trea­sure seeker

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.’

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...

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

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...

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...

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

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