Creative couple Alexa and Robin Easterby have escaped the city to turn their lockdown relocation into a thriving artists’ community that continues to flourish

The serious desire to change their lives and focus on new creative endeavours was one of the main driving forces that led Londoners Alexa and Robin Easterby to move to Battle during lockdown. As soon as artist Robin, who had been working for many years in the advertising industry and executive creative producer Alexa, who was at the time working for a major global retail brand, saw the artist’s studio, located next to the three storey Victorian villa, they were hooked. “We came down between the two lockdowns and saw about seven houses one Saturday,” says Robin. “We didn’t know Battle, but as soon as we saw the size of the studio, with its huge skylights and the house with the potential to create a self-contained holiday apartment, and its proximity to the woods, we knew it would be the answer to the life change we were both searching for.”
Rather than head to St Leonards or Hastings, where the couple already had many connections, Alexa and Robin decided that the small town of Battle would offer a more instant community for them both. Having sold their London flat in just two weeks, they took the plunge and moved themselves and their lurcher Willow to East Sussex. “We had a two-bedroom flat in northwest London and suddenly we were in a three-storey house with a garden in the middle of the countryside. It was quite a change of gear,” laughs Alexa. “We then went straight into the second lockdown, as soon as we bought the house, so Robin and I had a lot of time to get used to the house and the area before we could start any work on it, including welcoming a new lurcher puppy, Baxter. During that time, we really fell in love with Battle and our new life.”


Having the time and space to get to know their new home as well as the surrounding areas has proved both personally and professionally incredibly fruitful. Over the past three years, the couple have not only developed the studio into a thriving artist-led community space called Senlac Studio, but they have also redecorated the entire house, converting the lower ground level into a cosy light-filled self-contained one bedroom apartment, which is available for short let. “Our old friend, the TV presenter and architect George Clarke, came down to stay and he gave us a huge amount of advice on how to make the most of the space along with another dear friend, theatre producer Rupert Lord, who gave almost the same advice,” says Alexa. “We opened up an old wood store and attached it to the main house – creating a large walk-in shower room – and converted an old office into a sitting room. We put in a new kitchen and Crittall-style glass doors that lead onto a private outdoor seating area, so the space is completely transformed and self-contained.”

The lower ground floor apartment, painted in a palette of earthy green tones, is now a wonderful bolt-hole for visiting artists coming to join one of the many courses that run in Senlac Studio. It’s also perfectly placed for walkers drawn to Battle Abbey, the nearby 1066 footpath and the ancient Battle Woods, which are the source of inspiration for much of Robin’s artwork as well as his upcycled furniture and soft furnishing collections under the label Kompost Creative. “Our builder Stuart from WABS Ltd, was amazing and helped us realise all the major work in the house, including sourcing the new doors, knocking down walls, creating the apartment shower room, and renovating fixtures and fittings to avoid us having to replace everything. It’s important for us to re-use as much as possible, which Stuart completely agreed with. For the apartment I used a mixture of second hand finds and high street pieces from the likes of H&M Home, Graham & Greene, and Urban Outfitters,” says Alexa. The couple have also hung personal art pieces around the apartment, some from when Alexa was at art school along with a large canvas by Alexa’s sister, the film and music video producer Thalia Murray, who is also an artist and an East Sussex resident. Robin has his work in the bedroom, which has been lovingly styled to offer maximum comfort and calm. It’s a complete family art exhibition. The hallway walls feature artwork bought directly from local artists Kate Delaney, the onelineguy, Kid Acne via Stelladore Gallery in St Leonards, plus old friend Deb Tong.

Back in the main body of the house, across the ground and upper floors, Robin and Alexa’s creativity has been given a fabulous light-filled canvas against which to create their dream home. The large double-aspect kitchen which overlooks the decked garden to the rear of the house is drenched in sunlight. “This room had wallpaper covered in huge bright red poppies and painted bright red kitchen cabinets,” says Robin, slightly blanching at the memory. “It took me about four coats of Royal Blue by Little Greene to get rid of them, every time I thought I had finished, I came back and could still see the shadow of the poppies staring at me!” At last, Robin achieved the desired pigment cover and now the room is an essay in clean modernism. Deep dark blue walls and new handmade and re-sprayed existing cabinets are joined by crisp white woodwork, peppered with collectable midcentury modern furniture, acquired from their friend ceramics artist Kate Monckton, recycled marble-effect kitchen tops, industrial lighting from Dyke & Dean in Hastings, pop art on the walls, as well as shelves of brightly coloured decorative objects. As with the lower ground level, a set of new Crittall-style double doors opens onto the large, decked area outside ensuring the room is always filled with light all day long. “It’s the perfect space for parties as well, as the doors open straight onto the deck so people can move around easily from the inside to outside.”
A minimal hallway painted white with Victorian style grey, black and white encaustic floor tiles from Topps Tiles, leads onto the sitting room, another space that is filled with light thanks to the fabulous original floor-to-ceiling wood sash windows that overlook a leafy front garden. “We were so lucky that all the original windows and fireplaces had been kept by the developer when they divided the house into two, many years ago. We now get the benefit of all the key features of a large Victorian villa and it’s one of the other main reasons we fell in love with the house,” says Alexa.

The light and ceiling height offered in each room has also enabled Robin, who has picked most of the colours in the house, to let his vision become a reality. The colours are bold: greens, blues, pinks and browns, and yet each room works in unity with the others. Often Robin has used not one but two or three colours, each working in harmony creating foreground and background shade on walls or woodwork, offering dynamism and interest to the room. In the sitting room, Alexa and Robin used Invisible Green by Edward Bulmer in conjunction with a darker khaki green which sits behind shelving and on walls that acts as an optical trick giving more depth to the room. Pieces of mid-century modern furniture that the couple had in their London flat, are complemented by upholstery in different shades of green and pops of rusty orange. A large, soft, treacle coloured velvet sofa by Loaf works perfectly by two velvet ottomans by Made, offering a pleasing palette of calming shades and textures which is mirrored in wall lights by Pooky, some vintage bamboo tables from Vinterior and an upholstered chair in Rapture & Wright Moorish Maze Burnt Orange, which Robin had originally found in the local recycling centre, that completes the room.
Look a little closer as you make your way up the house’s elegant winding staircase, carpeted in a hard wearing (and dog proof) sisal flooring by Tapi Carpets, and your eye will be drawn to the mini exhibition of convex mirrors (from Harborough Nurseries in Guestling) and contemporary music and fashion photography – by the likes of Greg Williams, Gavin Evans, Geoff MacCormack, Amelia Troubridge & James Gooding – collected by Alexa over the years from when she was a photographers’ agent and producer in London, as well as from local galleries such as Lucy Bell Gallery in St Leonards. “I am a massive Bowie fan,” says Alexa, “and so I am always on the lookout for great photographs of him and other artists I love like Kate Bush and Prince – it’s my musical life on a wall. I needed to display it all somewhere and the stairwell seemed like a great place where people walking up would be at a great height to enjoy some of these pieces.”

The light and ceiling height offered in each room has also enabled Robin, who has picked most of the colours in the house, to let his vision become a reality. The colours are bold: greens, blues, pinks and browns, and yet each room works in unity with the others. Often Robin has used not one but two or three colours, each working in harmony creating foreground and background shade on walls or woodwork, offering dynamism and interest to the room. In the sitting room, Alexa and Robin used Invisible Green by Edward Bulmer in conjunction with a darker khaki green which sits behind shelving and on walls that acts as an optical trick giving more depth to the room. Pieces of mid-century modern furniture that the couple had in their London flat, are complemented by upholstery in different shades of green and pops of rusty orange. A large, soft, treacle coloured velvet sofa by Loaf works perfectly by two velvet ottomans by Made, offering a pleasing palette of calming shades and textures which is mirrored in wall lights by Pooky, some vintage bamboo tables from Vinterior and an upholstered chair in Rapture & Wright Moorish Maze Burnt Orange, which Robin had originally found in the local recycling centre, that completes the room.
Look a little closer as you make your way up the house’s elegant winding staircase, carpeted in a hard wearing (and dog proof) sisal flooring by Tapi Carpets, and your eye will be drawn to the mini exhibition of convex mirrors (from Harborough Nurseries in Guestling) and contemporary music and fashion photography – by the likes of Greg Williams, Gavin Evans, Geoff MacCormack, Amelia Troubridge & James Gooding – collected by Alexa over the years from when she was a photographers’ agent and producer in London, as well as from local galleries such as Lucy Bell Gallery in St Leonards. “I am a massive Bowie fan,” says Alexa, “and so I am always on the lookout for great photographs of him and other artists I love like Kate Bush and Prince – it’s my musical life on a wall. I needed to display it all somewhere and the stairwell seemed like a great place where people walking up would be at a great height to enjoy some of these pieces.”
Upstairs there are two bedrooms. One of them, designed by Robin, is more traditionally masculine, painted in dark chocolate brown and a paler brown, with pops of metallics. A series of built in wardrobes feature panels painted by Robin and a Graham & Greene gilt lampshade has been similarly hand-painted and distressed in a palette of earthy tones. An imposing black and white portrait of the singer Johnny Cash shot by Andy Earl – above another original fireplace – once again brings the couple’s love of pop culture into the room.



The second master bedroom was designed by Alexa and is based around a dusty pink embroidered throw from India that she found on Etsy. “This is my dream bedroom,” says Alexa. “I’ve always wanted a pink room and we used two different Edward Bulmer shades. As soon as I found the Indian bed throw with the pink and green thread work, I knew it would be the basis for the colours in the bedroom. They are so calming and remind me of a sitting room in my parent’s old London house many moons ago.” Large sash windows flood light into the space, which is both elegant and cosy. Another large convex mirror from Harborough Nurseries sits above the bed, which is from John Lewis. On the floor are Graham and Greene rugs, an antique chair from Soap and Salvation in Rye, marble side tables & lights from Soho Home, a contemporary rattan bench from H&M Home, a mother of pearl dressing table by Graham and Greene and a vintage lamp from Kula – all offer texture. Some light touches of orientalism can also be seen in the hanging Kimono, the velvet blinds using a Mind The Gap oriental fabric and the artwork triptych panel sourced in Hastings old town. A former ensuite shower room has also been transformed. “For an ex-Londoner who has always been bonkers about fashion to have a walk-in dressing room, well, it’s quite something,” Alexa smiles with delight.
The last room of the house to have been renovated was the family bathroom. “For some reason the house is on a bit of a slope, so we used slim rectangular earthenware tiles vertically to give height to the room,” says Alexa. “I’m super pleased how they have worked especially with the tongue-and-groove woodwork and built in dresser, fireplace, and the bath surround that our painter Dicky painted a deep sage green. The new wood shelf is sourced from Powdermill Wood sawmill.” An encaustic style Formica floor (again dog proof!) has been topped off with another witty nod to contemporary culture – an Acid House smiley face bathmat.
Alexa and Robin’s move to Battle came at the perfect time in their life. As part of their quest to re-address their work/life balance, the house and studio have become a new chapter for them both. Senlac Studio is now established as a local arts hub for the creative community of the town, where people can rent a space or run courses. Robin has already organised two craft fairs in Battle and in July he is also organising Battle’s first Arts Fair. “We knew we needed a change and lockdown gave us the final push to do it and leave London. As soon as we saw the house and the studio, we could see the potential. We will always be so grateful to it for allowing us to re-set things and achieve our dreams,” says Robin, as he disappears back to his studio – paintbrush in hand – to begin work on a new series of oils.

To book a stay at Artists Hideway, see sykescottages.co.uk/1133526
For information on courses and venue hire at Senlac Studio visit senlacstudio.com
Follow @Kompost_Creative on Instagram for furniture and soft furnishings
Follow @rw_easterby on Instagram for artwork
Dyke & Dean dykeanddean.com
Harborough Nurseries harboroughnurseries.com
Powdermill Wood Sawmill powdermillwood.co.uk
Soap & Salvation soapandsalvation.com
Soho Home sohohome.com

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether

Pattern & Purpose

Interior designer Justine Hodgson-Barker was tasked with creating a rural retreat for a couple who divide their time between town and country, taking into account their love of fabrics, texture and colour Down a leafy lane, in the picturesque middle...

Natural Blend

Recipe developer and cookery teacher Charlotte Butterworth’s house is centred around her spacious Neptune kitchen, where she has created a new heart for this impressively proportioned family home Sometimes, when buying a house, it’s all about a feeling. You’ve only...

Creative Influence

Nicki Cox’s sublimely curated home is a real showcase of her talent for combining artwork and texture in her interesting interiors “I instinctively knew how I was going to decorate this house,” says interior designer Nicki Cox, the owner of...