Nina Chinsky decided to buy a beach hut in Walton-on-the-Naze for her family, little did she imagine that two years later Seahorse would be a local art landmark!
Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex is a sleepy sort of place. A neighbour of Frinton-on-Sea, the town's small high street leads down to a pier and a pedestrian promenade. At low tide there's a big expanse of sandy beach, which is washed clean again as the sea pours back in at high tide.
There's a bumper crop of terraced beach huts too - more than 1,000 - rising up from the beaches at Southcliff and Eastcliff. It's here that Nina Chinsky, former fashion marketeer and owner of Ladybird Seascapes, has caused a local and national stir with the transformation of her beach hut Seahorse into a colourful canvas for Pop Art.
Nina first got the beach hut bug in 2016 when she and her family - husband Jonathan and two daughters, Ursula and Greta - started renting a beach hut at Mersea Island, also on the Essex Coast. They enjoyed going there so much from their home in Bishop's Stortford that Nina started looking for a beach hut to buy, planning to rent it out when they weren't there. 'It was September 2019 and a red hot day when I first went to Walton-on-the-Naze to look at about 20 different beach huts' recalls Nina. 'One of them was a forlorn, decrepit shack in an absolute state. The 1970s interior desperately needed a revamp and the decking was falling apart but it was all about the location... on the end of the second row, secluded and peaceful.'
Hut Heaven ~ Five months later the beach hut was hers, and, working with her dad David, as handyman, Nina transformed the newly named Ladybird Beach Hut (also her pet name) into 'a cottage at the seaside', offering panoramic views from a sturdy new deck. It opened for bookings at the start of the 2020 school summer holidays and was soon booked solid until November. 'Beach huts became my venture, all about bringing joy,' Nina says, and while revamping Ladybird she also started looking out for another hut on Southcliff. 'I walked into Seahorse and fell in love with it. Again it was on the end of a row, right on the seafront, but I felt it needed its own vibe.'
She bought it just as the second lockdown descended so revamp plans were put on hold. But in January 2021, scrolling through Instagram, she stumbled across a painting of Walton-on-the-Naze beach huts by Samuel Thomas, a Norfolk artist inspired by Pop Art, Art Deco and vintage railway posters. She tagged him in a post and Samuel responded by saying that if she knew anyone who'd like him to transform a beach hut to get in touch. 'That was me!' exclaims Nina, bubbling over, who gave husband Jonathan the task of applying nine layers of white paint to the hut's exterior, ready for the artist to paint at the end of April.
Seaside Spectacle ~ Samuel spent three days painting the hut and the main image, on the hut's side, captures the sunset view from Seahorse, looking towards Frinton. Within it are two people and two dogs - Nina, her dad David, and his two Chihuahuas. The storm doors at the front are painted with surging waves that wouldn't look out of place on a Japanese woodblock print. 'I'm blown away by it,' says Nina. 'You can see it from the pier and from the sea, it's such a spectacle, people love it. We've created an exotic holiday location on the British coast.'
Since then, the vibrant hut, dubbed the 'Pop Art Freedom Beach Hut', has had its own publicity photoshoot and featured in the local newspapers and on the BBC news website as staycations became the hot topic.
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While day-trippers and holidaymakers enjoy Seahorse and Ladybird, Nina makes sure she spends time there too. 'When you come down here it's almost like you enter this other realm. Even when it's busy it's so calming and peaceful, all your worries are gone,' she says. 'I love the sea, the sound of children laughing on the beach. The huts are a place for people to connect with friends and family, to put the devices away and talk, read and play. Here, all your troubles disappear and you're at one with the ocean.'
Book a Beach Hut
Ladybird & Seahorse Beach Huts at Walton-on-the-Naze are both available to rent with Seasonal Offers throughout the year - Valentine's, Easter, Halloween and Christmas... Complimentary days are available for Charities and both beach huts are available for photoshoots and promotions...
To find out more go to ladybirdseascapes.com or find Nina on Instagram and Facebook @ladybirdseascapes
Find out more about visiting Walton-on-the-Naze on the Essex Coast at VisitEssex.com
Browse paintings, prints and greetings cards by Samuel Thomas at samuelthomasart.co.uk