Converting a tired old weatherboard cabin into a spacious coastal retreat, Atlanta Bartlett and Dave Coote were sure of one thing – that it would end up pale and interesting…
This talented husband and wife team are behind the company Pale & Interesting, a brand producing everything from furniture and home accessories to interior products, sets and locations.
The cabin was the first holiday property to be developed and was potentially the most daunting. “We cut our teeth on this one really,” says Atlanta, explaining that each one is unique, but they are all stamped with the distinctive, pared-back, but welcoming style of the brand.
The transformation of a modest two-bedroom building into a dream holiday house that sleeps up to ten, takes talent, hard work and something more: namely Dave and Atlanta’s special brand of ‘white’ magic.
Together they have used their vision, design and production skills – finely honed through careers working in magazines, photography and furniture design – to maximise the potential of the property, without extending the physical building beyond its existing footprint.
“We have kept the template and tried to keep the 1920s cabin integrity,” says Atlanta. “We have a passion for old English cabins. We think they’re not appreciated and should be protected.”
This one had lain empty for a while and at the time of purchase it looked very different.
“It was all mock Tudor inside, very dark and with red on the walls,” says Atlanta. “It was divided into little rooms with low, ‘normal’ ceilings. We went up into the attic – and knew we’d find all the original roof supports and timbers. We replaced the roof, but from the outside, so that the internal structure was preserved.”
They also reclad the outer walls with fresh weatherboarding and installed raised decking all round the outside, helping the house sit more comfortably in its surroundings and giving it a New-England-meets-Scandi vibe.
Big changes weren’t limited to the cabin either; their fourth child, Honey-Rose, was also born during the project.
“Honey got very used to the sound of nail guns and power sanders,” Atlanta remembers, describing how they removed the original ceilings to make the double height, pitched ceiling and ‘open’ up the cabin.
“We cleared out the large space in the middle of the house and then worked out how to squeeze in all the bedrooms. From the start we knew it would be a beach house and a shoot location. We wanted one central living space – and to be able to see right through from one end of the house to the other.”
As a result the cabin is wonderfully light, which is a key feature when choosing a space for locations and photo shoots and the vaulted ceiling creates an airy feeling of space, without being cold or draughty.
“We like to use natural light as much as possible,” Atlanta explains.
The windows were replaced with a mix of off-the-shelf and bespoke, to maximise the amount of light within the cabin. They have also installed Velux windows in the roof in places.
“We put one in the bathroom to bring in light from above, because it has no wall windows.”
The bathroom is small by necessity, but the space has been used so well that they’ve even squeezed in a washing machine, tucked cleverly behind bi-fold doors. There are other neat, space-saving tricks around the cabin, in fact there’s not an inch of wasted space. They’ve been able to install – and disguise – a huge fridge-freezer, turning a gap between two bedrooms into a useful ‘fridge cupboard’.
For the ultimate space-saving idea, you only have to look in the children’s bunk bedroom; designed and built by Dave, it serves as both a quirky nod to the sea, with its four cabin-style bunks – and as a fantastically fun way to stack sleeping children.
The bedrooms all surround the large central room and are deliberately modest in size.
“Bedrooms in a holiday home are just for sleeping in,” says Atlanta pragmatically. “The relaxing is done in the central space. People can congregate in different areas of it and not feel on top of each other. “They can use the snug,” which also doubles as a bedroom, “or retreat to their own rooms, or even go outside.”
The space is zoned into a sitting area and kitchen diner, united by the uniform floor and the clever recycling of the original ceiling, which has been used throughout as accents to keep a sense of unity. The floorboards are scaffolding planks, making them generously wide, sanded and treated with a special Danish finish, involving lye – a strong alkali used to bleach the planks and stop them yellowing – and then several applications of white soap. This gives a quiet, soft texture to the flooring, and it’s easy to keep clean; all you do is wash it with more white soap. Both items are for sale at Pale & Interesting.
The boards from the cabin’s ceiling have been reused throughout the house to bring a rustic touch that contrasts well with the smooth white of the walls and floor and adheres to Dave and Atlanta’s belief in recycling and reuse. This is a key part of their ethos and also integral to a look that relies on a limited palette, especially whites and pastels, because it is the contrasts in textures and types of materials that provide colour and depth.
This is part of the philosophy lying behind the relaxed, or uncontrived feel to the interior.
“It’s a bit like an outfit,” Atlanta explains, “you don’t want to look as if you’ve tried too hard.”
It is quite an art – which they are masters of. Using whites and pastels could easily make a scheme too pretty and thematic, but that doesn’t happen here, as the ‘pale and interesting’ style has a definite edge to it. Dave and Atlanta often use factory furniture and rough, unfinished materials alongside smooth and delicate.
“Metal has good textures,” says Dave. “It has rough and smooth together and a worn down, lived-in look.”
The master bedroom is a case in point here. It is a pretty room with French doors opening out onto the garden, so you can lie in bed looking out at the view. The delicate French shutters and twinkly chandelier are carefully offset by some utilitarian bedside cabinets – the interiors version of wearing a lacy dress with DMs.
The exciting news is that the Pale & Interesting shop is moving to bigger premises in Rye’s Landgate Street this spring; this will enable them to sell bigger pieces like the cabinets and more furniture in general – and give us all a chance to try and emulate their signature style.
It is clear that Atlanta and Dave genuinely care for furniture and objects and the stories they have to tell.
“We like to repair broken things,” says furniture designer Dave. “When you repair something, you become a part of the story, the history that lives on in the piece.”
Together they design new pieces, such as the two chairs in the front window which are part of the Coast Collection at Pale & Interesting, and also made a little table next to the chairs with a mirror for a top.
Many more mirrors can be found on the cabin walls. Mirrors, it appears, are important in their styling, but not for traditional reasons.
“Someone once said to me you must be extremely vain,” laughs Atlanta, “because I have so many mirrors at home, but I never look in them. Mirrors do other things. They reflect light back, they can double the size of a room and set up vistas and other view points, so that there’s always something different to look at.”
Another misconception about Atlanta and Dave’s
style is that white is hard to live with.
“It’s something we get asked but white is easy. It wipes
down or washes. The linen throws go straight in the
Atlanta has lots of such tips that can be applied to all interiors and ought really to become mantras for
“I never put a cushion on a sofa that can’t go in the
It turns out that cushion covers can be made from the most unlikely materials too. Those in the cabin are made from an assortment of things, from mattress ticking and linen sheets, through to Turkish carpets and hessian sacking. All the time Atlanta and Dave are looking for textures, for light and shade, for satisfyingly subtle changes in the weave and weft.
“These carpet cushion covers have a special quality,” she says, “they just make whatever they’re next to beautiful.”
Even though this is a holiday rental, attention to detail is a big part of Pale & Interesting’s ethos. Dave points out the bespoke narrow-gauged tongue and groove panelling commissioned for the bathroom and master bedroom. It sets these rooms apart and gives them a less ‘off the shelf’ look.
Details are often quirky and original – and quickly copied; whether that’s the use of old French shutters for bedheads, such as those used in the master bedroom, taps with the plumbing on the outside, exterior bulkhead lamps and storm lantern used in the bathroom – it all becomes part of the carefully considered Pale & Interesting aesthetic.
“We mix new things with vintage so that it doesn’t look contrived, not like a museum, it feels lived in, like it’s got history, it’s your own home,” says Atlanta decisively.
The look is fresh, but with an added friendliness.
“We never want anyone to feel they’re afraid to sit down – it’s party proof – or these days, child proof. It needs to withstand being lived in.”
The combination of new, antique, and re-imagined materials and objects gives their brand a clear ethos and, despite the light and airy look this conjures, a down to earth integrity.
“People ask, are you shabby chic?” says Atlanta, “and we say, no, we’re Pale & Interesting.”
Dave and Atlanta’s expertise, skill and resourcefulness have ensured that this cabin transformation is not just interesting, but also ingenious, imaginative and truly inspiring.
The bunks in the children’s bedroom were designed and built by Dave and Atlanta to make the most of the relatively small space
The narrow-gauge tongue and groove panelling in the master bedroom was specially commissioned. There are French windows out to the garden
The headboard is made from old shutters painted with Farrow & Ball’s Lamp Room Gray. The bedside lamps are from Pale & Interesting
The kitchen is brilliantly simple, with cupboard doors made from boards salvaged from an original ceiling in the house. The white-painted shelves are scaffolding boards. The splashback is galvanised steel and the lights are from Pale & Interesting. The kitchen table provides another preparation area
The bathroom is small by necessity, but the space has been used so well that they’ve even squeezed in a washing machine, tucked cleverly behind bi-fold doors. The wall and bathside are clad in bespoke panelling which Atlanta and Dave commissioned specially
A corner near the front door. The basket is from Pale & Interesting
The snug, which can also be used as a bedroom
The walls of the snug are clad with tongue and groove made with the original ceiling of the house. The cushions on the sofa are from Pale & Interesting
Looking from the sitting area through to the eat-in kitchen, shows the beautiful flow of the space. The antlers are vintage and they found the 1970s lamp in Hastings. The sofas are IKEA cleverly disguised under antique French linen sheets (Pale & Interesting always have a stock of antique linen) and the cushions are also from their shop
Looking from the sitting area through to the eat-in kitchen, shows the beautiful flow of the space. The sofas are IKEA cleverly disguised under antique French linen sheets (Pale & Interesting always have a stock of antique linen) and the cushions are also from their shop
“I have lots of mirrors in my houses,” says Atlanta. “But not to look in! They do other things; they can double the size of a room and set up vistas, so that there’s always something different to look at”
In the bathroom the brass plumbing pipes have deliberately been left visible and the taps are garden stopcocks
Atlanta and Dave removed the original ceilings to expose a double height, pitched ceiling and open up the cabin, to create one central living space. The floors throughout are old scaffolding planks sanded and treated with a special Danish finish and several applications of white soap
Looking out onto the deck and into the garden, with light pouring in from all sides
The gloriously patina-ed club chairs and the cushions – made from grain sacks –are all from Pale & Interesting. The flowing curtains – the essence of a summery beach house feel – are antique linen sheets
The clock is from IKEA
There is a Velux window over the kitchen table to bring in even more light, to this central part of the house. The extending wall lamp is a flea market find. Atlanta and Dave found the stools in Hastings and the console cupboard is an old factory piece
The earthenware vessels are a secret passion of Atlanta and Dave’s, who collect them
The dining area, just off the kitchen, is surrounded by windows. They bench is vintage Swedish, the metal chairs are vintage French café ones and the table is a classic French farmhouse gem. Such unique items in Atlanta and Dave’s signature style are available from their shop
- Pale & Interesting paleandinteresting.com 01797344077
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