WHERE OLD MEETS NEW
Country Homes & Interiors|August 2021
Laura and Stuart McKay turned a bungalow on the Sussex coast into a characterful beach house that combines old England and New England style
SARA EMSLIE

AT HOME WITH

Owners Laura McKay lives here with her husband Stuart; both are property designers.

House A timber-frame beach house rebuilt with five bedrooms. They bought the house in 2017.

The village of Camber is a tiny and charming coastal enclave, tucked among the sand dunes just a stone’s throw away from the historic town of Rye. Miles of sandy beaches and a smattering of wooden houses and chalet bungalows combine to create the sense of a time-forgotten land. ‘It has a lovely old-school seaside feel,’ says Laura McKay, who has renovated a beach house here with her husband, Stuart.

The area’s history added to its appeal. Camber was under army occupation during World War II – the dunes were used for training exercises and the village was taken over by the British Army – and it is easy to see why it now has a certain vintage vibe. ‘The site of this house was the mess of the army mechanics and officers,’ says Laura. ‘When we dug the foundations we found several Jeep chassis, and hundreds of old bottles from the mess. We collected lots to display in the house, but had to leave others for history to uncover another day, as there were just too many.’

The couple were intent on creating a multipurpose house that would work as a weekend retreat for themselves and their grown-up family, and as a delightfully different holiday rental for others. ‘We’ve stayed in so many holiday homes over the years and they often felt a bit unloved and tired,’ says Laura. ‘We felt we could offer a characterful home with attention to detail and luxury, designed and built specifically for family get-togethers. Because of my career as a make-up artist, we also wanted to design a house with plenty of visual interest so it would be suited to film and photography shoots.’

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