It wouldn’t surprise me if anyone who has been following the blog is thoroughly confused by the layout of the building. (My Dad still needs a map when he visits!) When I’m making reference to the kitchen and the other kitchen, the bothy, the cottage……it might sound like an enormous building. Well yes, it is a fair size.
It started as a tiny shepherds bothy, built a couple of hundred years ago. Clearly aspirational shepherds, they decided they wanted a step up the property ladder and added a two-storey building to the back of the bothy. And then added a barn to one side. Then somebody decided it would make sense to fill in the L-shape with another barn. Then a milking shed on the higher ground. Then another milking shed to fill in the gap………… Resulting in a rambling 4000+ ft² old building that sits over six different floor levels.
How do you turn a space like that into a habitable dwelling? As far as I’m concerned, the only answer to that is to hire a decent architect. And be clear on what you want.
Well I got the first bit right – I had a decent architect recommended to me. But as to being clear about what I wanted. Hmmm – I think it’s fair to say that my brief to the architect for the design of the house was of the briefest kind:
- A self-contained granny-annexe
- As much natural light as possible
- A room big enough for a baby grand piano
- A library
- A little bit of ME space
Clearly I don’t really do detail. So there you go Mr Architect. Go configure that lot in the 4000-odd square foot of space you have to play with.
I have to hand it to him. The design he came back with was perfect. His original drawings are the plans are still in use today. I didn’t need to change a thing!
1. The granny-annexe:
Actually not many brownie points to him for this bit. There was only one logical part of the existing structure that could be turned into a self-contained space. AKA the cottage – the space that was hastily made habitable just so I could move out of the dreaded caravan. At some point I will need to go back and renovate it properly but it has certainly served its purpose so far.
2. As much natural light as possible:
I was fortunate that the building I bought had a lot of natural openings in it – so there was no need to change the original infrastructure of the building.
According to the plans there are now 30 windows in the building, including 5 sets of French doors, a room with a glass roof and a 17-foot high wall of window in the music room. Can’t argue with that as ‘Brief fulfilled’.
3. A room big enough for a baby grand piano.
This one, it has to be said, was a bit aspirational at the time, given that I didn’t actually own a baby grand piano at the time. In fact, I didn’t actually own any kind of piano at all after I’d had to sell my last one when I moved to Germany for a couple of years.
But then a random conversation with some lovely people one evening resulted in me becoming the proud owner of a beautiful Broadwood boudoir grand. (Boudoir – bigger than a baby, smaller than a full-size). Donated to me as ‘a good home’, with the caveat being that I take it off their hands sooner rather than later. So a professional removal team were hired to bring said piano from the wilds of South-West England to the frozen North.
Unfortunately the only part of the building that was wind and watertight, and even vaguely warm at that time was the self-contained cottage. The door into the cottage is smaller than average, being height restricted by the roof line and immediately inside the doorway there is a large step up to room level. I wasn’t there when the piano was delivered so I have no idea how they got it in the house. (But according to the person who let them in, quite a lot of cursing was involved.)
In any case, the next time I arrived, there it was, in all its glory, taking up most of the space in the cottage.
But that wasn’t its final resting place. The architect had envisaged a music room with a wall of windows and a huge vaulted roof space, overlooked by two galleries – definitely a home fit for a posh piano.
I thought its second removal, into the music room, would be relatively straight-forward given there’s a double door directly into the room. Unfortunately Scottish weather got in the way. Endless rain in the preceding weeks had turned the grounds at the back into some kind of wilderness marshland. Not a great idea to have my beautiful 1840 rosewood grand sinking into a bog in the garden. Plan B was to bring it in through the front of the house and along the corridor. I watched it as far as the entrance to the room. At that point it had to be manoeuvred round a corner and down some steps, with metre thick stone walls on either side. I couldn’t bear to watch that bit.
But all credit to the chaps involved – they got it there safely. So if you’re planning to move a piano – get in the professionals!
4. A library:
From the very first pie-in-the-sky dreams about building my own house, one thing has been constant. I’ve changed my mind on location, style, size, building method…… but one thing has always been there. The house had to have a library.
And OK, I admit it. I’m a luddite – I don’t do Kindle. A book has to be a real tangible, tactile thing. A book can never be thrown away. I am an avid reader. Put that lot together and it might explain why, when all my stuff was finally moved into the house when I came back from India, of the 196 ‘boxes’ in the shipment, 80 of them were boxes of books. Obviously they had to go somewhere…
5. A little bit of ME space:
Let’s face it, a house this size is a party house. But if I’m honest, I’m not always a party person. So my final instruction to the architect was to create a little bit of ME space. A place that I can escape to when the invading hordes arrive.
And I have to say, this, as far as I’m concerned, is where my architect really earned his fee. The whole of the upstairs space has been designated as a master bedroom suite, complete with a bedroom and bathroom that combined are probably bigger than the poky little flat I rent in London, a tiny glass-roofed ‘snug’ overlooking the living room and, what every girl deserves, a 22ft walk-in dressing room.
Sorry, invading hordes, I do love you really, but if I go missing while you’re here, you know where to look. I’ll be up in my ME space – probably with a good book…..