The bold colour and vibrant handmade textiles in Claire Mcalpine’s riverside home are a nod to her adventurous spirit and love of travel
The former character of this historic Northumberland riverside mill came back to life when its creative inhabitants moved in
Claire and Andrew Mcalpine had scarcely finished work on an extension to their farmhouse, when word reached them that a riverside mill close by was about to come on the market. One phone call later and Claire had secured an invitation to visit. ‘Our sons, Freddie, Fergus, Henry and Archie, were small at the time and the woodland setting was too good to be true,’ she says. ‘I had to call my husband to say: “Thanks so much for building our beautiful house, but I’m afraid we might have to move.”’
The mill was rambling and quirky with low ceilings, amazing views and plenty of secrets. As the couple began to decorate, they unearthed gems, from the drawing room’s original stone fireplace and bread oven to hidden boulder walls, buried mill stones and a fascinating hoard of iron mill workings – all of which have found a place in the mill’s revamped rooms.
Opening the house up and creating a light, welcoming space was a priority. Inspired by their previous home, the couple designed a glazed gallery linking the original mill to a bothy and outbuildings, a design that gives everyone plenty of space and freedom. At the same time, they drew up plans for a glass-sided dining extension to make the most of the river views.
Claire spent her early twenties in Tokyo and travelled all over Asia. ‘From that time, I just fell in love with light, colour and
eclectic interiors,’ she says. It also gave her a taste for travel and subsequent visits to India, Africa and South America have all fed into her style. Even so, she admits she acted out of character when it came to her newly refitted kitchen. ‘I thought white would feel fresh,’ says Claire, ‘ but it looked terrible. I’m very fond of purple and lime so we tried that and it transformed the room. That’s where my penchant for colour started. I went through the house, combining shades that verged on clashing, but we all loved it.’
Balanced by natural materials, pale woods, neutral stone floors and wool carpets, Claire’s choice of saturated backdrops, from uplifting voluptuous pinks to bright limes and sky blues, add warmth and vibrancy. It is her love of art and craftsmanship, however, that sets her home apart. The spaces celebrate the skills of individual makers from all over the world, whether in the bedrooms’ bright throws, made from hand-stitched saris, or offbeat pieces like the rickshaw and carved throne in the hall. Each piece has an element of beauty or comfort that fits perfectly with the Mcalpines’ style.
The family finds the mill’s setting also brings its own drama. ‘The view here is glorious every day of the year,’ says Claire. ‘ When the river is flooding it’s extraordinary. We stand in the dining room and watch goalposts, garden furniture and huge trees being swept along. We’ll never tire of this striking landscape.’
HALL Claire found the elaborately carved chair in Jodhpur. Dowry bag cushion, £50; painted metal Rajasthani storage pot, £75; both Ibbi EXTERIOR The new dining space was designed to make the most of the river view. DINING ROOM The bespoke table was made by Northumbrian cabinetmaker Jason Robinson-gay, with the original drive shaft and workings from the mill wheel as its base. arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs, £ 430 each, The Conran Shop
DRAWING ROOM The stone fireplace had been boarded up; now restored and fitted with a new stove it makes an eye-catching focal point. Woodburner, from £1,686, Clearview Stoves
DRAWING ROOM A large, low-slung armchair adds to the sense of relaxed comfort. The Rosetti armchair, price on application, The Odd Chair Company, is similar
living area The bright throw on the sofa was a souvenir from a family holiday in Peru. Varesi velvet cushions, £65 each, designers Guild
KITCHEN a large island bridges the gap between the working and living area of the open-plan space. Bespoke cabinetry, robinson-gay. tall south african ceramic bottles, £55 each, ibbi living area leafy green curtains not only introduce a hit of lively colour, but can be drawn to divide the living area from the dining room. the keswick sofa, from £1,199, dfs, is a good alternative to this one
Master BEDROOM Handmade furniture was commissioned to suit the scale of each room. Bespoke shelves and cabinets, robinsonGay. kiondo woven baskets, from £12, ibbi Freddie’s BEDROOM indigo textiles and pale wood are cool and contemporary. essence low-end bed frame, £650, John lewis
BATHROOM a dash of schiaparelli pink spices up the more neutral tones in here. Pink Prowess emulsion, £13.99 per 2.5 litre, Wickes, is similar. try Venetian stone tiles, £79.32sq m, fired earth
inner Hall exposed stone becomes even more dramatic when juxtaposed with bold blue. lapis lazuli matt emulsion, £ 40 per 2.5 litres, designers Guild, is a matching colour