‘The Outdoors Inspired Our Scandi-style House’
Aileen and Gordon Spink looked to natural materials and their local surroundings to give their home a clean, contemporary look
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Located in a tiny hamlet just outside Arbroath on Scotland’s east coast, Gordon and Aileen Spink’s modern self-build home is set on a plot of land they bought with friends 12 years ago – but it’s not their first self-build. ‘We decided to build one house straight away and save a second plot for the future,’ explains Gordon.
When the Spinks and their friends bought the site it was home to several derelict farm buildings, but they obtained planning permission to demolish these and design six new houses on the land instead. ‘Now, 12 years later, the site has evolved into a community of six bespoke detached houses,’ says Gordon. ‘They all share a similar contemporary style, but have their own individual characters.’
The couple undertook the development with their long-term friend and architectural designer Heinz Voigt, whose practice is located nearby. The couple and Heinz were keen to design a home that would reflect the surrounding landscape and mix in well with the existing local architecture, as well as create a space that would maximise natural light.
‘As the house is set in such a rural location, we wanted its design to acknowledge the traditional farm buildings around it,’ explains Gordon. ‘The materials we chose reflect them, too – we opted for natural stonework and a mix of rendered walls and timber cladding to root the house in its surroundings. It doesn’t feel overly rustic though – the house is definitely 21st century in its style and spirit.’
Inside, the ground floor has a entrance hall that opens into an open-plan, double-height kitchen-diner. There are full-height, glazed, sliding doors at one end, which lead to a covered seating area outside. Further
inside is a main bedroom and en suite, a spare bedroom and a snug-style living room, which also features folding doors that open onto a courtyard. ‘It’s very much an inside-outside home, with patios all around,’ says Aileen.
‘One includes a glass-covered area, which is great for alfresco lunches. The climate round here is often sunny but it’s windy, too, so proper shelter is really important.’ The exterior and main living room feature dry-stone walls built using stones from a local quarry, helping to integrate the house into its surrounding landscape and reinforce its indoor-outdoor feel.
Upstairs, there are two additional bedrooms, a bathroom, a second living room with a southfacing balcony and a small study area on the landing. In order to connect the two levels visually, Aileen and Gordon cut voids into the upper floor, creating a greater sense of height and space. ‘At one end of the dining area, a tall thin window runs from the ground floor to the roof, which also helps to bring the space together,’ says Gordon. ‘Both floors now get plenty of light, which was such a priority for us. We have long winters up here in Scotland and want to enjoy as much sunlight as possible.’
In terms of style, the Spinks added modern elements to both the exterior and interior of their home. ‘We took inspiration from Scandinavian design, as we love the simplicity of that look,’ says Aileen. ‘The use of warm, natural materials and a pared-back palette
‘It’s very much an inside-outside home, with patios all around. One includes a glass-covered area – great for alfresco lunches’
means that the house never feels cold. In our last home, we took a more ‘country-chic’ approach, using chunky, natural wood finishes, but now our children have left home we wanted a change, so we’ve gone for a more streamlined and contemporary look this time.’
In keeping with their love of Scandinavian design, the couple opted for neutral colours and unfussy décor. ‘Outside, we painted the windows and cladding in soft greys, and kept the interior furnishings modern and minimal,’ says Aileen. ‘We used texture to add interest, instead of applying too much colour.’
Inside, their home is brought to life by natural materials and the house’s bold structural details, rather than heavily patterned wallpaper or vibrant paint. When it came to choosing furnishings, Aileen followed her instincts instead of worrying too much about whether pieces she liked would work as a collective look. ‘The house is a real mixture of things we love – we found some items on holiday, others locally and more stuff online, and somehow it’s all come together really well,’ she says. The house also features a hand-made kitchen, furniture made by local joiners and buys from ebay, which all add to its bespoke feel.
Using a pale colour scheme throughout creates a useful backdrop for the couple’s collection of artwork. ‘Our daughter, Hayley, went to art school, so some of the paintings are hers,’ says Aileen. ‘And we’ve been keen collectors for years, so it’s great to have the space to show off all the artwork.’
Now that Aileen and Gordon’s house is finished, the couple love its sense of calm and tranquillity. ‘Its beauty is in its simplicity,’ says Aileen. ‘We’ve kept everything pared back and natural to reflect how we like to live.’ Thanks to the house’s open-plan layout, it’s also full of sociable spaces that are ideal for family life. ‘Our get-togethers are casual and fun, with our grandsons running around both indoors and out,’ says Aileen. ‘We always wanted the house to be modern and spacious, but not too precious – now everyone who visits can really enjoy it.’
6 Guest bedroom A MODERNFOUR-POSTER BED ADDS INTEREST TO THE MUTED ROOM SCHEME For a similar bed, try the Pimlico, from £995, The White Company
7 Main bedroom FLOOR-TO-CEILING WOODEN SHUTTERS SOFTEN THE ROOM’S CONTEMPORARY LOOK For similar shutters, try a selection, Hillarys. Musica double bed, £1,999, Gillies
3 Living room THE COUPLE FELT THAT THE WOOD BURNER WAS A MUST TO KEEP THE HOUSE TOASTY DURING SCOTTISH WINTERS For a similar wood burner, try the Firebelly FB1, from £1,295, Stoves Are Us
9 Patio THE CONTEMPORARY METAL DINING TABLE AND CHAIRS TIE IN WITH THE HOUSE’S MODERN GLAZING For a similar dining set, try the Hartman Amalfi with eight chairs, £1,199, Charlies Direct