Artist Jo Oakley bought her Whitstable beach hut 20 years ago for £250 when her daughters Hannah and Daisy were very young. She has been visiting it, year in year out, summer and winter ever since.
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What makes the hut so special?
Life is simple and basic. There is no electricity, no running water and the cooker is fuelled by bottled calor gas. The first thing I do when I arrive is fetch fresh water from the stand- pipe. Once I’ve made a pot of tea and can relax, all is well with the world!
Have you done much to the hut?
The roof needed re-felting a few years back and the exterior gets a new coat of paint every three or four years to protect it from the wind and salt spray. There’s not much that can go wrong so all it requires is basic maintenance.
Any DIY tips?
The place is so small I use any leftover dribbles of paint on the walls here. When I painted my home kitchen pink, there was paint left in the can hence the pink walls. Similarly, there was an inch or two of aqua left over after painting my living room so I used it up here.
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How have you made the beach hut seem so spacious?
I’ve purposely resisted buying things. The previous owners left behind a few bits of furniture along with some 1950’s crockery which I’ve kept. There are cupboards for china, food and cooking equipment and I have a small dining table, a few chairs which can be moved in or out depending on the weather, and a futon bed which folds up during the day.
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How did you furnish the beach hut?
The beaded chandelier was a present from my Nana and the vintage curtains came from a neighbouring hut that was being updated. Collecting vintage china has been a passion ever since I went to my first jumble sale as a little girl and came home with a jug that I still have. These pieces mean a lot to me and some have featured in my paintings time and time again.
Any particular advantages of having the beach hut?
Having a little break every weekend means that I’m not that bothered about jetting off on exotic beach holidays.
I don’t have to venture far to find the subject matter for my work – the Whitstable sunsets are a constant source of amazement. I always have a sketchbook in my bag – it’s a visual diary of seaside life.’
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It sounds idyllic but what are the downsides?
Not having a shower or loo. I love to swim so in the summer I rig up a camping shower outside on the deck, or use the communal loo block which has a sink.
Do you feel claustrophobic living in such a small space?
Jo Oakley is represented by jonathancooper.co.uk 020 7351 0410. For details of forthcoming exhibitions: www.jooakley.co.uk
Jo, who now lives in Herne Bay, is taking part in East Kent Artists’ Open Houses.
Want to rent or buy a beach hut? Try beach-huts.com
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