Meet the Owners

Meet the Owners: River House, Rye

10 June 2024

Meet Helen, owner of River House – a vibrant, design-led 70’s-inspired retreat that offers direct access to the shimmering River Rother, with medieval Rye and Camber Sands in easy reach.

What first inspired you to create River House as a retreat?
Very simply, it was a combination of my love for retro design and what I perceived to be a lack of unusual and interesting places to stay in the self-catered holiday market.

Over the years, I have taken my family on various breaks across the UK and, as enjoyable as they were, I often felt that the holiday cottages themselves lacked authentic design choices. Perhaps understandably, owners can be cautious in how they present a home in order to appeal to as many people as possible, but the results can sometimes be bland. In my view, a holiday home should not look like your actual home – it should be fun and provide guests with something a little different.

I absolutely love the 1970’s, so River House is essentially a love letter to the styles of that era. The walls and ceilings are covered in vibrant, swirling patterns and bold colours. The furniture is either vintage or heavily influenced by the 70s. There are even working disco balls on the landing! Think Abigail’s Party meets Studio 54! There are little nods and surprises for guests throughout the house, and not a magnolia wall in sight! I think it is pretty difficult to come to River House and not raise a big smile.

Have you always been in hospitality? If not, what else did / do you do?
Not at all – I have been on something of a journey! I am a teacher by trade, and recently I co-founded Dyslexia Test Centre Limited which provides assessment services to individuals and companies looking for diagnoses in dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. Growing up as dyslexic myself, I understand how it feels to be underestimated by society, and I spent my teaching career helping children to overcome their obstacles to learning and to help them unlock their true potential. Dyslexia presents differently in different people and can be harnessed in order to achieve success in life. Dyslexic people are best known for being poor at spelling but that is just a small part of the story – they can be the most intelligent, entrepreneurial and driven people around. While I would not claim to be any of those things, River House has come about because I am dyslexic – not in spite of it.

What’s the best thing about being the owner of River House?
The guests – it is all about the guests. I get so many lovely reviews and comments from people staying with us. I am confident that River House is unique, but I am very aware that interior design can be subjective, so I am humbled that I am not the only person with a love for all things retro!

What’s your favourite feature of the retreat?
The garden is south-facing, so it is the perfect spot for sunbathing in the summer months, and possibly enjoying a couple of pina coladas in the evening before strolling along the river to Rye. Did I mention we have disco balls?!

What do you love about the local area?
For me, it has everything. The house is perched next to the River Rother and yards away from a wonderful country pub. The picturesque town of Rye is only a 10-minute walk, where you will find eclectic shops, fabulous restaurants, art galleries, museums, and lively wine bars all nestled on cobbled streets that surround an ancient church. Rye is consistently named one of the UK’s prettiest towns, and it is easy to see why. There are wonderful sandy beaches a very short drive away, and the Kent/East Sussex area is renowned for its world class vineyards. There is something for everyone, although my personal favourite thing is to spend hours perusing the many vintage and antiques shops!

What’s next for River House?
This year we are going to revamp the garden. It is a couple of years since we renovated the space and I think it is time for an upgrade. I don’t want to give too much away but, if Love Island were to be filmed in the 70s, it might looks something like what I have planned!

If you couldn’t stay at your place, where would your ideal holiday be?
My husband and I love California so maybe a couple of nights at the Beverly Hills Hotel, followed by a road trip down the Pacific coast (ideally in a vintage Mustang). However, if we are taking the children, we might head instead to a villa on the Med.

Sum up River House in three words
Unique, authentic, loved.

If you were visiting, how would you spend a day at River House?
Brunch in town, followed by a couple of hours browsing the vintage shops and art galleries. Then, pop home for a cup of tea in the garden, before heading to the beach for late afternoon. After sunset on the sand dunes, back to River House to get ready for dinner in Rye at one of the many excellent restaurants. I would also squeeze in breakfast at the local pub (The Globe Inn Marsh) and perhaps pop into a local vineyard or two on the way home!

Find out more about River House via their Host Unusual listing below!

River House

Rye, East Sussex, England
A vibrant, design-led 70's-inspired retreat that offers direct access to the shimmering River Rother, with medieval Rye and Camber Sands in easy reach.
Bedrooms: 3
Sleeps: 6
£200 / night


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