EXTENDED VICTORIAN COTTAGE
Joyce and Peter Ward came across a keeper’s cottage almost two decades ago and, charmed by its location, have transformed it into a chic yet cosy home
A few much-needed renovations upgraded this keeper’s cottage from holiday home to full-time abode
One day while scouring the property pages for nothing in particular, Joyce Ward came across a former keeper’s cottage in East Lothian, close to one of Scotland’s oldest stone-built castles. She persuaded her husband, Peter, that they should view the property and, having been completely charmed by the cottage and its location, the couple put in an offer. Within a few days of first seeing it advertised, it was theirs.
That was 16 years ago, and it took 12 years before Joyce and Peter realised their ambitions for the cottage, having spotted the potential to convert it into a lovely modern home on the first viewing. ‘We were both so busy in our working lives,’ says Joyce. ‘It was a lovely cottage, full of character and perfectly comfortable, in a rustic way. We were living in Edinburgh and had bought it for weekend and holiday use. It wasn’t until Peter retired and the lure of the countryside had taken hold that we decided to sell up in the city, downsize, and make the cottage our home. But before we could do that, we had work to do!’
In 2013, Joyce and Peter contacted an Edinburgh architect they had worked with on several projects in the past. ‘Having a good relationship with your architect is so important,’ says Joyce. ‘We gave him our ideas and he made them work.’
The cottage had already been extended by the previous owners, who had added a two-storey extension onto what was formerly a two-roomed cottage, more than doubling it »
in size. this clever extension was given a flat roof so that it couldn’t be seen from the front and therefore didn’t detract from the historic character of the cottage. the challenge for Joyce and Peter was to remove all the internal walls of the ground floor of this extension and convert what was then a main bedroom, en suite bathroom, corridor and a kitchen into one large space. ‘We wanted this to be a light-filled open-plan living/kitchen/dining area with large sliding doors that would give access to the south-facing part of the garden.’
With the help of a structural engineer it was deemed that this would be possible using an RSJ of over seven metres in length, running the width of the extension, with a smaller one running in the opposite direction. these would support the upper floor and staircase. in order to get them in, a large hole was knocked into the side of the house. they were then laid on a concertina platform and winched into position. ‘that was a tense day,’ says Joyce. ‘We had to send Peter back to edinburgh as he was convinced the builders would never get the beams down the tiny road to the cottage, let alone get them inside! it was the most stressful part of the build but well worth it in the end.’
With the beams in place and all the equipment removed, the couple could start to get excited about the fantastic space that they had created, but the real work was, in fact, just beginning. ‘naively, i imagined that upstairs might get a bit dusty during the build but would be otherwise unscathed,’ says Joyce. ‘in reality, the builders had to virtually deconstruct »
the bedrooms in order to position the beams into the floor space. Basically every single other room in the house then needed a complete makeover!’
Being very practical, Peter was quite hands-on during the design and build. However, he was happy to take a back seat on colour schemes and furnishing. ‘I wanted this home to have a completely different feel from our Edinburgh house,’ says Joyce. ‘Most of the furniture from there was too large to bring here, and this meant I virtually had a blank canvas.’ At times, however, she found this quite daunting. ‘Online you have access to so much choice. I found it quite hard to make a decision and then stick to it.’
In the end she decided to opt for a neutral palette of white walls contrasted with different shades of grey, both in the paintwork and also for the furnishings. The idea was to then add colour to the living spaces with cushions, rugs, throws and pictures. Opting for accessories in differing hues of blue, with bold golden touches, as well as colourful, distressed picture frames has all worked to brighten up the mix. ‘Everything has come together perfectly. Our home finally has the casual feel I was hoping to achieve and it works so well with the beautiful light we have here. We’re very lucky that it’s a bright house, even during the depths of winter.’
‘We have a few property projects under our belts now – who knows if there will be any more?’ says Joyce. ‘But at the moment I can’t imagine it. We have all that we need right here.’
Living area Within this light open-plan space, Joyce and Peter have created a cosy corner for winter nights. Contura wood stove, G Christie & Sons. Reindeer hide throw, Beech & Birch. Rug, Gudrun Sjoden.
Kitchen Joyce has used part of an old shop counter under her island unit. Reclaimed Indian wooden floor tiles (rear wall), Rockett St George. Mirror (used as splashback), Maisons du Monde. Skeleton clock, Time & Tide.
Exterior The cottage sits in threequarters of an acre of garden, naturally landscaped around a rocky outcrop.
En suite A geometric pattern on the wall adds a modern touch. Floor and wall tiles, bothFired Earth. Mirrors, Ikea. Bathroom fittings,Bathstore. Towels,The White Company.