Castaway Cottage, a terraced house in the heart of Whitstable on the north Kent coast, doesn't exactly grab your immediate attention. But open the door and you are presented with a stylish seaside aesthetic straight out of the pages of The White Company's catalogue.
Once a Victorian two-up two-down, the former fisherman's house has been extended backwards and enhanced upwards to accommodate two bathrooms, a pretty galley kitchen and a twin-bed attic conversion. The renovation is both sympathetic and stylish: the original fireplaces, clapboard walls and stairs have been retained.
However, what might have been dark and cramped in its original incarnation has been given a contemporary flourish with bright white paint, warm fabrics and quirky but comfy furniture: check out the regency chair with Union flag upholstery, and the painted tree on the dining room wall where you can hang your coat. Elsewhere, the wood-burning stove adds cosy warmth in the winter months and is particularly longed-for after a bracing walk on the beach.
But even with its luxurious interior, the cottage's position – just off Harbour Street, Whitstable's main shopping thoroughfare – is the big draw. You needn't venture more than a few steps from home to find art galleries, smart clothes shops, dinky patisseries and some fine restaurants. And while the beach – just five minutes' walk away – may not encourage sunbathing, its bumpy shingle, battered boats, pretty beach huts and piles of discarded oyster shells (the latter testament to the town's biggest export), make it as picturesque and atmospheric as any of its sandy rivals.
Much of the pleasure here is in the small touches – the bundle of lavender in the bathroom, the cashmere blankets draped over the back of the sofas, the tea-lights on the sideboard – all of which give Castaway Cottage the feel of a proper home rather than a holiday rental. The three bedrooms are bright and airy, with whitewashed floorboards, white bed linen, and elegantly distressed furniture. A brand new upstairs bathroom has also put an end to long nocturnal plods to the downstairs loo.
The Food and Drink
The kitchen is well equipped, though it didn't get much of a workout during my visit. The town's best restaurants are all within a quarter-mile radius, many of them serving fish caught locally that morning. Richard Phillips's Pearson's Arms has beautiful beach views and an exceptional seasonal menu that includes scallops baked in their shell with ginger cream sauce, and classic fish pie.
Wheelers Oyster Bar, which has existed in various guises since 1574, is worth a visit although you need to book early as it only seats 12. Further afield, The Sportsman in Seasalter is a Michelin-starred gastropub with a terrific modern British menu, with the emphasis on locally caught fish and seafood. Should you have a sweet tooth, What's Up Cupcake? on Harbour Street deals in pretty and utterly delicious frosted cakes in a kaleidoscope of flavours.
Free Wi-Fi, a TV and DVD player and a cupboard full of board games. There's also a decent selection of DVDs, from Peter Pan and The Grinch to the complete works of Pedro Almodóvar.
The steep, narrow stairs make the cottage unsuitable for wheelchair users, and could prove hard work for elderly guests. Children are welcome though pets are not. Free travel cots, stair gates and high chairs can be provided upon request.
A week's rental of Castaway Cottage through Whitstable Holiday Homes (01227 281800; whitstableholidayhomes.co.uk) costs from £500 to £695 per week. Shorter breaks are available during low season and start at £295 for two nights.
35 Sydenham Street, Whitstable CT5 1HN. There is parking available on the street and Whitstable railway station is half a mile away.