It’s not often you encounter someone or something that you feel completely in tune with. At Beachspoke we are always on the hunt for beautiful designs, amazing places and unique spaces, so when we came across COAL, an architecture and design studio in Cornwall – we knew we’d met a kindred spirit. Founded by Emily and Joe Reilly, COAL’s belief in “building relationships and staying connected to the scenery, talented local crafts-people, and our clients is as important as the unique homes we design, build and look after” is completely on our wavelength so we spoke to Emily from COAL to get her insight on design, Cornwall and second homes…
THE BEGINNINGS OF COAL
It all started with a shared love of Cornwall and being close to the sea. But of course our complimentary careers and interests meant we’d always flirted with the idea of setting up our own business together. After 10 years working and living in hectic East London, ideas of greener pastures had started to dominate our conversations… we quickly convinced each other that establishing our own business beside the sea could become a reality. After getting engaged on holiday in St Agnes over Christmas the following January the perfect little cottage with loads of potential and space for our studio came on the market. It was time to escape the city and put all our energy into COAL.
We met while we were both studying at UCL in London. Joe was doing his MA in Architecture and I was studying History of Art. We both loved London for the culture – the museums, art galleries and beautiful pubs and people – it’s such an inspiring place to be if you are creative, there’s constantly new things to see and people to learn from, but we knew we were never city mice. We love the countryside too much – the wilder and wetter the better – our favourite holiday destination to date has been the West coast of Ireland in the middle of winter.
MOVING TO CORNWALL
It’s the wild atlantic sea – it’s exhilarating and gives a blast of fresh air that makes you feel very alive. We also love the outdoors so whether it’s walking, swimming, camping, or trying to surf – Cornwall ticks all the boxes. It’s also an incredibly friendly place full of inspiring people – we’ve quickly discovered loads of interesting businesses run by extremely creative people.
PROJECTS TO DATE
One of our first project was our own cottage – Yellow House – which allowed us the freedom to be very experimental with colour and texture. The Cornish landscape is usually the starting point for our inspiration. When walking the coast path, you see colours core qualities in nature – it is multilayered and so vibrant. In the Yellow House we’ve used gloss paint to bounce light around – In the east facing kitchen a yellow circle transports morning light into the adjoining living room, similarly a gloss wall in the bathroom, which has a skylight above the shower, reflects light out of the room and down the stairs. In contrast the West facing master bedroom – with freestanding bathtub – is bathed in soft, golden afternoon light. Here a wall is left in a lovely matt, textured plaster pink which intensifies this magical, warm afternoon glow. Since this we’ve had a whole variety of projects from new builds, extensions and renovations of tiny crumbling cottages. An important element of all our projects is to accommodate and simplify the surf, salt, sand routine that goes hand in hand with being by the sea, and creating cosy spaces that are warm and dry to return to after a day outside battling the elements. With all projects our design approach is to explore local ideas and materials, and to work alongside local crafts-people to create bespoke houses and interiors which enhance the environment they are part of.
We share the same aesthetic of bringing the outside in wherever possible. We are also both drawn to more interesting and unique architectural designs. Having recently moved out of London we have a pretty good idea of what the Beachspoke customer is looking for from their holiday retreat. After all, we used to be the ones scouring the holiday home market for places to stay when on our own Cornish adventures.
DESIGNING A SECOND HOME
It all comes down to the feeling you get when you walk through the door. It’s not where you want to live every day of the year so it should instantly make you feel like you’ve escaped and have that euphoric ‘I’m on holiday!’ feeling – whether that’s through colour, design or luxurious comfort – it just needs to be inspiring and different from the everyday. For us, we often take the location as a starting point with the design. A second home is usually chosen because of the setting, so it’s about working with this and developing it in an interesting way. Our projects are more often than not near the coast so they need clever solutions to deal with the practicalities of accommodating wetsuits, surfboards, walking boots etc… without compromising on the design concept.
Discover more about COAL on coalcornwall.com