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Finding balance

Words by Rosie Cattrell

A lover’s hideaway perched on the edge of St Ives waters; an idyllic bolthole made for two, filled with history and fond memory.

The gentle slope of St. Andrew’s Street held a kind of quiet magic as we made our way over the cobbles towards our home for the evening. Strings of unlit lights hung above us, waiting for the dim of dusk to come to life and illuminate the walkway below. Sweet and unassuming amongst its neighbours, 3 St. Andrew’s Street stood before us, and with a shuffle of numbers to retrieve the key we found ourselves turning it in the lock to step over the threshold of something delightfully old and yet entirely new; The Balcony Studio.

Left: Matthew Burtwell - Aerial Cornwall Looking back, neither one of us can truly remember what we’d been expecting before we stepped through that door. Perhaps a sleek, modern space squeezed into an old St Ives cottage, floor to ceiling in gleaming white with the odd nautical touch. What we encountered was far beyond any of that, and it was certainly a good few seconds of gazing inside with mouths agape before we came to our senses and found ourselves drawn inside to explore this most unique hideaway.

The room to welcome us was the kitchen, fresh and immaculate in hues of cream and navy blue, made particularly special by the gift of crackers, cheese, olives and a bottle of wine accompanied by a kind note on the counter. Before venturing upstairs, we couldn’t resist a peek at the bathroom just down the steps from the kitchen. Here was a room with an atmosphere all its own, one very different to the bright kitchen in all its daylight glory. Lined in grey stone and drawing in light through the original porthole window that looks out to Godrevy Lighthouse, the bathroom drew you into a moody luxury just made for honeymoon romance. The twin sinks held up by original wood salvaged from the refurbishment had us staring into the mirrors above at our own reflections in disbelief, while the centrepiece of the space could hardly be ignored; a magnificent William Holland Alvius Spa tin bathtub, heralding an invitation for evening bubbles (one which we would accept).

Walking past the rainfall shower, and making note of where to hang our sandy wetsuits later that afternoon, we returned to explore the rest of the house, hardly knowing whether we could possibly be any more astonished. Back through the kitchen, past the bottle of white cooling in the chiller, we let our feet lead us up painted wooden steps past exposed original stone to a cosy sitting area, made for movie nights on the comfiest couch and crowned with ancient beams above. Behind white shutters the window allowed a glimpse of the old street below, and we imagined together what it might have been like over the centuries, when these properties were first built and the town was alive with a different kind of activity. Peeking into the loo it was clear that luxury had touched every corner of this unique house, lit by the rays of a skylight above and dressed in the richest of blues.

We knew we’d left the best till last, and still we couldn’t imagine what we would find behind the bedroom door. Our bare feet followed one another towards it, and it took only the turn of a handle to realise that what lay inside far surpassed any expectation we might have been harbouring up to now. Ocean. All you could take in, standing there in the bedroom doorway, was the ocean. Still, deep, intensely blue and sparkling, it filled the room. We didn’t look at one another, we didn’t speak, all we could do was look. Each walking around the enormous four-poster bed to come together again at the other end of the room, drawn to the view that we thought we’d been expecting, we sunk into separate armchairs and allowed our breath to be taken away in perfect silence.

Loved by artists and sea captains alike for generations, this landmark St Ives studio has undergone the most astonishing transformation at the hands of David Baxendale and his family, and with little pieces of its history carefully preserved and incorporated around the property, The Balcony Studio has made for an iconic masterpiece. After the passing of Captain Phil Moran, a well-known St Ives resident, known to many visitors to the town as he greeted all with a friendly smile and a kind word from his balcony, this long-treasured property became available, and an opportunity presented itself that David couldn’t resist, as he explains: “I’ve been coming to St Ives ever since I was a child, and this place holds very fond memories for me. We used to chat to Captain Phil from his balcony, and it’s always struck me as the most beautiful location. It has the most incredible history behind it, and while the amount of work was daunting, we decided we’d have a go at bringing it back to its former glory. It was so sad to see such a beautiful property lying empty, it seemed like such a shame.”

With a determination to set this enchanting property to rights, and with the memory of Captain Phil in mind, David and his family came up with a plan to bring it into the modern world, whilst retaining as much of the original home as possible. “It was very important to us to retain as much of the look, feel and history of the property as we could,” he reflects. “We didn’t want to focus on something ultra-modern and forget the incredible heritage of the place, that was a huge drive for us. We found some fantastic local tradespeople who carried out the work for us, each contributing handmade or bespoke pieces. We uncovered some incredible original features as we went through the restoration process, and we were really careful not to lose anything we could salvage in the property as we went along.” From original beams and ancient wooden lintels carved and preserved, to exposed stone walls, an original porthole and an old ship’s mast, you really do get a glimpse of The Balcony Studio’s history as you wander around this enchanting property. “It’s been a long process,” David confesses. “It was much more challenging than we expected when we started almost two years ago. Now when we’re in the property, and we look at what we’ve managed to do, it’s breath-taking, we’re absolutely thrilled and delighted with it.”

A day spent in the summer sunshine of St Ives felt like a blur as we looked back and reflected together from the comfort of the enormous and engulfing four-poster bed. Swimming in the cool crystal water of the harbour, exploring the sculpture gardens at the Barbara Hepworth Museum, a quiet immersion in the art on exhibition at the TATE gallery, wandering home past the divine smells of local restaurants under the strings of lights that had awakened in the absence of the sun to guide us back. With the lights all gone out in The Balcony Studio, we could see the glow of the harbour and the stars hanging above the water from the safety of our sheets, and with the touch of a button the curtains were drawn on this most spectacular panorama.

As we woke and remembered that the day before hadn’t been a dream, we sat up and watched in awe as the curtains drew apart before us, unveiling the sun rising over the water, and our breath was taken once more. Climbing out of bed to open the windows, we found ourselves setting our bare feet down on the balcony that once hung directly over the water, before the pathway below was constructed. We couldn’t help but think of Captain Phil on his balcony, writing his stories as the world carried on around him, and all the artists that went before, distilling the magic of St Ives into their work. Like Captain Phil, we smiled at passers-by and counted ourselves lucky for special moments like this as we sat on his balcony, surrounded by a beauty that is difficult to describe. With bags packed and a final glance around a house home to memories old and new, we pulled the door of 3 St Andrew’s Street closed, returned the key to its home on the wall safe behind its code, and knew that we’d been in the presence of magic at The Balcony Studio as we wandered back along the cobbles.

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