Treasure hunter Cat Ridley knows what she likes – and if it’s pink, glittery, neon or gold, she’s in (preferably all of them)
My first glimpse of the gloriously pink, glittery, neon, petal-strewn world of Cat Ridley was when I stumbled upon her popular Instagram account @pinkhomebythesea, which showcases her amazing house in all its candy pink splendour.
Scrolling through the posts I didn’t immediately realise it was in Hastings – the glamour level is so high octane, it could be Los Angeles – but the moment I figured it out, I knew I had to meet this icon of undiluted fabulousness and see the pink house with my own eyes.
Befitting a home that is so particular, even getting to it was a bit of an adventure. It’s on a road I’ve driven past for the last 18 years – but never knew was there.
Once I found the street, picking out Cat’s house was not a challenge… The front door is painted her signature sugar pink, with a shiny brass bee (another of her favoured motifs) doorknocker and surrounded by multi-coloured pastel faux wisteria. There is no missing that you are entering Cat World.
Inside, her special style is everywhere your eye falls, but once you step into the kitchen/living room, even after noting the multiple mirror balls, the neon sign advising you are ‘Welcome to the jungle’, the vintage bar and much more, your attention is grabbed by something even more extraordinary (and that’s saying something in this space): the view.
From the bifold doors leading onto a deck on the south side of the house is a panoramic sea view that could make you think you are in the Hollywood Hills again – which must make the open air cinema nights, which Cat hosts in the garden in the summer months, something special.
Even the garden furniture, out on the raised deck, is in her bold style. Two deep pink tropical leaf-backed chairs, by Italian outdoor furniture company Urban Balcony, sit alongside a salmon pink bench table, with a pink flamingo jug for good measure.
So much bolder and more fun than the average bland garden furniture offering, I ask where Cat found them – and she grins as she reveals her secret source: ‘HomeSense’.
This is the homewares specialist arm of TK Maxx and her nearest branch is in the Fountains retail park, Tunbridge Wells, just a quick zip up the A21 from home.
She’s such a regular in the store, the staff there greet her by name – as I witnessed when she took me there on a shopping expedition the week after I visited her house. And there can be few people who are more fun to shop with. I came home with armfuls of faux flowers, which have added a touch of frothy Cat fun to my own house.
“I’m a treasure seeker,” she says, and it’s clear the chase is a large part of the joy of it for her, because not only is she brilliant at finding quirky objects in her own particular aesthetic, she’s a master bargain hunter too
The white and brass kitchen, for example, cost £900 from IKEA – and was then fabulous-ed up to Cat standards with pink velvet and brass bar stools, statement brass and white pendant lights, and a selection of striking glass pots and vases, against blush pink walls. Where is it all from? HomeSense, of course.
Then cranking it up just that extra bit of wow – there’s a neon wall hanging saying Let’s Stay Home and even the kettle and toaster are fabulous. A limited edition between Haden and Margate-based company Poodle & Blonde (which is a Cat-perfect brand name, if ever I heard one), they are corset pink with a Dalmation print. You can see why she had to have them… Making breakfast is not any reason to be dull in this house.
It’s certainly a transformation from the kitchen the house had when Cat and her family moved in 16 years ago.
“The house is Victorian,” says Cat. “It was originally a farmhouse with land right across the valley, before all the houses were built around it. When we bought it, the garden was so overgrown, you could hardly see it was there. The lady who lived in it hadn’t been upstairs for 20 years.”
They knocked through downstairs to create a larger space and by adding an extension, turned it from three bedrooms to five. “The original kitchen had 26 cupboards. We went down to four drawers and six cupboards and it’s absolutely perfect. We also put in a second bathroom – and I finally had a cupboard for the hoover, which was my happiest moment.”
Cat and her husband Damon had already lived in Hastings for six years when they bought this house. “We decided to move away from South London after we got burgled on Christmas Eve. My parents had already moved down to Hastings and we decided to join them. I grew up in a tower block and we used to come down to Hastings when I was a child and I was always so excited, so it was great to move down here when I was 22.”
By moving out to Hastings they were able to buy their first house, a big deal for a young couple with one child and another on the way. “It had four bedrooms and high ceilings and it was great, but we wanted our forever home. We didn’t know about this road until we saw the house advertised in the local paper and we knew right away it was the one.”
And Cat has fresh plans for the house, starting this spring, with another extension to be added on the garden side of the house. “That will become the main living room, leading straight out onto the garden and then we will have room to put a table in next to the kitchen, in the space which is currently the sitting room. We are dinner-in-front-of-the-telly people, but we really enjoyed sitting round the table in the garden last summer, so want a table indoors to sit round.”
And being Cat, she has big plans for how she’s going to decorate this new space, inspired by her love of Art Deco style. “I want it to look like Room 202 in The Shining – just not with the naked woman in the bath…”
I can see that she will need more space to play with, because even since I visited the house, posts on her Instagram reveal lovely new things which have arrived.
The posh sitting room – which Cat says they call ‘the room we never use’ – now has a very dramatic new brass and glass side table, with legs like octopus tentacles, which looks perfect with the quilted gold cocktail bar – a vintage find from Margate, sourced via Instagram, another of Cat’s favourite shopping resources.
Like the kitchen, this room is very much in Cat’s core palette, with blush pink walls and a velvet sofa in a slightly deeper shade, by ELLE Décor – £300 from, you guessed, HomeSense – round brass mirrors, brass and glass nesting coffee tables, and white and brass light fittings.
The bar is stocked with a brass cocktail shaker and Champagne coupes, and the overhead light fitting is an amazing pink glass and brass sputnik chandelier.
I’m taking all this in, thinking the only thing that could improve it would be a cocktail from that fabulous bar, when Cat’s husband Damon comes home. Very much a man’s man – he drives the butchest 4×4 I’ve ever seen – I ask him how he feels living in a house Lady Penelope would feel at home in.
Happily, he appreciates having a wife with very specific décor vision. “I really like her style. I just go with it…” he says, grinning.
Heading upstairs – with a pause to look out at the view, which is even more amazing one floor up – Cat shows me her most recent project, her youngest daughter’s bedroom, which takes the pink and petal theme up a whole notch, with a wall of faux flowers behind the (brass, four poster) bed and pink wisteria (bought in bulk on Amazon) festooned around the window opposite.
“I woke up one night and thought, ‘I want to do this’. I was inspired by the restaurant MaMa Kelly in Amsterdam and the Peggy Porschen cake parlour in Belgravia. I decided I was going to create it for £200.”
By moving out of London to Hastings, Cat and Damon were able to buy their first house, a big deal for a young couple with one child and another on the way. “It had four bedrooms and high ceilings and it was great, but we wanted our forever home. We didn’t know about this road until we saw the house advertised in the local paper and we knew right away it was the one.”
I’m not sure whether it came in entirely on budget, but the fabulous black and white Jonathan Adler vase on the dressing table is a Cat + HomeSense bargain classic. It was £10 – the most similar one I’ve found online is £600!
The dressing table and velvet stool were also from HomeSense. The dressing table had the audacity to be walnut, so Cat painted it pink – and the same treatment for the vintage phone on the bare-wood wall, next to the bed.“Hotels in Norway and Iceland have wood on the walls, so I took the idea. We used acoustic panelling.”
Her middle daughter’s bedroom is done in a very different but equally dramatic style – with black carpets and walls, which are decorated with huge oversized flower decals.
In between these two bedrooms is a smaller one, which Cat uses as her dressing room, where there is – of course – a Hollywood mirror with lights round it. Essential for the daily application of false eyelashes, which is one of her grooming essentials. There are several truly fabulous turbans to hand, by Julia Clancey of LA, to keep her hair off her face while she does it.
Heading into the master bedroom, it seems quite low key – give or take a few brass mirrors, vintage Italian brass wall lights, a chaise longue and Feather & Black heron print cushions – by Cat’s standards, until you look above the bed and see another of her many neon pieces. This one was specially commissioned to feature one of her favourite movie quotes, from Pretty Woman. Nestled in a mass of pale pink rose petals, the cursive script reads ‘Cinder – *******- rella’.
I laughed out loud when I saw it. (If you don’t know the quote, Google will reveal it… but please don’t blame me for the bad language.)
For me it summed up the humour, originality and pure style of this house – and its resident stylist. She’s a one off, is Cat – with a house to match – and it turns out it’s not only me who has spotted her amazing pzazz on Instagram. She’s been asked to appear in a new house style TV show.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a star is born.
- words: Maggie Alderson
- pictures: David Merewether
- styling: Holly Levett
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