Monday 8 October 2012

Fine Folk #8

Mr Goulden
Hairdressing salon owner
Penzance's finest feature: The cosmopolitan nature of the people who live here. 

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Monday 1 October 2012

Interior decorum

Many of our small businesses are run as a labour of love, but few can be such a passionately personal creative project as Venton Vean bed & breakfast on Trewithen Road in Penzance.

These days, with advice and opinion from advertising and social media constantly fighting for our head space, it's a rare and pleasant moment when we stumble upon a great thing by chance. We found Venton Vean on a stroll. It caught our eye and made us think we'd discovered something out of the ordinary. Once home, a quick browse of the website confirmed our first instincts.  

Opened in September last year, Venton Vean joins the traditional ranks of Alexandra Road guesthouses, but we believe the approach of the owners of this particular establishment sets it apart. David Hoyes and Philippa McKnight were both successful London lawyers, but after having had a truly fair crack of that whip, they felt that their true purpose in life lay elsewhere. If TV programmes like Celebrity Master Chef have demonstrated anything worthwhile at all, it's that people are capable of making a mark in more than one area of life. If you're a top London lawyer, can you be an outstanding interior designer too? Yes, it appears you can.
Design is what strikes you first at Venton Vean. The interior decoration of this proud 1870s villa is simply beautiful. It is the epitome of the prevailing taste in period home design. Painstakingly restored original features, balanced with carefully selected furniture and ornaments from more contemporary decades are blended together by a delicate palette of heritage paint shades. But this is no cliché. There is a strong personal stamp being made; the couple are avid collectors of fine art and design.

When in London they would spend weekends trawling the markets of the East End, but now they're down here they find they can satisfy their cravings for vintage pieces just as easily by taking a trip to Chapel Street. Their pang for contemporary fine art is comfortably fulfilled here too; the rooms features work by Cornish artists such as David Whittaker, Virginia Bounds, Daphne McClure, Jyll Bradley, Margaret Mitchell and the late David Holmes. It's at this point that we realise that these are not so much proprietors, as curators. It's an important part of the identity of the place; those guests who are drawn to the area because of the local art scene are excited to find works of the artists they love hanging in their room. 

While many visitors clearly share the couple's passion, it's not a necessary requirement for booking, most just see the place as a beautiful house to pass a few days. After spending a year and a half getting the house just as they wanted, the care of their guests is now the whole focus, and they normally restrict the number of bookings at any one time to be able to give their residents the attention they deserve. By picking up the special touches from boutique guest accommodation around the world, they've crafted their perfect B&B experience. As well as providing exquisitely appointed ensuite rooms, they do a great line in breakfasts. David is the keen cook and has taken the morning menu to unfamiliar territory by adding dishes with titillating Mexican and Spanish flavours. He also makes his own jams and usually has around five different kinds on the go. Evening meals are also on offer to to guests who require it. David has totally embraced the local providers of ingredients and raves about Ian Lentern the butchers and the Newlyn Fish Company down at Stable Hobba. 

Living their dream of becoming B&B owners is still a pretty new experience for David and Philippa, and while it's certainly hard work, they really weren't expecting to enjoy it quite so much. Getting to know their temporary housemates has been a particular pleasure; they're always keen to share their own love of the area by helping them make the most of their stay, providing guests with 'must see' lists of local highlights. They got genuinely excited when we chat about the local galleries, the gigs they've seen at the Acorn Theatre, the independent shops and swimming in the sea. It's good to see that our humble local habitat can hold the interest of people who are used to the creative chocolate box that is London.

They've been openly welcomed by neighbours and the wider local community, and fellow local B&B owners were a great ally in the early days. They all recognise what this couple have done, and that is furnish Penzance with a real asset. This area needs the financial investment, yes, but what it benefits from more is the investment of spirit.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove