Article by Janice Morley

Macarena de la Vega Lopez and her partner, James Nicholson, are among the many London Covid-19 “evacuees”. Renting in Earl’s Court they worked full time in the capital – Macarena as a CBT psychotherapist and James as a sport scientist and sport massage therapist, until the pandemic forced them to rethink their lives.

Originally from Argentina, Macarena, 41, had family and friends in Spain who had heard of Covid long before the virus’s relentless march was fully recognised in Britain. She was already thinking that in a pandemic, a city was not a good place to be. 

James, 40, hails from Ely in Cambridgeshire, where his mother and brothers still live, so he and Macarena started their search for a home to buy in bordering Suffolk. They found the perfect new-build two-bedroom apartment at Millers Quarter, a Weston Homes development in historic Bury St Edmunds, a cathedral town with great shops.

The couple were planning to marry but like so many others, they had set their date pre-Covid and were forced into a rethink. With restrictions in place, they decided to go ahead in October 2020 with a small celebration for 15 instead of a 50, at Kensington & Chelsea Register Office and the Reception at the Eden Room, at The Ivy. 

GREAT LINKS WITH LONDON

It was all change for this couple who, like so many Londoners for whom working from home is becoming an established way of life, were moving a long way out of the capital. However, they both still need to see their London clients. So they will be making the two-hour train journey from Bury St Edmunds to King’s Cross on at least some days in the week. And for that, Millers Quarter offers a great plus – the homes are within view of the handsome Victorian station, from where trains leave for the capital roughly every 30 minutes.

Importantly, James and Macarena’s spacious, third-floor, two-bedroom apartment is well under 30 miles away from family in Ely, and only a short walk from the amenities of Bury St Edmunds town centre. Macarena explains: “My family is in Argentina, so I was keen to be close to James’s family.” 

PROVING HIGH-SPEC HOMES CAN BE KEENLY PRICED

Their new home came in at less than £300,000 – a sum that would not have bought comparable quality in London. Weston Homes developments are well known for their upgraded specifications and use of advanced technology; high-speed broadband, plenty of storage, plus deep bedroom carpets and a choice of colour packages for tiles and surfaces. 

Macarena’s parents in Argentina are architects and her mother is also an artist. “So construction is in my blood,” she laughs. “We originally thought we would buy an old house and work on it. But then we found these apartments, just five minutes from the station.”

Their new home has presented them with one challenge – but it’s a nice challenge to have. Says Macarena: “You would think that it was not difficult working on the interior decorating of a new build. But actually it is very difficult, because it is perfect but not your own and you have to stamp your individuality on to it.” 

The couple were very happy to be able to make colour scheme choices and were also impressed with the thoughtful design, including small points such as built-in washing-up liquid dispensers – helping to keep kitchen worktops clutter free – and the easy-to-use boiling water tap that negates the need for a kettle. Similarly in the bathroom, technologically temperature-controlled taps keep the water at a constant heat, cutting out waste while you “run the tap” until it’s warm enough.

Macarena adds: “Because we were buying early in the build, I was able to choose much of what I wanted – even the direction of the lights. I really appreciated that flexibility.” The couple chose their own lights, not from the plan, “but you can add floor and kitchen colours,” says Macarena.

To all this, she began adding her own interior design style. “Because we have been in this lockdown and living through chaos, I wanted us to have a place that was calm. So it was going to have calm colours. All from Little Greene. The walls were light grey to blend with the wooden floor colour we had chosen. The curtains were natural linen from Ikea. Lighting was peaceful.” And a big tip from Macarena – mirrors were used strategically. “I majored on light and light reflection.”

The couple were keen to keep things sustainable so they bought a second-hand kitchen table and chairs. Macarena says: “I also bought two antique chairs and reupholstered them myself with online instructions.”

With a fine eye for scale and colour, and inheriting her mother’s painterly eye, Macarena framed many of her and James’s most memorable wedding pictures. There are also paintings by her mother, and Macarena bought two stunning, monotone line drawings of prancing horses, which hang above the sofa. Continuing her careful accessorising and with her instinctive feel for the impact of oversizing, large, metal pendant lamps make a stylish statement above the kitchen table.

While colour is mainly controlled and soothing in this home, there are bright, textured pops in multicoloured woven bedroom cushions and in other rooms, too. “It is comfortable, and a mix of modern and antique in a way that suits us.”

Macarena and James provide a lesson in enjoying all the good stuff of modern living, but in a heritage town. This blend of ancient and modern, with a big stamp of personality thrown in, says: “This is now our home.”

Millers Quarter is all sold out BUT their new development, Tayfields, is just around the corner offering new build apartments and houses starting from £191,500. The marketing suite and show homes are open 7 days a week by appointment. Call 01284 630 333.

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