PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 April 2016
Tony Hall Photography
Experience the light and bright world of Andrew and Sarah Ruffhead at their beautiful Burnham Market home, writes Tony Hall
ANDREW AND Sarah Ruffhead’s home in Burnham Market is the epitome of a beach house - white boarded floors, loads of white furniture, light and bright with numerous splashes of colour from paintings, cushions and artifacts. From the entrance, across the spacious deck with a dining table for 12, two white boarded beach huts, wall carvings made by Andrew, the drop keels from two boats, large marker buoys, it is clear that the design notes here are more Hamptons or Mediterranean island, a total contrast to busy Burnham Market.
Artist Andrew explains: “Moving here to north Norfolk 10 years ago was the catalyst for my coastal art. I love this coast and am totally inspired by the local environment, the light, the sea, nature in your face. The whole living experience is quite inspirational and is echoed in my work, which is gaining appreciative clients not just locally, but increasingly across the globe. I am particularly interested in recycling found objects, discovered on our frequent visits along the seashore beachcombing both here and on our trips abroad.”
Andrew, who is originally from Guildford, always loved art at school and went to Brighton College of Art to study printed textile design. He went on to work as a textile designer, producing fabrics and wallcoverings for companies such as Osborne & Little. Later he became a tutor at the Chelsea School of Art and Design, then head of printed textiles at University of East London. While there, he was approached on behalf of the Indian textile industry and together with two colleagues, went to India to lecture on colour and design forecasting. His work has been exhibited in many UK galleries, and in 2006 he was made a National Lottery Artist and was commissioned to produce a lino-print, which is on display in the foyer of Cromer Museum, and in 2011 one of his cyanotype prints, Cactus Corner, was shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
Sarah also studied textile and fashion, before opening a boutique in Norwich. Motherhood followed - son Tom is now 30 and working in the contemporary art department at Sotheby’s. Sarah went on to be a freelance interior designer in Norfolk, followed by many years in journalism, then in public relations. She now runs Andrew’s website, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages, publicising his work.
At his Burnham Market Gallery, Fish and Ships Coastal Art, behind their home, Andrew produces prints, coastal maps, cards, cyanotype photography, pen, ink and gouache drawings and paintings.
Sarah says: “Items that have really caught the public’s attention are Andrew’s artworks of lobsters, prawns, crabs and seagulls, together with fish made from driftwood and pieces from old boats rotting on the marshes or washed ashore. When we take our lurcher dog, Harry, for walks we always comb the beaches for finds which might get incorporated into future art.”
Andrew adds: “I have a good friend in Wells who also keeps an eye out for old boats being broken up; he found those two centre-boards on our terrace. We trade gin or wine for any interesting pieces he finds, great fun!”
Sarah recalls: “With our lifetime love of art, it was only natural when re-doing the interior design of the house a few years ago, to go for a beach style, white and simple, to show both of our collections of artifacts and pictures collected over the years. This home certainly reflects our life together, and every item has a story or memory.
“To continue the white theme, Andrew has also painted most furniture that was not white already. So in the kitchen, the units, the dresser in two halves and the dining table. We both love cooking, but here is very much my domain as we entertain a lot and there is direct access to the walled courtyard and decking. Andrew, who prefers cooking on gas, keeps his culinary skills for when we go to our house in Spain, near Nerja, where we also do a lot of outside entertaining.
“Downstairs we have opened up the living areas into one space; the other we call the library, which is where we can read or watch our collection of DVDs. You will notice we have used lots of mirrors that help once again open up these spaces and now all flow together, allowing space for lots of Andrew’s art and finds.”
Andrew says: “I really enjoy these living spaces; all the angles are very pleasing and the mirrors add another dimension. We get very interesting and exciting light here, so the easily controlled plantation shutters give great control, to set the mood and also remind us of Barbados. Incidentally, a favourite picture, by the French doors, is by Roland Collins. It is of Whitstable, fantastic view, the railway lines, the sea, special.”
On the lacquered console table is a pot full of sea fans. “They are washed up in Barbados and are really beautiful,” continues Sarah. “We go each year and walk along the east coast - the Atlantic coast - where they are washed up. I still also collect sea shells, as you will see in the big jars in the bathroom.”
There are three bedrooms - the master, Tom’s room and a guest bedroom - each continuing the white coastal theme. Up the stairs a complete wall of pictures adds splashes of colour here and there. Back downstairs, I asked Andrew about his love of railways. “I loved them as most children do, a love that never faded. A couple of years back I realised a lifetime ambition and set up a five-track Southern Region OO-gauge model railway in one of the outbuildings, hence the quirky wall signs.
“Our favourite beach is Wells, the space, the beach-huts, watching boats come in, the amazing sunsets... Going out, we love The Duck Inn at Stanhoe, where chef/patron Ben Handley does wonderful food. We also love Wiveton Cafe, where each year I have an exhibition in August in the shop. The cafe is very bohemian.
“Having my own gallery now is wonderful, being able to meet customers, who can see me working, have a chat - it’s a great personal experience and many become good friends. Loving this environment, the house, the coast, the situation. Living here is something very special for both Sarah and me.”
Fish and Ships Gallery, 01328 738621; www.fish-and-ships.com
Andrew will be exhibiting at Art for Cure at Glemham Hall, Little Glemham, near Woodbridge, from April 29 to May 2, and at Wiveton Cafe in August.