Sunday, May 19, 2024

Review: The Balcony Studio, St Ives, Cornwall, UK

With its listed balcony hanging out over the sea wall walk, this blue-washed waterfront retreat is almost on the beach. Pole position for exploring St Ives’ charms from dawn to dusk and beyond.

On that balcony, there is a schematic map inscribed with directions to the world’s best surfing beaches: Bondi 10,780 miles, Waiki 7,213 miles and Porthmeor a mere half-a-mile away. Point made.

As one of St Ives’ oldest and most characterful cottages, The Balcony Studio underwent a two year damp-course-to-roof renovation, welcoming guests again from the summer of 2022. Rich in history, the studio has been home to artists and seafarers.

The welcome

Guests are encouraged to download the property’s app. Parking at St Ives Rugby Club, high above the town’s higgeldy-piggeldy medieval lanes, is highly recommended. Then taking a taxi to Andrew Street is probably the best option.

Three days before our first night, we receive an e-mail with the code to the key box. On arrival – butter, cheese, milk and wine wait in the SMEG fridge freezer. The welcome pack includes a sleeve of capsules for the Nespresso coffee maker, biscuits, chocolate and two stamped postcards of the Balcony Studio.

The cottage

The front door enters from cobbled St Andrews Street straight into a spacious kitchen.

Across a broad dark wood breakfast bar there are a coffeemaker, hob, oven, dishwasher and a wine fridge large enough to see you through a global wine shortage.

Stairs lead down to a contender for St Ives’ largest bathroom. Picking up on traditional Cornish textures, a William Holland Alvius tin spa bath is big enough for at least two. Above the slate floor there are two side-by-side showers and also another heated shower cubicle ideal for drying wet-suits. A cupboard is home to a washing machine.

The third floor houses the bedroom, with contemporary four poster bed, and stunning views overlooking the harbour. A bedside remote control opens the curtains. Two arm chairs are even closer to the sea view.

More stairs lead up to a cosy snug, sofa facing the television, and the loo too. Throughout the coastal colour palette is largely natural and neutral

Location

Right in the heart of St Ives, the Balcony Studio is within a couple of minutes walk of many cafes and restaurants. A Belgian themed cafe is less than 10 yards from the front door, Coasters cafe, specialising in crab sandwiches, less than 20.

The Tate St Ives is renowned as much for its views across Porthmeor Beach as for its art. The collection focuses on the 20th century St Ives artists, drawn to the town by the light and the views. Incredibly a small coastal town, once a quiet fishing harbour, gave its name to an international art movement. Patrick Heron CBE, whose work is exhibited at Tate St Ives, painted from the Balcony Studio in the 1950s.

Through until 14 January 2024, Tate St Ives is featuring a large exhibition of work from the Casablanca Art School. Works by 22 artists represent the Moroccan exuberant response to artistic freedom from colonial rule. Abstract paintings, urban murals, vintage journals, documentary photographs, and films all contribute to the exhibition.

Right in the centre of St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum gives visitors the opportunity to explore the sculptor’s life and work through her home, studio and garden. Hepworth designed the garden, with the help of her composer friend Priaulx Rainier, to showcase her sculptures.

St Ives is a place for education. Learning how to surf on Porthmeor Beach, developing your artist’s skills on a course or selecting from over 70 botanicals at Tarquin’s to design your own gin.

Other nice touches

A welcome card from the owners shows the property drenched in a winter storm wave that sends spray over the roof onto St Andrew’s Street.

Paying tribute to Captain Phil Moran, one time resident of the house, there is a set of first editions of his Soggy the Bear children’s books.

Moran’s history as a sea-captain and member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are also honoured with the owners making an annual contribution to the RNLI charity.

As well as providing the history of the cottage, the app gives easy access to details of how heating and appliances work.

The cost

A minimum of a two-night stay begins from £250 per night.

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The best bit

Such is the allure of the view that the owners commissioned local artist Eric Ward to paint the scene that guests see from their bedroom.

Beyond the harbour wall to the east stands Godrevy Lighthouse. Famously, it is the landmark that gave Virginia Woolf the title for her novel To The Lighthouse .

The final verdict

A classy renovation bringing contemporary design flair to the exposed stone and hefty timbers of one of St Ives’ most historic cottages. Now reinvented as the Balcony Studio, the property sits at the heart St Ives.

Quite rightly the restoration makes the mesmerising harbour and beach view the star of the show.

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