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Gallery: Angela is a dream come true

PUBLISHED: 12:20 23 August 2014

Clare Perkins' living hut, named for her mother Angela

Clare Perkins' living hut, named for her mother Angela

Archant

Clare Perkins from Woodbridge invites readers inside her carefully crafted country hideaway.

Memories of a blissful Cornish childhood, where the glistening sea is never too far from reach, provided the inspiration for this rather cute portable abode.

Wedding dress designer Clare Perkins, who once worked with Norman Hartnell, has, in creating ‘Angela’ (named for her mother) fulfilled a lifelong dream, saying she has longed for something like it since she was just seven years old.

“I used to play with my dolls with my best friend in her garden in her mother’s gypsy caravan. We were only allowed in it when we were very good and it really was a treat,” she says.

The idea, says Clare, of the van also appeals to her love of the country and the growing kinfolk movement. “I think my nickname is the posh gypsy because I’ve moved 31 times. I’m always told I have a bit of Romany in me. For me this is like a grown-up playhouse. It’s an escape. I just think it’s somewhere special and magical and everyone who’s stepped inside her says it is a happy place. I feel creative in there and relaxed.”

The van was designed completely from scratch by Clare, taking around a year to be crafted by a local carpenter.

“The main feature,” Clare recalls, “was that it had to be light, which is very unusual for a living van. I had to have lots of light and I wanted to have a verandah so I could still be outside when it rained. Also, I grew up in Cornwall and when my father died my family decided to sell the cottage to help my mum. I have taken colours from that cottage in the design - it was exactly the same, blue and cream. The colour had to be sea and sky and cream like Cornish cream.

“I just can’t fault it. Everything is immaculately done, and every single bit of wood was planed and painted and fitted.”

From end to end, the van is 22ft long and 5ft 7ins to 6ft wide, and the designer has waved her creative wand over the interior, giving it a gentle, Franco-English look, with crisp white pieces blending into soft pastels.

Clare opted against curtains and has dressed the windows using the same muslin she uses to make the toiles for her opulent silk wedding dresses and trimmed with remnants from blue striped Laura Ashley fabric.

“I wanted to keep the colours plain. The bed I have dressed in white cotton pintuck broidery anglaise, with blue and white fresh gingham pillows and a striped throw.

“There are rag rugs in sorbet colours, a Parisian wash basin with an Adnams jug underneath. And outside we have a pink rocking chair. I put a rocking chair in there in case it goes to weddings so nursing mothers can use it. She [Angela] went to a wedding recently and four mothers used the chair and a toddler slept in the bed. It’s wonderful.”

While Angela is available to hire for weddings, and can be delivered on a low loader to any venue in Norfolk and Suffolk, Clare has found her a home in the midst of a field close by to Woodhall Manor where she can be used by couples for their wedding night, or even as an unusual glamping weekend destination, with hopes to add more vans like her to the flock in the future.

“We’ve had an awful lot of interest in her. It’s just a fabulous spot. Across the field there will be a shower using mains water made out of half a caravan beside a viewing platform looking out across the sea.”

The farmer, on whose land Angela resides, is set to build a hot tub on the land too.

If you’re thinking of a relaxed, alternative romantic break, where better to stay than here? Just four miles from the wild beauty of Shingle Street, close to Bawdsey, a 10 minute drive or 25 minute cycle ride from Woodbridge and only 25 minutes from Snape.

Local pub, The Sorrel Horse, does good food, as does The British Larder, which is not far from where Angela is positioned.

“It’s true country living,” Clare beams. “It’s like a slice of old Suffolk.”

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