Over the last year, Instagram has acted as my point of contact with many dealers in the UK. I have met hardly any of them; last year would have been an excellent time to get out and about, but we all know what happened there. But boy do I like chatting, commenting and liking pretty much everything on their Instagrams. One dealer I have kept up a steady rapport with is Howard, the owner of Societique. I comment under so many of his photographs I think I must be in pole position for number one fan, so you can understand my excitement when he agreed to do Knock Knock. Reading it only acted to compound said excitement; I hope you too will enjoy this trip to Morecambe as much as I did.
We moved to Morecambe almost blind in 2004. We made a rash offer on a three-storey Victorian former boarding house pretty much unseen.
It was the Seaside Town They Forgot To Shut Down, according to Morrissey, and it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.
We’d been in London since 1995 - and despite both being Lancastrians - we had no desire to move back north.
Having our first nipper changed all that, however. The nesting gene had kicked in with a vengeance and we were desperate for a place of our own. Something with period features, good bone structure, and some outdoor space.
So far so naive. The first lesson was compromise...
I was scraping a living as a freelance writer and Sonja an artist. We were serial renters in the capital, with no proverbial skin in the property game.
The standard route for 30-somethings like ourselves - newly in the family way - was the shift to Margate, Hastings or Brighton, and still have London at the end of our apron strings.
We had a better idea: The coast! With Mountains! And five-bedroom Victorian houses for under 100 grand!
Morecambe fitted the bill. Three miles from the university town of Lancaster, London was (theoretically) under three hours by train, with the Yorkshire Dales, Lake District and two AONBs right on our doorstep.
The trouble was, it was the height of the Buy to Let boom, and investors with cash to spare had their eyes on the prize too. The 19th Century three-storey stone built housing stock was being snapped up by amateur landlords at an alarming rate.
We found our future home on an estate agents website - not even sure Right Move was a thing then. It had a tiny bit of land at the back (concreted over), uPVC windows (a selling point in these parts), and all downstairs rooms fitted with glazed doors from Wickes (the owner was so proud of these).
But it was a street back from the prom, had sea views from the upstairs windows, and big deep coving in all the main rooms - there were definite signs of life. We jumped in with both feet and had our asking price offer accepted...
Over the next five years, we resurrected the house on a zero budget, trawling charity shops on a daily basis and pulling salvaged materials out of developer’s skips.
It put the love back into our house, but it also gave me a new career - hunter-gatherer antique dealer. In 2012, I kissed goodbye to the byline and became a professional (!) dealer.
We’d originally planned to stay North for a couple of years and then move south as quick as our equity would allow us. We initially treated the move like a prison sentence; keep your nose clean, do your time, flip the house and reintegrate back into polite society with a decent deposit. But the prison life soon grew on us. The neighbours were lovely, the mortgage could practically be paid for in buttons, and it was a great place to bring up our two boys - the beach is literally 100m away.
And because Morecambe is still such incredible value (five-bedroom Victorian terrace still sell for under £100k), we couldn’t afford to move anywhere else without seriously trimming our expectations and going through the restoration battle again.
So, two years ago, we found our perfect place - and this time it really cemented ourselves to the town. It was an enormous Methodist Chapel, in the oldest part of town - again just 100m from the beach.
It came with a pair of huge 10 foot double doors, immense granite columns, and a footprint the size of a football pitch. It was built for a congregation of 1500 local fishermen and their families in 1875. By 2018, it was well maintained but redundant and up for sale.
With a bit of sprucing, it could be perfect storage for the burgeoning antiques business. Plus a studio for Sonja, and loads and loads of event space...
Once again we - well, Sonja mainly - rolled up our sleeves and set to work, righting decorative wrongs and treating this incredible 5,000 square foot building with the sympathy it deserved.
It’s become our surrogate dream home...