on the floor, you can just imagine sinking your toes into, with a white one on a gold salon chair by the window.

The dramatic brass and glass light fitting is made from two lights that belonged to Kimberley’s mother and increasing the sense of space there are mirrors on each of the doors, reflecting light back into the one on the wall next to the bed.

The curtains, with blousy pink roses on a pistachio green background, which contrasts with the pink walls, are another of Kimberley’s great finds. “I’ve had them for years,” she says. “I found them in a charity shop and finally this was the right place for them. To make them fit, I tore them into sections and layered them, leaving the edges raw, and then pinned blackout curtains from IKEA onto the back.” Tied back with lavish yellow tassels, it’s an arrangement it would take 30 years’ experience as a stylist to have the confidence to do – and it looks fantastic, the perfect frame for the view across to the beach, which was the whole point for Kimberley. “I wanted to be able to sit in the bed and look out to sea,” she says.

And in this gorgeous bedroom, it’s hard to imagine doing so without wearing a fluffy marabou bed jacket, with a heart shaped box of chocolates close to hand. Admiring all the details – the brass table with a brass vanity mirror on it, the wonderful 1950s painting of a lady in a pink dress – once again, I can imagine the excitement of seeing this room in real life, having booked it for an Airbnb stay. 

Indeed, I am rather tempted to book it myself. Even though I live just 10 minutes’ walk away, a weekend in this magical flat would feel like an escape to another realm.

Kimberley chose a rich teal from Papers and Paints for the walls and ceiling of the sitting room. She found the painted wood mantelpiece on eBay

Kimberley chose a rich teal from Papers and Paints for the walls and ceiling of the sitting room. She found the painted wood mantelpiece on eBay

High ceilings and luxe touches of gold and marble add to a sense of grandeur, making the flat feel much larger than it really is. A round mirror, with ridges not dissimilar to an ammonite, sits above the mantelpiece adorned with an eclectic mix of ornaments, artworks and faux plants

High ceilings and luxe touches of gold and marble add to a sense of grandeur, making the flat feel much larger than it really is. A round mirror, with ridges not dissimilar to an ammonite, sits above the mantelpiece adorned with an eclectic mix of ornaments, artworks and faux plants

A Belfast sink sits on a unit that was being taken out of a friend’s bathroom

A Belfast sink sits on a unit that was being taken out of a friend’s bathroom

A special feature of the kitchen is the original stone wall, which was revealed when flaking plaster was chipped away

A special feature of the kitchen is the original stone wall, which was revealed when flaking plaster was chipped away

The dolls house, mounted on the wall, all the wallpaper still in place inside, makes a perfect storage space for kitchen cupboard staples

The dolls house, mounted on the wall, all the wallpaper still in place inside, makes a perfect storage space for kitchen cupboard staples

The wonderfully romantic bedroom is like a film set from the 1950s. The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed, made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw

The wonderfully romantic bedroom is like a film set from the 1950s. The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed, made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw

The wonderfully romantic bedroom is like a film set from the 1950s. The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed, made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw

The wonderfully romantic bedroom is like a film set from the 1950s. The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed, made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw

The wonderfully romantic bedroom is like a film set from the 1950s. The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed, made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw

The wonderfully romantic bedroom is like a film set from the 1950s. The room is taken up almost entirely by a steel bed, made up with dramatic floral bed linen, from John Lewis, dressed with a floral counterpane and a purple fake fur throw

A chandelier from nationallighting.co.uk illuminates the sage green shower room, complete with an ornate pedestal basin

A chandelier from nationallighting.co.uk illuminates the sage green shower room, complete with an ornate pedestal basin

A chandelier from nationallighting.co.uk illuminates the sage green shower room, complete with an ornate pedestal basin

A chandelier from nationallighting.co.uk illuminates the sage green shower room, complete with an ornate pedestal basin

17th Century Farmhouse

Stella Hayes initially fell in love with the property's glorious garden. She has gone on to create a beautiful home.

60s Themed Seaside Holiday Home

I’m sure we’ve all thought about buying a house by the sea – perhaps after an idyllic holiday, or a bracing walk, even just a drive along the coast. On the morning we visit James Rourke’s house, as the sullen...

A Butterfly Unfurled

When Sally Harrington opens the huge front door of her Kentish weatherboard home I assume that the 1950s bungalow that once stood here was demolished to make way for the new house. “No,” she says, “it’s still in here somewhere,...