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April Cottage
St Ives, Cornwall£1,450,000 Freehold

April Cottage

Designer: Swash London
"As far as the eye could see, fading and falling, in soft low pleats, the green sand dunes with the wild flowing grasses on them" - Virginia Woolf on St Ives in 'To the Lighthouse'

A short walk from St Ives’ Fore Street and sandy Porthminster Beach is this Cornish granite house, designed in 1922 by Bloomsbury architect George Kennedy. With a plan of over 2,800 sq ft, the house abounds with unique details, including its sculptural curved stone staircase, arched doorways and barrel-vaulted ceilings. Thoughtfully reimagined by Swash London, bold prints and bright colours define the house’s decorative scheme. A large garden, with far-reaching views over rooftops to the sea, is home to a swimming pool, a fantastic OSB-clad studio space and a garage.

Setting the Scene 

The house is built on a plot of land that once would have belonged to the gardens of the famous Talland House – the summer house of the Stephens family and their children Virginia (Woolf), Vanessa (Bell) and brothers Thoby and Adrian. Here, in the late 1890s, the Stephens’ children would play and look out at the far-reaching views over St Ives Bay and its Godrevy Lighthouse; the inspiration for Woolf’s later modernist novel, To The Lighthouse.

The lease of Talland House was eventually sold to the Scottish painter Thomas Millie Dow and his wife Florence in 1895. A plot of land in the corner of the Talland House’s garden was gifted to Florence’s half-sister Annie Kennedy, who commissioned George Kennedy to design a beautiful Arts and Crafts-style home of Scottish influence. Featuring a spiral granite staircase within a round turret, it also included a version of his trademark Loggia, used in various of his projects, including Balliol College, Oxford, Tilton House, and the East Sussex home of his friend John Maynard-Keyes, who lived just down the lane from Charleston House. For more information, please see the History section below.

The Grand Tour 

White-painted walls emphasise the house’s brightness and showcase its arches and lofty proportions. They also contrast beautifully with a deftly interspersed use of colour, as in the primrose yellow bathroom and kitchen.

The ground floor is home to the living areas, with a wonderful barrel-vaulted sitting room at its centre. This space, which is dual aspect, is brilliantly light and has characterful Cornish slate floors and a romantic window seat. A glazed door, which is found in one of the arched openings that define this house, leads into the garden. Beyond is a drawing room, currently being used as a study/snug. This room is warmed by an open fire, with a slate hearth and surround. Steps lead down to the cellar, which has been converted by the current owners to a great area for storing shoes.

The kitchen is on the other side of the plan and comprises yellow-painted cabinetry, corian worktops, and a 1970s-style circular sink and drainer. Beyond the kitchen is a useful utility room, this time with lilac-painted cupboards. The conservatory also houses space for a light-filled dining and living area. Surrounded by the garden, and bordered on one side by a pond, each window frames lovely green views. The owners have installed another clever plywood wall, with space to hang pictures and to keep a desk.

Upstairs, the main bedroom has a vaulted ceiling and plywood interventions providing storage, Italian sanitaryware and a freestanding Agape Viejes bath. The family bathroom is clad in bold yellow square tiles and has a deep soaking Japanese bath and a separate shower. The room includes a sculptural Carrara marble sink, also by Agape. There are three other bedrooms on this floor, all of which lie at the back of the house and have peaceful views over the garden and, in the distance, the bay. The last bedroom along the corridor has an en suite shower room.

At the foot of the garden is a terrific office or studio space, currently used by the owners as a pottery studio. Internally, it is lined with OSB and has a long picture window that overlooks the garden. A garage provides handy storage space.

The Great Outdoors

The south-facing garden is wonderfully sheltered, bordered by mature trees which provide privacy, creating an oasis, especially during the summer months. Borders are filled with flowering magnolia, hydrangeas and lilies, whilst the rest is lawn. A terrace lies directly off the house, perfect for eating outdoors.

The swimming pool was fully renovated, during which time the owners spent several weeks hand-painting the bespoke ‘pool print’ using seven bold colours in an abstract pattern, taking initial inspiration from the sleeve graphics of an early edition of To The Lighthouse.

Out and About 

The house is in a fantastic position in St Ives, an area which has long been associated with artists attracted by the evocative Atlantic light, the sea and the historic architecture, including its 20th-century school of sculptors, painters and ceramicists. As a result, St Ives has many galleries, from the Tate, the Penwith Gallery, the thoughtfully preserved Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Leach Pottery, as well as many smaller, independent galleries including New Craftsman Gallery and Anima Mundi.

The town is full of superb eateries, cafés and independent shops, including the newly opened wine bar and coffee shop St Eia, serving natural wines and small plates, Little Palais, which again offers low-intervention wine and cocktails, and tasty seafood at Porthmeor Beach Café.

It is also home to an array of beautiful beaches and rambling walks. The clean clear waters of the Blue Flag Award-winning Porthminster Beach are just a 13-minute walk down from the cottage. While Porthmeor is probably St Ive’s busiest beach, there’s a smaller cove on The Island, a stretch of headland crowned by a chapel and complete with fishing-themed tiles by Bernard Leach. The 630-mile South West Coast Path also runs through St Ives and offers wonderful walks in both directions. Heading west leads to the pretty village of Zennor and further to the Penwith peninsula. East leads towards Portreath and Newquay.

In terms of transport links, there are direct trains from Paddington to nearby St Erth in under 5 hours and another connecting train from there to St Ives in 10 minutes. The house is a short drive from many other popular parts of Cornwall, from the Helston River to Penzance and Falmouth, to name a few.

Council Tax Band: F

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. Inigo has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.


George Kennedy married Millie Dow’s daughter Mary in Penzance in 1913 the year their portraits were painted by Kennedy’s closest friend, artist Henry Lamb, a founding member of the Camden Town Group and a follower of Augustus John. Lamb painted many other celebrities of the period such as T E Lawrence, Lytton Strachey, Lady Ottoline Morell and Leonard Woolf and also later went on to paint a Kennedy family portrait featuring George, Mary and four of their five children.

Later, George took up architectural practice in London, where he introduced his nephew Richard to Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press. Fifty years on, Richard Kennedy recalled his time there in his book, A Boy at the Hogarth Press.

Meanwhile, April Cottage remained in the Kennedy/Millie Dow family into the 1950s. Annie Kennedy’s niece Elsie Griggs (nee Pilcher) was a frequent visitor and one-time resident of April Cottage. An educated and independent woman, Elsie had a great fondness for animals and was a dedicated farmer.  There are wonderful tales of Elsie keeping livestock in the house and grounds of April Cottage together with running her successful Tremedda Farm in nearby Zennor (now the home of the delicious Moomaid ice cream produced by her descendants). Elsie hosted her long-time friend Virginia Woolf during the 1920s/30s along with other ‘leading lights’ of the period, not least the author D H Lawrence.

Other notable figures connected with the Millie Dow and Kennedy families and probable visitors to April Cottage include Katherine ‘Ka’ Cox and authors, Rosamunde Pilcher and Margaret Moore Kennedy.

April Cottage — St Ives, Cornwall
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