Photographer Maureen McLean brings a taste of the seaside to Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:00 19 June 2014
Photographer Maureen McLean lives just about as far as you can get from beach huts, shell-strewn sand and sparkling blue water… or does she?
So here we are inside the only beach hut in the world with views of Windsor Castle, having paddled across an aquamarine sea to reach this haven. A seagull prepares to land, there’s a sight of majestic cliffs, and iridescent shells gleam in the sunlight.
We had better own up. This is actually Maureen’s conservatory, a dream come true this year as summer approaches. It’s her haven, a favourite spot for entertaining guests or relaxing with a favourite book, such as The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the John Fowles novel telling the story of a fascinating woman staring out to sea from The Cobb, Lyme Regis.
That aquamarine sea is actually the carpet taking us from her dining room to the conservatory, with nautical and beach themes both in the art (her photographs and collected paintings) and décor as part of the journey right from the front door until we reach the treasured spot.
Maureen may never have lived within walking distance of a beach, but her fascination with coastal regions began as a teenager with travel to America, the Caribbean and the south west of England. Indeed, it was rugged coastlines of Cornwall and Dorset which confirmed the interest. Suddenly tin mines, pump houses, beach huts, the odd NT tea shop and a chance to start collecting and photographing interesting finds on beaches became an abiding interest.
When she eventually came to own a home near Windsor Maureen began to think about how she could incorporate this love into the property. She wanted her very own beach hut. With a through lounge leading into the dining area where double doors let in light from the pretty but modest garden, she saw a chance to add a ‘beach hut’ conservatory and the result is a real gem.
Maureen explains: “My parents have always had a conservatory and make the most of it. And we often visit homes with lovely conservatories for the magazine, so I knew what a great addition this would be.
“In the end I chose Hazlemere Windows to do the work. I knew they had a good reputation and after looking at all the options went for a conservatory with a lower wall and window ledges. I wanted lots of light to come in from above, but not to end up with something that looked like a greenhouse.”
Although the conservatory has obviously taken some lawn from the garden, it actually has a magical effect, as the garden of a nicely shaped lawn and shrubs seems no smaller, and Maureen’s home now feels much larger as you look through from the front all the way to the rear garden.
Obviously an illusion, because the conservatory appears to ‘belong’ to both the house and the garden at the same time, but one that adds delightful space and light.
Maureen wanted to be able to use the conservatory throughout the year so opted for underfloor heating and ‘wood look’ Amtico flooring from M&C Carpet Company Ltd at High Wycombe for the very best of ‘beach hut’ effects.
It’s an excellent choice as you can pad about barefoot in even the weakest sunshine. She found an excellent dark brown leather sofa and recliner at Bentalls, Bracknell, and then added white and aquamarine soft furnishings in the form of curtains and cushions to produce those coastal hues.
With the addition of a few treasured items, nautical pieces and dishes of pretty shells, her beach hut was complete.
All this activity led Maureen to refurbish her kitchen just a few steps from the conservatory, and before long she had trendy white units with worktops which gently sparkle and twinkle. As well as more Amtico flooring, the kitchen has a feature that is a real talking point – glimmering lights close to floor level underneath the cupboards. Switch them on and with the colour Maureen’s chosen you find yourself ‘paddling’ across a few inches of blue light.
We’re back off to the beach now (Maureen has produced two splendid cocktails) so it’s on with the flip flops and sunglasses as we pick up our holiday novels. Don’t tell anyone we’re still in Berkshire.