How Jackie has moved from dolls' houses to her amazing Light House
SUCCESSFUL Derbyshire entrepreneur Jackie Lee grew up in St Mawes, Cornwall, with a spectacular view of the harbour and St Anthony lighthouse from her bedroom.
It's a sight that has stayed in her heart and mind ever since. So, when she decided to have a house built seven years ago, she chose a hillside spot overlooking a breathtaking landscape.
There's no view of the sea in Belper. Nevertheless, the house offers a magnificent panorama which takes in the River Derwent, the famous East Mill, and a swathe of beautiful countryside.
Jackie is managing director of the Dolls House Emporium, a multi-million-pound company employing more than 60 people in Ripley.
WITH THIS VOUCHER YOU PAY JUST
1. Voucher is not exchangeable for cash and is non-refundable.
2. Voucher can only be used once, per customer, per transaction.
3. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers or promotions.
Contact: 01246 386616
Valid until: Tuesday, May 28 2013
It is a world market leader in its field, which has to be a tribute to 59-year-old Jackie, mum of three grown-up daughters and soon to be a grandma for the third time.
Her family business began as a cottage industry in the basement of her previous home, an Edwardian house in Belper, 32 years ago.
Today, this award-winning firm with a factory and retail shop in Ripley's High Holborn Road, sells around 30 different styles of dolls' houses, both ready-made and in kit form, to customers all over the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
It offers stunning designs both for children and grown-up collectors, costing hundreds or sometimes even thousands of pounds. The designs, complete with miniature accessories, include cottages, castles, mansions, and a sophisticated Malibu beach house.
But most beloved of all the homes in Jackie's life is the Light House, the home she retreats to every evening after a challenging, if thoroughly enjoyable, day at the office.
There isn't a dolls' house in Jackie's range that resembles the Light House because it's a unique design developed by Jackie and award-winning architect Anthony Hudson to fit into its location – a steep rocky hillside, which was once the site of a quarry.
An elegant blonde, Jackie cuts a trim, neat figure as she welcomes me into her home of solid red stone, timber and glass, with a steel structure.
As she takes me into her living space, a huge open plan room with spectacular and far-reaching views, Jackie says: "I'm pleased that my house is very modern without being stark or severe."
In softly spoken tones that belie her determined, highly focused character, Jackie tells me: "I didn't want to build anything brutal. I think that in a way I was inspired by my parents' house in Cornwall which they built overlooking the harbour in St Mawes in 1962.
"It was modern but tasteful. My bedroom overlooked St Anthony Lighthouse but that isn't the reason I call this home Light House. That's just a nice coincidence."
The reason for her choice of name is obvious the moment you walk into her living space. It is light and airy thanks to the bank of huge glass sliding doors that lead on to a wide balcony.
As she explains: "This room has been designed to maximise the natural light and beauty of the landscape. It's really three rooms in one – living, dining and kitchen."
It is a spectacular, with its warm oak floors, décor of natural shades, elegant flower arrangements and tasteful accessories. It is decorated in soft neutrals with splashes of yellow and duck egg. Fresh orchids grow in pots and there are lots of colourful flower arrangements.
The kitchen has a real retro feel, evoking those lovely warm 'mom and apple pie' kitchens of 1950s Hollywood movies.
While many fashionable kitchens today come in downbeat shades of black, grey, white and beige, Jackie's is resplendent in pastel aquas and apple greens.
"I didn't want one of those monochrome kitchens, I find them depressing. I love lots of colour.
"I can stand here in my kitchen looking out over the soft green landscape and it all works beautifully. I can't see the point of having a lovely view if you can't enjoy it when you're in the kitchen preparing food."
It's also a functional kitchen containing all the essential mod cons of 21st century living, Jackie points out.
Because of the property's commanding position, the brief for the architect was bound to be tricky.
Jackie says: "I have always been interested in architecture and I knew in my mind the sort of layout that would work on this site. Although it's on a steep slope, I wanted my main living and entertaining area, kitchen and master bedroom suite, to be on a level with the entrance."
Architect Anthony came up with a concept that fitted her wishes. His design also includes a suite of three guest rooms, two bathrooms and a laundry room on the lower ground floor level slotted into the slope beneath.
The feature that gives the house its name is the daringly cantilevered glass and stainless steel sun room that projects 16ft from the facade over the terraced garden in front of the house.
It took two years to plan and design the house.
Jackie says: "The planners at Amber Valley Council were amazing. I involved them in the design right from the start and it went straight through."
Despite the large amount of glass in the Light House, the interior never feels over-warm or stuffy.
Jane says: "Because the architect designed the house with an overhang, the temperature remains pleasant all the time. My home is lovely to wake up to and lovely to come home to. It's a house that springs from its landscape and makes the most of its wonderful views."
Previously, Jackie lived in an Edwardian house in Belper, her family home for 27 years. She says: "My three daughters grew up there but I eventually decided to move to another house and spent five years looking."
Now, finally, she has the house of her dreams, one which her daughters Amy, 33, Bess, 31, and Sophie, 28, love as much as she does.
Although she now employs a product designer at the Dolls House Emporium, Jackie is still very much involved in designing the products her company sells from its shop in Ripley, as well as online and by mail order. The dolls' houses are also sold at various outlets throughout Britain, including Harrods and Hamleys in London, and to customers across Europe and beyond.
The firm also produces a glossy catalogue which illustrates its range of ready-made or kit-form houses, complete with examples of thousands of miniature accessories, from grand pianos to chandeliers, Agas to Georgian fireplaces, Victorian sofas to working grandfather clocks, cutlery to cordless telephones and wine glasses to hi-fi systems. Seasonal accessories like Santas and Christmas decorations sell like hot cakes at this time of the year.
While many of the houses are aimed at children, the more sophisticated styles – some 5ft – cater for serious adult collectors.
Jackie says: "The process of putting a dolls' house together, lighting it and furnishing it, is a truly relaxing and therapeutic hobby."
But is she a collector herself? Surprisingly, no.
Jackie says: "I enjoy the dolls' houses from an architectural point of view, and love the management side of the business."
Her company has won several business awards over the years and Jackie is honoured to have been asked to be one of the judges for the prestigious American Stevie Awards taking place in New York.
She says: "I'm delighted by this because they are known as the business Oscars."
After showing me round the Light House, Jackie takes me into her lovely gardens, which feature five terraces, a circular pebble labyrinth, lawns, flower beds and a spectacular sculpture called White Eagle.
Jackie explains: "He's a native American spirit guide – I'm interested in spiritual matters. The design of my house was influenced by feng shui principles.
"Both the architect and I were keen to reflect the movement of energy in the house, as well as taking into account the sunlight and sunset. We felt it was important to position the house correctly, using the space we had to best advantage."
One of Jackie's favourite ways to relax is horse riding. She says "I keep my horse Ebony – she's a small Irish cob – at Alderwasley. She's 26 now but when she was ten, the vets wrote her off. But she's doing fine. She's looked after by a horse healer called Gaynor Davenport, from Wiltshire.
"Gaynor is a specialist in ayurvedic herbs and treatment of horses. She's been looking after Ebony for 16 years. We were among her first clients; now she treats the horses of the world's top riders. She's amazing.
"We got Ebony for the children when they were young and we've had her ever since. She's been wonderful."
JACKIE Lee's Dolls House Emporium enjoyed that Hollywood feeling when movie-makers turned up on its doorstep.
The firm was approached by 20th Century Fox last year to supply props for Gulliver's Travels, starring Jack Black. The film is about a man who visits a town called Lilliput where all the people are less than 6in tall.
Staff at the High Holborn Road shop were sceptical when the company first got a call from Fox UK but the film-makers arrived at the shop soon afterwards.
On two separate visits the crew bought about £2,000 worth of miniatures, including bath taps and tiny pink slippers.