Article by Janice Morley
Bachelor Ben Thomas, 29, bought a two-bedroom flat early last year at Millers Quarter, a Weston Homes development in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. An architectural technician, Ben had long harboured the dream of rebuilding a wreck. So when this son of a local farmer in Hundon, Suffolk, decided it was time to buy his own place, he initially went in search of an old property near his family and friends. “In my heart I just wanted to refurb something and make it my own,” he says. And he found his wreck… but then disaster struck. His offer fell through. Disheartened but still looking for a home of his own, he drove past the new Weston Homes apartments in Bury St Edmunds, near the historic market town’s attractive Victorian train station. “I loved the central location,” says Ben. “The flats are so near the town, the supermarket and my office in Bury. I can walk everywhere – I need never use my car.”
DODGING A LOCKDOWN NIGHTMARE
He bought his first-floor balcony flat with his parents’ help. “I am so glad I did because we went straight into the first lockdown. Can you imagine if I had bought a wreck, with all the shops shut, unable to do any work on it and unable to work from home? I would have been living in a building site.” Instead, he moved into one of 135 apartments built in four low-rise blocks within a medieval town that charms tourists with its ancient history, Georgian architecture and picturesque nearby villages. His apartment was pristine. Weston Homes has a reputation for generous fittings such as built-in wardrobes and luxurious bedroom carpets, water-saving hi-tech and wall insulation for low energy bills and sustainability, with living environments that are spacious and light, thanks to built-in ceiling sprinkler systems that negate the need for internal corridors within the apartments.
GETTING THE LOOK RIGHT
With no construction worries, Ben was free to go straight into his interior decorating project. His professional skills enabled him to see the importance of having an overall plan for colours that were sympathetic throughout. With some help from his mother, perhaps? “No, Mum was not allowed to get involved.” Ben is a climber and a hiker and takes frequent trips with friends to Wales and the Peak District. He wanted to bring the colours of Nature into his home. From the large choice of Weston Homes fittings, he’d gone with dark oak-coloured floors and set out to build around this, creating a cosy and welcoming yet fresh ambience. After being locked down for months he decided to get out the paintbrushes. “I’d had enough of white walls. I wanted mustard and green – not avocado – and grey. I went to Farrow & Ball for all my paint. I wanted that chalky finish. “I chose a French Grey for my kitchen, like James Martin’s kitchen on his Saturday morning cooking programme. I really love my kitchen. I love all the work space. I love having people round because it is open plan and they can all congregate in my kitchen while I cook.” Ben chose mustard as his accent colour, using it in curtain fabric and scatter cushions. And hints of mustard in the bed linen work well against moss-green bedroom wallpaper.
Having established the colour scheme, Ben decided to continue with the Great Outdoors theme and bring in lots of big, leafy house plants. “I’m not a gardener,” he admits. “But I thought, how hard can it be? I bought a pineapple plant, a potted Dragon Tree and built up the collection. They are healthy and oxygenating and felt good during the day while working from home. You just have to know how and when to water them.” He is now looking for a large cowhide rug for the drawing room space. “Mother thought of getting one from the farm and having it treated, but I soon abandoned that idea. It’s a messy process.” Fortunately, Ben had local knowledge when it came to tracking down the perfect furniture. He had friends at Glasswells, the stylish and well-known big-brand furnishing and homeware store in Bury St Edmunds. Ben’s instinct was to buy the best he could afford. “Friends who had bought before me had gone to Ikea,” he says. “By the time I bought my stuff, their furniture was falling apart. I was thinking of the future use. We throw too much away.” Ben does have an eye for a bargain though. His curtain poles came from B&Q and are nickel-plated, to match the door handles in the flat.
Ben is pleased with the look of his home and intends to build on its style. He loves the location – surrounded by friends he has known since childhood, and with his parents nearby – and he has total independence. He has to travel a lot with his job but feels the satisfaction of having his own home to come back to. “When you have been climbing in the Peak District all weekend, coming home to a luxe bathroom and a big, comfy sofa is what it is all about.”