Sixties-style beach huts transformed into new-wave hideaways by Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway.
The weather for the launch of the country’s most stylised beach huts — or, rather, pods — was quintessentially British. Dark clouds swept up the Channel, and by early afternoon Boscombe, an area of Bournemouth undergoing an £11 million makeover, was being lashed by rain. But inside her beach pod, Liz Carter could not have been happier. “I feel so excited — like a child in a candy store,” she says.
Carter and her husband, Brett, lost no time in celebrating their purchase of a £90,000 double pod in Boscombe’s reinvigorated Overstrand complex, featured in Bricks&Mortar last year. Safely out of reach of the elements, the Carters opened a bottle of champagne and admitted that they had been trying to buy a traditional beach hut for five years. By chance, they had heard about the beach pods in Boscombe that had been given new life by the designers Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway. “We fell in love with ours at first sight,” Liz says, gazing at her pod’s blend of retro artwork and all mod-cons.
At £65,000 for a single pod, and £90,000 for a double — which secures day-use for a 25-year term — the revamped Overstrand pods are not cheap.
The Hemingways — who created the Red or Dead label — were commissioned by Bournemouth Borough Council to revive the Overstrand building. They have done so by modernising pods that were first offered to the public in 1962 but which fell into disrepair by the 1990s. The pods are concrete scructures set above beach level — unlike traditional beach huts. But, like beach huts, they are for day-use only. “The opportunity to work on their regeneration was tremendous,” says Wayne Hemingway, who has bought a double pod.
The Overstrand complex, built in 1958 by John Burton, who also created the partially Grade II listed Boscombe Pier, is set to capitalise on the increased popularity of surfing. Bournemouth will soon become the first town in the northern hemisphere to have a man-made surf reef: work on an artificial barrier to the east of the pier is expected to be finished within months. According to Mike Walcroft, of the Sorted Surf Shop, even the early stages of the reef’s creation has led to “better surf than we usually get, with plenty of good days”.
But few of those attending the launch had been lured by surfing. Instead, as Brett Carter, a content manager for Virgin Media, put it, surfing was a bonus, with a more traditional love of the seaside being the key draw: “There’s a wonderful beach here and having a pod means that we can make a day of it with the kids,” he says. And, in common with the Carters, who live a 15-minute cycle ride away in Christchurch, most of those who braved the rain were locals. Two other purchasers, Brian Deeks and his son Neil, a property manager, were from Bournemouth. Likewise, Russell and Victoria Lawford, for whom curiosity, pure and simple, was the driver: “We’ve got a wooden beach hut near by and wanted to see what we’d get for our money if we went for one of these,” Russell says.
Even in a recession — and in driving rain — it seems we do like to be by the seaside. Or, as another viewer, Tony Martin, put it: “The pods are a bit quirky. It’s a very British thing.”