A change is taking place on the Kent and Sussex coast. A fresh creative energy and spirit of optimism are transforming the area's once glorious but long since neglected seaside resorts. Here, we take a look at the south-east beach towns that are giving London's artiest enclaves a run for their money
Gallery founders Andy and Sam Shorten show us around the town's vibrant arts scene
Husband-and-wife team Andy and Sam set up Space Gallery in 2011. They've showcased artists including Charlotte Harris and Horace Panter and regularly host events and pop-ups.
Why did you move to Folkestone? The property prices meant we could buy a shop space, live upstairs and open our gallery on the ground floor. When we moved in five years ago, there was only one other gallery in Folkestone. Now, the arts scene is thriving, and independent creative businesses are succeeding thanks to the work of the Creative Foundation arts charity.
What are the area's highlights? The Triennial, which invites artists to use the town as their 'canvas', gets stronger with every show. So far it's commissioned 16 permanent public works by artists including Nathan Coley an Cornelia Parker. The annual Folkestone Book Festival bring in great talent and events at the Quarterhouse are worth looking out for.
Best places to eat, shop and stay? To of our favourite shops are Rennies, which specialise in 20th-century British design, and Anecdote Design, which sells upcycled furniture. We also love Hot Salvation, a coffee and vinyl shop that recently opened in the Old Prince Albert Hotel. The Smokehouse fish and chip shop and Mark Sargeant's Rocksalt restaurant are both must-visits.
What's your favourite beach or walk? The Warren is an amazing beach and offers clear views of the French coast fromFolkestone to Hythe via Sandgate is beyond stunning.
What does the future hold for Folkestone? The seafront redevelopment is tipped to start later this year, which will boost the area's desirability to investors.
Leida Nassir-Pour, owner of lifestyle store Warp & Weft, on the town's regeneration
Leida opened her inspiration shop in the spring of 2010. Her edit of clothing and accessories, a mix of vintage and Leida's own design, has a pared-back, timeless appeal.
How long have you lived in Hastings? I moved here from Brighton six years ago with my partner Will Evans. It was perfect because we could afford to buy a house in the area and I could start a business without crippling overheads compromising my creativity.
How much has Hastings changed since you moved here? It's changed dramatically. There's always been a strong fishing industry, but when we mved here, much of the town was geared up for summer daytrippers – it was hard to get a coffee after 5pm. Now, the renovation of the pier is well under way and there are more independent shops, cafes and galleries that have a year-round appeal. There's more life.
What are the area’s highlights? Visit the Jerwood (jerwoodgallery.org), eat fresh seafood and swim in the sea. Hastings has some of the most stunning architecture of any seaside town, so stroll around or take a funicular railway train to the top of the East or West Hill for views of the Old Town and seafront.
Best places to eat, shop and stay? For the freshest fish and chips, go to Maggie's, which is in a fishing hut on the beach. Butlers Emporium, set in a wonderful 19th-century building, and Alistair Hendy's Edwardian-inspired Home Store are two very special shopping experiences. The Laindons and Swan House are two lovely bed and breakfasts.
What's your favourite beach or walk? In summer, I like to walk along the seafront towards Winchelsea and in autumn, I often head up to the East Hill conservation area. It's covered in bracken and heather, which turn shades of russet and purple – it's breathtaking.
Leather goods designer K Avery-Stallion tells us why she loves this charming Sussex town
K released her first collection of canvas and leather bags in 2010. The utilitarian, unisex aesthetic of her designs recently led to a collaboration with Margaret Howell.
How long have you lived here? My husband Tim and I moved here from London and Derby respectively in December 2007.
Why did you choose St Leonards-on-Sea? It has a beautiful sadness, a rare mix of decay and dilapidation with the potential for magic and a vibrant arts scene. The buildings by Georgian architect Decimus Burton are so beautiful, the ever-changing tides and skies enthralling and the sense of community endearing.
How much has the area changed since you first moved here? A lot. When we moved down there were two cafes, a tiny gift shop, and a few antiques stores – many of the buildings were either vacant or derelict. Now, some superb independent stores are starting to open. I hope that it's the beginning of a rebirth for this once desirable destination.
What are the area’s highlights? Take the Burtons' St Leonards Society architecture tour. Marvel at the multi-coloured townhouses of Stanhope Places, stride down East Ascent through into the gravelled streets of The Lawn and The Uplands. Then, finish with a stroll around he picturesque St Leonards Gardens.
Best places to eat, shop and stay? Rifle through the bric-a-brac at Eammons, or head to Sideshow Interiors for quality vintage furniture and Wayward Haberdashers for a treasure trove of ribbons, fabrics and antique clothing. For brunch, visit Gray's Emporium Tea Rooms, with its perfectly restored Art Nouveau shop front. Int eh evening, I'd recommend St Clement's. La Petite Penthouse is an intimate hideaway for two, or for a more swanky stay, check into the Zanzibar Hotel.
What’s you favourite beach or walk? I love strolling along the promenade all the way to Bexhill-on-Sea to visit the De La Warr Pavilion. Along the way, you'll see fishing huts, beach chalets and if you're lucky, the remains of tThe Dutch East Indiaman 'Amestadam' ship, whcih had been submerged off of the St Leonards coast since 1749.
What does the future hold for St Leonards-on-Sea? St Leo's church is being converted into an entertainment venue and The Kinema Palace, an independent cinema, is being restored. Those are two clear signs that other folk think the area is worth investing in, too. Personally, I hope to work with more British brands and grow my business so that I can help to keep leather-crafting alive on the Sussex coast.
Skincare guru Dom Bridges shows us the new face of one of Britain's first seaside towns
Dom is the creative force behind natural seaweed-based skincare and fragrance brand Haeckels. Established in 2012, t promotes the health-giving properties of Margate's coast.
When did you move to Margate? My wife Jo and I moved to the Cliftonville area four years ago. We immediately felt at home here: the town manages to combine a sense of English heritage with lots of diverse cultures.
How has it changed since then? The town is on fire. It's changed before our very eyes, but I feel positive that it will retain its sense of grit. It continues to draw forward-thinking people who are creative, gracious and industrious, just like the locals who were here before us.
What are the area's highlights? The Turner Contemporary for art and the newly restored Dreamland amusement park for old-fashioned fun!
Best places to eat, shop and stay? Hantverk & Found or Forts Cafe for food an The Reading Rooms for sleeping. Madam Popoff and Breuer & Dawson for clothes; Margate Retro and Fontaine Decorative for interiors; and Vortigern for rare photographic prints and books.
What’s you favourite beach or walk? Three's something very special about Walpole Bay at about 4.45am, when it's covered in thick sea mist. Botany Bay is another beautiful wild beach, and at Reculver you can see a 12th-century church that's crumbling into the sea.
What does the future hold for Margate? It's the original seaside town and I hope it keeps its soul – I would hate for it to become a second-home paradise.
The new extension of this Dutch family home follows the lead of its original architect, Gert Boon, a disciple of Structuralism who favoured sharp angles and bold shapes
Architect Gert Boon designed this quirky country house in the Dutch village of Broek in Waterland in 1965. He was an advocate of Structuralism, and his style favoured the use of strong lines and shapes. ‘He loved playing around with squares,’ says the home’s current owner, Rene Mesman. ‘A good example of his aesthetic in the house is the turned square window: one corner inside and one corner outside.’ Rene, a photographer, lives here with his partner Wendy Lek, a denim and accessories designer, and their daughter Mae (one).
The property has been recently extended and renovated by architecture practice Olm Ontwerpstudio with such skill that it’s hard to pinpoint precisely where the old building finishes and the new begins. The kitchen was completely reimagined in tiles, building board and walnut by designer and friend Jeroen Wand, yet it blends seamlessly with original features such as wood panelling and the striking geometric staircase in the corner. Complementing the house’s interior architecture is a comfortable and colourful mix of vintage and modern furnishings, many of the latter by designers the couple know personally, including Mae Engelgeer, Pepe Heykoop, Daphna Laurens and Nienke Sybrandy. ‘We feel really happy wherever we are in this house,’ says Rene. ‘It’s great to be surrounded by objects that friends have put so much love into creating.’