Every year I have a phone notification for opening day reservations for beach huts in North Devon where I live so I can be sure I get the one I want.
When I started renting almost 20 years ago, you could just move on the same day. Now you have to be with the lark – just like those in Dorset this week who stood in line for over 24 hours to get a mini of the res.
But don’t expect to relax once you get the one you choose. I’m already on the hunt for accessories to make my summer statement – a cashmere blanket, vintage picnic baskets, a retro cocktail shaker.
A beach hut was once a glorified shed. At most it would house a few deckchairs and perhaps a portable stove. They were practical, a step above a tent. Now the huts, which can sell for up to six figures, have become the ultimate status symbol.
They have become an inspiration to the Instagram generation and the hashtags #beachhutlife and #beachhutstyle create imaginative seaside interiors.
As the author of five bestselling Beach Hut novels and judge for the Beach Hut of the Year awards, I have seen all kinds of wonderful interiors.
Traditionalists stick with a blue and white color scheme with nautical accessories – ropes and seashells – but the world is now your oyster when it comes to expressing yourself. Red polka dots, neon accents and icy pastels are all the rage.
I have seen Smeg refrigerators and gas grills the size and price of a car. As for picnics, you can’t just bring sausages wrapped in foil, you need a trendy tiffin box. And forget about the squash and the cans of lager. It’s themed cocktails and craft beer.
Gone are the days of letting yourself fall on a car mat with an ice cream. Your entire vacation could be spent making sure you’re Insta-ready, right down to the last cocktail umbrella. There is no rest for the hip wickedly!
Veronica Henry’s Impulse Buy will be released on February 3, 2022.
A TOUCH OF HOPE: Painted red with a rainbow on the doors, Hope brings a pop of color to any day at the beach. Vicky Gunn added Hope to her ‘Millie’s Beach Huts’ stable in 2016, but gave her a makeover last year. “There are no modern conveniences, no WiFi,” laughs Vicky, from Essex. – But I have better dishes here than at home. Many people have recently found beach huts and expect a high standard; they want good Instagram photos. ‘ (millies beachhuts.co.uk). Value: £ 50,000
BUILD ME UP, BUTTERCUP: Nikki Devereux’s beach hut has been in the family since 1999, when Mike, who witnessed her wedding, bought it. She and her three children loved visiting it and when he died Mike left the 20ft by 8ft hut to them. Nikki, 60, transformed the hut, named Buttercup, in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. “Mike had kept it very basic, but I turned it into a bright, colorful and cozy bolt hole,” says Nikki, who works as a celebrant. The cabin has a large terrace and a kitchen area with a stove / oven powered by a gas cylinder. Value: £ 80,000
ENCHANTED PLACE: For years Caroline Petherbridge dreamed of owning a beach hut. But the married mother of two feared the cost was too high. Yet last May, the 51-year-old took the plunge. Among the £ 40,000 huts she saw a 1960s flat-roof hut – measuring 8 feet by 12 feet – in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, for £ 28,000 as it needed updating . With friends, she bought the cabin. “We spent the summer using it and then we demolished it to build a new one, which cost £ 5,000,” Caroline explains. “It’s called The Enchanted Place, a nod to the Winnie-the-Pooh books. I furnished it for just £ 300. Value: £ 28,000
RETRO SKY: Beach huts have a timeless appeal, but this one at Barton-onSea in the New Forest dates back to the 1940s. Owner Melanie Swain transformed this cabin into a retro hideaway, inspired by her late grandparents. The cabin is stacked with furniture from the 1940s, right down to the original wallpaper. Glass doors replaced the front door to enhance the view. “The cabin has a calming feel,” explains Mélanie. “It’s a hug in a deckchair”. Value: £ 35,000
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Mudeford Spit in Christchurch Harbor, Dorset holds the title of most expensive beach huts in Britain. This one, purchased for £ 333,000 in 2017 and estimated to be worth £ 500,000, is available for hire through Airbnb and is unusual among beach huts as it allows overnight stays. This cabin is equipped with solar energy and a refrigerator. Toilets and showers require a walk, but there is a water tank, which at £ 339 a night in high season is the least you could hope for
MAKE WAVES IN STYLE: Metro tiled walls and geometric floors aren’t interior design features you associate with your average beach hut. Named Hermione by owner Tamasin Curtis, the hut in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex features mirrored tiles that reflect the sea when you’re seated at the table, the floor is actually linoleum and the dishes are made of Emma Bridgewater (magic daybeachhuts .co.uk). Value: £ 50,000
THE HAPPY HUT HIDEAWAY: “In 2007 my grandfather, Thomas, paid £ 15,000 for a cabin on our local beach,” says Jodie GrangerBrown, of Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. “I remember Mom was mortified that he had spent so much on a ‘shed’. But it’s now worth £ 95,000. In 2013, when Thomas died, he left the 7ft by 10ft hut – named The Happy Hut – to Jodie, now 25, her mother and brothers. It sparked a business venture and in 2020 Jodie and her mother co-founded their rental business The Happy Huts, buying a second hut last year for £ 50,000, which has grown in value by almost 50%. They also manage the rental of 17 other shelters. Although they lack electricity and running water, all are beautiful, from The Boat Shed (pictured) to The Bear Hut. It costs £ 600 to repaint each hut every two years, while interiors can cost £ 3,000 (thehappyhuts.co.uk). Value: £ 95,000
THE BIGGEST THE BEST! : If a gem resting place for a day isn’t enough, there’s always the option of something a little larger that caters to overnight guests. This carnival-colored affair in Dunster Beach, Somerset, is called a beach hut but is sleeker than some homes, with a range of modern comforts – underfloor heating, dishwasher, wi-fi, and en-suite shower. It is available to hire for £ 675 per week in high season. But beware, 2022 is already full (dunsterbeachhut.com). Value: £ 160,000
FRESH ON THE COAST: On a sunny day it’s hard to know what looks more appealing, the sea or the cool interior of this beach beauty in West Mersea, Essex. The L-shaped seat loaded with cushions conceals plenty of practical storage, perfect for seaside paraphernalia. “I wanted it to look all white, airy and contemporary,” says Jo Lowery, who bought the hut for £ 35,000 in 2019, but has since skyrocketed in value. You can hire it for £ 8 a day. (cool coasthuts.co.uk). Value: £ 60,000
Words: SADIE NICHOLAS AND BETH HALE
LOVED BACK TO LIFE: When Carla Edwards and her husband Phil spotted a beach hut for sale near their home in Wivenhoe, Essex, in 2019, Phil, 40, was determined to land the coveted cabin. Graphic designer Carla, 39, was rather more circumspect, which isn’t surprising given the price. “My response was, ‘No way, it’s nothing more than a shed! »», She remembers. “But he didn’t want to let it down. A few weeks later they bought the 8ft by 12ft hut, adding the purchase price of £ 18,000 to their mortgage (although the hut has since risen in value by £ 60,000). However, the financial expenditure did not end there. “The previous owners had not used it for several years, but we loved it coming back to life, spending around £ 2000 to fit a suitable cloakroom inside for more privacy and a nice sitting area to next to the kitchenette – which includes a stove, kettle and dish bowl, ”says Carla, mother of two. “The striped exterior took me hours to paint! “. (beachhuthirehollandonsea.co.uk). Value: £ 60,000
QUEEN OF THE CABINS: When former charity CEO Sarah Stimson and her husband decided it would be prudent to invest properly, they initially had something bigger in mind. However, the 47-year-old mother-of-two from Walton-on-the-Naze quickly discovered that the return to the beach huts was much better. They bought a 3m by 2.25m hut for their personal use and two for rent, priced between £ 16,000 and £ 20,000. However, their value has more than doubled since. “We named each hut after the women in our family who died,” says Sarah. “Our green hut is called Queenie after my late grandmother. Painted in bright and striking colors, the huts are equally cheerful inside and come equipped with a table, six chairs and a gas stove for cooking. (waltononthenazebeachhuts.com). Value: £ 40,000
£ 90,000: ARTY ESCAPE: Wells’ beautiful beach huts are in high demand and sit on stilts perched high on the sand dunes. This one, named Kahakai Hu, has a nautical flavor, with original artwork on the walls. Owner Michael Wilder and his wife Ali bought it for £ 62,000 three days before the March 2020 lockdown, and since its refurbishment its value has exploded. There’s no electricity, no water and it’s a walk to find a toilet – but renting for a week in the summer will set you back £ 330. (beachhuts.com)