Phil Oakley and his partner Olivia moved to St Leonards, part of coastal town Hastings, from London when they struggled to find a showroom, workshop and living space that was big enough to cater for their needs, and Oakley’s massive neon light collection.
They came across the old Admiral Benbow in an online auction – as the winning bidders they had the daunting prospect of completely gutting the old pub and transforming it into their new home. To make the most of the space, the couple created a double-height living room with a skylight and converted one of the bedrooms into a new sitting room to maximise the views of the sea, with all the living accommodation on the first floor and the workspace practically located at ground level.
The couple have fully immersed themselves in the local community, within which there are many other fellow creatives. Phil has taken on a commercial building in Hastings to store his illuminations and hired a local sign-painter to decorate the outside (see below). The pair has also commissioned local artists and designers to create pieces for the home, including handmade wallpaper from Deborah Bowness and an ornate mosaic skull from Susan Elliott.
“When you stroll along the beach, everyone stops to talk to you.” Phil Oakley
Alongside Phil Oakley’s home, Creative Living Country features the homes of 24 other artists, architects, makers and designers, all of which are looking to leave the chaos of city life. Author Chloe Grimshaw says in her introduction to the book: “Although this move to the rural idyll might seem like the ultimate in escapism, it is often a conscious creative choice, made by those who have a living to earn, but want to do so in a way that feels more in tune with how they want to live or raise a family.”