Margate mates – a Georgian home on the south coast

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The Guardian

There are few rooms in the home of Charlene Prempeh and James Goodhead that don’t feature Mahal Kita dried flowers. Mahal kita means I love you in Filipino, but it is also the name of the floral design business that belongs to Antony Burger, a friend of the couple whose edgy, idiosyncratic installations have appeared on Killing Eve.

A lot of the warmth in their Margate home, which looks out to the sea and the twinkling lights of the lido, owes much to the many pieces of art and furniture made by artist friends.

“Nothing is here by accident,” says Prempeh of paintings by Remi Ajani, a former flatmate who has recently exhibited her first show, or the repurposed parquet-top dining table by Dean Slydell, unvarnished and slowly acquiring a pleasing patina. A kitchen bench by furniture maker Sebastian Cox is also on the wish list.

Sitting pretty: custom-made seating by the front door. Photograph: Taran Wilkhu

This considered collection is fitting, perhaps, because it also reflects the curative nature of their jobs. Prempeh is a writer and founder of A Vibe Called Tech, a creative agency that she established to explore the intersection of Black creativity, culture and innovation. Goodhead is co-founder of Unified Goods, which sources cultural conscious artefacts from around the world, spanning six decades of popular culture.Their interest in Margate’s vibrant art scene was part of the draw of buying here.

“What I found most surprising is the breadth of creativity which exists here,” says Prempeh, “it’s not only the Turner or Tracy Emin at Carl Freedman Gallery but the writers, film makers and chefs who live here.”

Writing on the wall: Varier Ekstrem chair and Jeremy Deller print by the stairs. Photograph: Taran Wilkhu

The couple were both taken by the idea of a haven by the sea, somewhere they could retreat to and that could also be enjoyed with friends. “What marks Margate out as being different is that it also has this sort of inner-city vibe, too,” reflects Goodwood. “There is beautiful 17th-century architecture and then you turn a corner and there are derelict houses. You feel two worlds colliding – which makes it interesting.”

Was Prempeh worried it wouldn’t be as racially diverse as living in London? She nods. “I was at first,” before changing her mind after the visit she refers to as “the Magical Dory’s day” – their first trip out of London after lockdown and when they decided to move here following a seafood feast, at Dory’s, a restaurant in the town. “I was really struck by how diverse it had become.”

The home they bought was the last viewing on a day when they had nearly given up. “I started clapping like a child when I saw it,” says Prempeh, of the four-storey Georgian building that they share with their three-year-old son, Lucky.

If music be the food of love…Charlene Prempeh with James Goodhead and a B&O A9 speaker. Photograph: Taran Wilkhu

In the 1890s, the owners had doubled the size of the house by building on to the back of it. “What they didn’t do was add floors on to the same level as the existing ones so it feels as if there are eight floors,” says Goodhead. “It’s like a labyrinth with plenty of coves, nooks and crannies.”

The couple wanted it to feel fresh and clean without succumbing to seaside or theme-park decorating clichés. They were largely inspired by Danish beaches, having spent time at coastal areas outside Copenhagen, and the palette is predominantly neutral with an assortment of midcentury furniture sourced on late-night trawls on Vinterior.co. Prempeh thinks she developed a bit of a chair fetish during the decorating process. The Togo chair in mustard and Varier Ekstrem are testament to this.

Tiles with style: the bathroom. Photograph: Taran Wilkhu

Little structural change was required. On the ground floor is a living space and kitchen. What would have been a master bedroom on the first floor is now a large “adult-ish room” with sea views, where the couple go to “download”. There are four bedrooms and a study above.

Prempeh jokes that you are only as good as your bathroom – her favourite room in the house – which she likes to feel is like a womb that envelops you. Hers contains an egg-shaped bath and soothing green tiles.

Having friends to stay is important, as is playing music on their retro Bang & Olufsen turntable and A9 speakers, or whipping up a Chinese feast. It explains why Prempeh’s favourite objects in the house are the Le Creuset pans from the 1970s that hang in height order on the kitchen wall.

For Goodhead, it’s an artist-edition print by David Shrigley, with whom he collaborated for a fundraising project in aid of Mind: “His work can be quite comedic and cynical in a dark way, but this one is very emotionally charged. The print shows a picture of a whale with the words, ‘I’ve never seen you but knowing you are there makes me happy.’ It’s the first thing you see as you walk into the house and that’s very positive.”

Living by the sea has also encouraged other mindful behaviour. Prempeh has always practised yoga and meditation but, encouraged by Goodhead, their morning ritual now begins by opening the curtains and looking out to the sea for 10 minutes. She laughs: “That’s definitely a much better way to start your day than reaching for your phone.”

vibecalledtech.com; unifiedgoods.com

July 17, 2022 at 12:57PM Carolyn Asome

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