Coastal calm – beside the sea with James and Sarah Myers
Just minutes from the colourful beach huts on Hove seafront, we ring the doorbell of James Myers, a restaurateur turned personal trainer and his wife, Sarah, a former policewoman who now works for a local lettings company. We’re still marvelling at the fact that the beach is literally at the end of their road (and hatching a plan to eat our lunch there later) when the smiling couple open the door. Sarah, who is from Brighton, met James when he came down from London to the south coast to look at a house. He didn’t buy it: instead, four years ago, the couple purchased this house together.
Inside, it’s impeccable: calm, minimalist and decorated in a simple, white, grey and silver colour palette with the odd pop of pink. The studio in the garden, which James has converted into a training space for his fitness clients, was a deal breaker. The way the house is arranged (their bedroom and ensuite are on the top floor; three more bedrooms and a bathroom are on the first floor) also makes it ideal for the couple’s Airbnb business venture. Most weekends, especially during the summer, one of the bedrooms is booked by visitors wanting to enjoy a bucket-and-spade seaside break – something which we’re quite partial to ourselves. With the sound of the occasional seagull in the background, we take a seat in the open plan living space to find out more.
This house is so brilliantly located right by the beach. How did you find it?
S – It was just before Christmas a few years ago, when I was on the train to Worthing to meet my friend. As I went past Aldrington station I saw a sale sign outside a flat I used to live in. I thought it was my flat so I went on the website to have a look but the first property that came up was this house. I said to James, we’ve got to have it: it’s amazing.
We can understand why. What do you love most about the house?
S – The fact that Brighton is just ten minutes’ drive along the seafront but where we are it’s so quiet. You can just about see the sea from our bedroom window, as well as the South Downs.
J – This area is predominantly full of families so the only noise you hear is children playing on the trampoline. It’s a good summer house: the back wall is all glass doors which we can open right up when the weather’s good.
And your favourite memory here so far?
S – The day we moved in. We had a mattress on the floor because the beds weren’t built. My family came round and we had a bottle of champagne and fish and chips. It was lovely.
That does sound fun – you can’t beat a fish and chip supper. Speaking of food, James, tell us about your restaurant business…
J – I used to own five restaurants, all called Ruby in the Dust, around London. They were quite famous in the 90s. I sold them all but kept the site in Camden, which became the Camden Bar & Kitchen. I also had a pub called The Vine in Kentish Town, near where I used to live. Some of the framed black and white posters we’ve got, such as the Madonna one on the stairs, once hung in the restaurants.
Being in North London, you must have had some famous faces pop in?
J – Pete Doherty from The Libertines used to come in to the Camden Bar & Kitchen. I had a black and white picture of him, where he’d written ‘this is best breakfast in Camden Town’. I stupidly shoved it on ebay for £300.
Do you cook much at home yourselves?
J – We are the worst cooks so we eat out a few times a week. Brighton and Hove has some pubs with very good food like The Ginger Pig, but there isn’t a proper gastro pub with an open kitchen and a couple of great chefs who put on ten dishes that change every day. Our favourite place I would say to eat out is Fatto Mano, which is a great pizzeria. I would never go back into restaurants again though; you have to live and breathe it and I’ve done that.
Fair enough: it is so important to get that work life balance right. From owning restaurants to being a personal trainer sounds like quite a leap though…
J – After I was out of the restaurant industry, I was going to the gym four times a week and I saw an advert which said ‘you too can be a personal trainer’. That was it. It’s very similar to restaurants in that you are one-on-one with people. Standing at a restaurant table talking is very similar to standing in a training space with someone. It’s about constantly communicating, keeping a client motivated and helping them to progress. Personally, I run four or five times a week and in the summer, I go down to the beach and have a little swim.
We’ve clocked the Elvis poster in your gym, and the drum kit upstairs. Are you a fan?
S – James loves Elvis. Usually we do lots of small trips – we went to Ibiza for five nights in May and the South of France for four nights in August – but next year we’re going to New Orleans, Memphis and then Graceland for our final night.
J – I’m actually in a covers band called Dead70s, which I started with a couple of guys I was training. This summer we did a great gig at LagoonFest, a festival that raised money for the Lagoon at the end of the road. We were asked to play as one of the bands on the line-up and we ended up coming on just before Fat Boy Slim was DJing and playing to 1,000 people. That was really great.
Sounds amazing, we love a festival, especially one by the sea. Sarah, what are your hobbies?
J – Sarah is a serious shopper. I swear, I work from home and I go to the door three days a week to get parcels and if I’m not going to the front door to get parcels I’m taking parcels to the post office. Is this normal life?
It is for us James, we confess to being regulars in the post office returns queue ourselves…
S – I do love shopping, it’s true. The most recent thing I bought was a glitter ball which is hanging up outside the back door. I like my home to be neutral and calm, but then you can’t beat a bit of sparkle.
Do you see yourself always living here?
S – We will sell one day, maybe in another five years. Hopefully James won’t be working then and we won’t need the gym in the garden. I don’t know where we’d move to; maybe further into Hove. We’ll definitely stay on the coast though. Living this close to the sea is really special.
As we seriously consider swapping the city for the coast, we say our goodbyes and practically skip down the road to the beach to breathe in some of that fresh sea air.
Words & interview by Emma Love