Fiona Reid on Contemporary Living
Modern homes and contemporary living feature in our latest guest post from property journalist and blogger Fiona Reid.
In my previous blog post here I wrote about Georgian architecture, and, in terms of aesthetics, this week’s topic of contemporary houses couldn’t be more different. Yet the two are linked. Great design lasts. Great architecture is timeless, whether that’s a Georgian townhouse or a midcentury home that looks as modern now as it did when built in the 1960s. Consider the Case Study houses built in California between the 1940s and the 1960s - houses like the Eames House or the Stahl House that remain as influential today.
Some houses just stand out from the crowd, whether thanks to their cleverly conceived use of space or their environmental credentials or their thoughtful use of materials – or, indeed, all three.
The first in this week’s selection, The Duncan House, is surely one of the most exciting properties to have come on the market in Scotland this year. Indeed, make that in the UK. That’s a big statement, right? But just look at this house.
Light-filled and pristine, with full-height glazing that creates a seamless indoors-outdoors flow and a long and lean profile, this striking house was designed by the award winning Scottish architect Gareth Hoskins OBE.
Tucked away in the former walled fruit garden of Kinloch House at Ladybank near Cupar in Fife, the brief was for a ‘glass house’ that would merge seamlessly within the formal geometry of the original walled garden (which extends to around an acre). The result is a building of beautiful contrasts.
The Garden House is believed to have been inspired by the Barcelona Pavilion, which was designed in 1929 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and you can see the references to this 20th century classic in the refined use of materials and the blurring of internal/external boundaries, not to mention the graphic slice of ‘floating’ roof.
The house is constructed of a steel frame, and the plan is defined by two white rendered masonry walls that contrast with the grey whinstone of the historic garden walls, highlighting the juxtaposition of old with new.
The full height windows are separated by hinged oak panels, and these form doors to the garden. The cantilevered roof extends dramatically, providing shade, and high-level windows help create the impression that the roof is floating lightly over the spaces. Wherever you are in this house, your focus is drawn back outside to the garden that envelops it.
The quality of the detailing is evident. Those hinged oak panels were designed by furniture maker Max McCance, who also made the door handles and other timber features throughout the interior.
The sleek angularity of the main section of the house – which forms the open plan living-dining area and kitchen – is contrasted by the circular drum room with its glass skylight, which was designed to create a perfect acoustic environment.
The bedroom accommodation – with three bedrooms including a master suite, and a family shower room – is arranged along an elongated ‘wing’ to the side of the living zone with views out to a line of mature fruit trees that remind you of this garden’s past life. The design of The Duncan House is both dynamic yet beautifully restrained.
The Duncan House is for sale from the Cupar office for offers over £950,000.
This week’s second property, Eden, was designed by its owners working with the late architect Bob Watt. One of the owners is a saturation diver who worked on the design while living underwater for weeks at a time in a pressurized chamber. Why is this detail relevant? Well, because this house is the antithesis of that vision of cramped, restricted living as Eden is instead vast and light-filled, with extensive sections of glazing pulling in the surrounding landscape and views.
Located in the hamlet of Woodside to the north of Largo Law in Fife, when this half-acre plot came onto the market the owners grabbed the chance to build the house of their dreams.
The floor plan is arranged around a galleried central atrium with a cathedral ceiling, and the vast living space is punctuated by a giant woodburner that defines the seating and dining areas. A bespoke curved glass staircase also defines the plan as its glass wall separates this main living zone from the kitchen and family room, which doubles as a home cinema.
The master suite is on the ground level, along with a study, and there are four bedrooms upstairs (two en-suite), all of which open on to balconies. There’s also a library within the galleried area, and again this opens onto a balcony at the front of the house.
There’s so much drama to this house, but also consider the eco features, including PV panelling and two air source heat pumps with underfloor heating throughout the ground level. This project required vision and a long-term commitment from its owners, as Eden took two years to build, but the result is a unique home.
Eden is for sale from the Cupar office for offers over £695,000.
The final house in this week’s selection is located on Essich Road on the southern fringes of Inverness, and has around 4.6 acres of land. Having previously built a very traditional house, when the owner of Essich Lodge had the opportunity to build again in 2008, she decided to embrace a contemporary aesthetic that would still have a resonance of traditional building techniques and materials.
The result is this striking looking property designed by McKenzie Strickland Architects. Externally, Essich Lodge features materials that sit well within the Scottish landscape including Caithness slate and larch wood, while internally this five bedroom house is all about volume and light.
The style of this interior is set from the entrance where the double height vestibule opens into a dining-hall with a floor-to-ceiling window that immediately connects you to the landscape. The drawing room is also double height, and again floor-to-ceiling glazing pulls in the views with doors opening onto a raised slate terrace and verandah.
There’s also a galleried living room – this house was clearly designed to create fantastic entertaining and social spaces – while the kitchen features walnut cabinetry by Smallbone of Devizes with an oil-fired Aga and with slate flooring from Mandarin Stone. As with Eden and The Duncan House, the quality is evident in the materials used here.
Essich Lodge was also designed with energy efficiency in mind. Along with two woodburning stoves, a geothermal ground source heat pump provides the heating, including underfloor heating throughout the ground level, and the highly-insulated house features Scandinavian double-glazed windows. Easy comfort meets timeless style.
Essich Lodge is for sale through the Inverness office at £950,000.
Fiona Reid is a freelance journalist writing about property and interiors for a number of publications including Scotland on Sunday. She blogs at www.copperline.co