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Polly Woolfenden is the caring and passionate owner of Pollyanna Decorating, bringing her creative skills to everything from updated kitchen cupboards to restoring historic Salcombe properties back to their former glory. Here, she explains what she does and what she loves about working on projects of all sizes in the South Hams...
I set up my first decorating company when I first moved back to the UK from Malawi. My partner, Pickle, and I would cycle around west London with our old Pashley bikes with large wooden baskets front and back full of kit and paint, with a stepladder over my shoulder doing little jobs around our neighbourhood. Eventually we both tired of the mode of transport within the big city and both headed to the country. Pickle settled in Somerset and I came to Salcombe, where I planned to carry on but somehow fell into estate agency. I loved matching people to the homes on our books. When the recession hit I was made redundant and went to work for the Gazette. Tiring of sales, I did a year with another established decorating company and eventually felt confident enough to set up on my own again. It had been a while, so I undertook a refresher course with Super Skills Ltd and added wallpapering to my skill set.
I was a PADI Master Scuba Diving Instructor working between Africa, Egypt, Cayman Islands and the Canaries. I gave up teaching after a bad ear infection threatened to take my ‘good’ ear too (I’ve been deaf in my left ear since birth). I’m originally from North Yorkshire but came to Devon to settle as the people I worked with in Malawi recommended I visit and when I first saw the Salcombe Estuary I thought to myself ‘I’m not leaving’. I’ve been here 18 years now and I still think its the most beautiful spot in the UK.
I’ve done everything from restoring stunning three berth boats on the water (in winter!) to painting newly built TV units. I love transforming kitchens by updating cupboard doors. Having spent years working with boats during my stints in Africa I particularly love woodwork and get a real kick out of restoring rotten windows. Recently I have sympathetically restored the walls on a 1620 listed property in Dartmouth and my pride and joy was last winters’ big project in Salcombe; a labour of love getting walls smooth while keeping the authenticity of their age. Its hard work but immensely satisfying and the clients love it. A newly plastered wall is an absolute treat to work on too though!
I enjoy meeting new people and seeing the inside of beautiful homes in the area, I’ve recently painted a huge rainbow in a little girl’s bedroom and when her Mum sent me the video of the big reveal I nearly cried with pride. She absolutely loved it! It’s the relationships you build over time that I value. I’m in a position of trust within your home or family and like to respect that. It also helps that I’m a very physical person, so I can eat anything I want and never have to go to the gym. Although I still love my wild sea swims!
Getting another big project to undertake would be fun but generally I love it when a new client invites me in to address one room at a time, slowly transforming the whole property over a period. Variety certainly keeps it interesting. I’ve also noticed recently that budgets are quite tight and I’ve been invited to do odd days to get properties ready for sales particulars, so the least work for the maximum impact. That’s something I’m happy to advise on; if I can save you money I will. It’s probably the Yorkshire girl in me.
I really love my job and pride myself on my attention to detail and causing minimum impact on your home life. After all, in an area where we all know everyone, it’s customer recommendations that keep me in business.
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