An art-filled house overlooking Alexandra Park in Hastings has provided the perfect living space for a couple who split their time between two properties in this creative town
Camilla Ruiz Ramirez is a textile designer who was previously based in Brick Lane but moved to Hastings after 14 years living and working in Central London. Her move away from the capital was motivated by a desire for a better quality of life. “We chose Hastings because of the green spaces, fresh air and beach,” she says. “But it was a hard decision to leave, we had a fantastic community of like-minded people there and we loved our home.”
Having sold their beloved London house they now have not one, but two houses in Hastings. The first overlooking Alexandra Park – which I was visiting – and a smaller place up on the West Hill, “In 2018 we bought a two bedroom garden flat on West Hill to see if we liked it here first,” says Camilla. “We then bought this house in 2022 after selling our London house earlier that year. The flat is very quiet, but this one is right next to the park which is great.”
Since moving, they have been busy transforming their new properties into beautiful homes which double up as Airbnb rentals, with Camilla and her partner Tarik alternating between, depending on bookings.
Their move also mirrored a change of career for Camilla, from the fast-paced world of fashion to a more sustainable job in interiors. “The fashion industry was just getting worse ecologically and it didn’t sit right with me,” she explains. “I started doing some styling for properties in London and I really enjoyed it. So when I moved down here I made the switch full time. Interiors is different, if you don’t want something anymore it doesn’t have to end up in landfill. It’s far more sustainable.” Camilla now works for luxury furniture brand Oka in Tunbridge Wells, helping clients with their interior design projects.
The move was also an opportunity to change the way they lived and let go of a lot of things accumulated during their life in London. “We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved down here as we knew we wanted to live more simply. We don’t have much clutter now.” This purge of things has been translated into a spacious home which allows the features inherent in the building to come to the fore, rather than being obscured by stuff. “We like to let things speak for themselves, by removing everything that gets in the way,” she comments. The effect is a calm and grounding feeling throughout the house that really is very relaxing and instantly makes you feel at home.
“The fashion industry was just getting worse ecologically and it just didn’t sit right with me. I started doing some styling for properties in London and I really enjoyed it. So when I moved down here I made the switch full time.”
And it’s no more evident than at the rear of the house, in the kitchen. Striking in its simplicity, the clean white walls and green blue Farrow & Ball units make you feel refreshed, while the Devol floor tiles and taps are lovely rustic additions. Fortunate, as they were there when Camilla bought the house and just so happen to be by one of her favourite brands. “One of the reasons we liked the house was because it already had a lot of the work completed that I would have done anyway.”
On the wall facing the entrance there are some framed prints, a glimpse of the handful of treasured things that were saved in the move, mostly items made by friends and acquaintances from their community in London. At the back of the room the kitchen table and chairs from Oka fit right in and, next to the table, there is access to a sunny terraced rear garden which has been allowed to grow wild. “It’s good for the wildlife, we get foxes out here.” Camilla seems delighted.
Out of the kitchen and next door is the master bedroom, two rooms you don’t normally see next to each other, but then this house is full of surprises. Previously the dining room, it is now wallpapered a dark green colour, excluding one wall next to the entrance, which is exposed back to brick and has mounted onto it a metal star with pink fairground lights, a favourite thing of Camilla’s by Chris Bracey from Gods Own Junkyard. “He became quite famous for his stars at one point, and he made this one especially for me.”
On the wall above the bed is the stand-out feature of the room, a large painting by Kim Hart and an extremely personal piece which divides opinion, “It’s of her dying father. There’s a lot of emotion in it, some people find it a little bit unsettling. I actually find it quite comforting.” Next to the bed are two bedside tables also from Oka, “We liked these, they’re a bit different. They look a little sculptural and are also good for storage.” On the ceiling is another piece with a story, a hand-blown glass light by Curiousa, a small boutique lighting company in Derbyshire, and it’s one of many found throughout the house.
“We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved down here as we knew we wanted to live more simply. We don’t have much clutter now.” This purge of things has been translated into a spacious home which allows the features inherent in the building to speak for themselves, rather than being obscured
Next door the dining room is another change of purpose space, previously the living room. With a very cool limited edition dining table in the middle, made from old railway sleepers from the Philippines, it has an industrial look which Camilla really loves. On the walls are a couple of vintage posters, one of which is a framed photo of Picasso signed by the photographer (who’s quite famous himself), sitting next to a fake Picasso painting, “It’s very tongue in cheek and it makes me smile.”
Coming out of the dining room and past the front door we make our way upstairs where at the top we are greeted by an unusual sight, a bathroom leading directly out to the garden and a pretty patio area. The residual light from outside bathes the room in sunshine and, combined with the patterned Moorish floor tiles, really transports you to the Mediterranean Basin. It’s unusual, but why not? I decide that I really like it and can see it catching on. In the corner of the room, next to the door is a roll top bath, while above and next to the bath are a couple of vintage posters from Paris, a reminder of Camilla’s trips to the city when she worked in fashion. “I used to love travelling there to buy items for a collection. It’s quite an important place for me.”
After a quick peek at the rear garden we head back into the house and up another small set of stairs to two further sets of doors. The one on the right is the wonderfully named Chinese guest room. “This is my favourite room in the house,” Camilla declares and I am inclined to agree with her. It’s a stunning room with amazing energy and I notice myself feeling more relaxed the longer I’m there. And it was a chance creation inspired by Camilla’s realisation that she had lots of lovely Chinese things that needed a home. Above the bed are some very special prints from another of Camilla’s connections in London. “These are Adam Ellis who does all of the Ivy restaurants. I got them from a studio sale and they were a real steal. The day I went, the weather was terrible. It took me over two hours to get there, but it was definitely worth it.” Beside the bed are a couple of Chinese inspired bedside tables depicting an oriental scene on the black and gold drawers. The colour scheme is continued with the bedside lamps and chest of drawers which have wicker fronts and are matched by the headboard. The integration of natural materials feels very in keeping with the style of the room and you can tell a lot of thought has gone into creating it. On top of the drawers are a set of Japanese Kokeshi dolls, “I’ve been waiting to find a proper home for these.” Complementing the other colours and textures in the room is an emerald green colour picked out in the rich velvet curtains that Camilla made and also in the bedspread.
Entering the living room Camilla tells me it was previously a bedroom (which must have been huge), and I imagine that it better suits its new function as a generous living room. It’s a super light and airy space with large sash windows which I imagine open on hot summer days, with a cool breeze making its way through the house. Moving across the room, it’s easy to see why Camilla chose this as the living room. Opposite is the welcoming green expanse of Alexandra Park, Hastings` largest public park with a whopping 109 acres stretching into the heart of the town.
Back in the room the windows are covered by sheer curtains which give privacy from the park below, and when you look closely you can see a hint of green in the fabric, “It’s a reference to the outside,” Camilla says. “We also painted the whole room white, so the eye is drawn towards the park opposite. It also makes the space feel bigger and draws your eye up to the detailing on the ceiling.” Part of that detailing is the ceiling rose, which has been highlighted with a mustard yellow from which more Curiousa ceiling lights dangle down, this time they’re multi-coloured, “I painted the ceiling rose to highlight the lights, just like you would a piece of artwork.” The colour scheme of this room is pulled from the Victorian hearth tiles, which is a nice touch and another example of a detail that celebrates the house. The room itself is a cosy place with a large velvet green chaise longue, large enough for two people and, in front of the chaise, there is another limited edition coffee table, this time it’s made from old oyster shells, a nod to their new life by the sea and the importance of sustainability to Camilla.
Up another flight of stairs we come to two doors, one of which is Camilla’s studio, where she carries out her textiles work. And next door is the very fun 50s pop bedroom. Bursting with colour it’s almost the complete antithesis of the Chinese bedroom below, Camilla explains, “There are a lot more primary colours in here.” The prints above the bed were used as inspiration for the rest of the room, accentuated through the multi-coloured bedspread and pops of red in the leather bound side lamps, mirror and lampshade above. In the corner there’s a chest of drawers made from reclaimed timber and in the other a bright yellow clothes rail which, when you get closer, matches the chairs down in the back garden, seen through the window.
Camilla’s refurbishment of her home next to the park has been delicately done, and it allows the house to sing, with all its best attributes brought to the fore. The result is a retreat which is homely but not overcrowded, and curated to create a wonderful energy. Letting go of their old life has allowed Camilla and Tarik to create something new, which honours the things that matter most to them – quality of life and a strong connection to where they live.
To book a stay at Camilla and Tarik’s house, see abnb.me/CjUE9EKJRxb
Gods Own Junkyard godsownjunkyard.co.uk
- words: Damien Pestell
- pictures: David Merewether
- styling: Holly Levett
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