The heart of the city

An eclec­tic mix of French style in a Ge­or­gian apart­ment in Ed­in­burgh has re­sulted in an el­e­gant home for Ni­cola Buchanan and her hus­band David

Period Living - - Contents - Words Al­i­son Gibb | Pho­to­graphs Dou­glas Gibb

The Buchanans’ el­e­gant Ge­or­gian apart­ment is brim­ming with an­tiques and tra­di­tional charm

Hav­ing brought up their chil­dren in the York­shire coun­try­side, Ni­cola and David Buchanan were keen to re­turn to their Scot­tish

roots. ‘We wanted to en­joy city cen­tre liv­ing again, so went house­hunt­ing in Ed­in­burgh, where we were mar­ried,’ Ni­cola re­calls. ‘We were look­ing for a project and the mo­ment we saw this Ge­or­gian prop­erty in the heart of the city’s New Town, we knew it was the one.’

De­scribed as a ‘dou­ble up­per’, the apart­ment in­cor­po­rated the top floor and at­tic be­d­rooms. It was in ter­ri­ble con­di­tion and had been used as in­sti­tu­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion for many years. It was a rab­bit war­ren of small rooms, full of fire ex­tin­guish­ers and signs, and there were fire doors with heavy door closers ev­ery­where. The Buchanans could see that it would take a lot of work to re­store it to an el­e­gant four-bed­room fam­ily home, but the lo­ca­tion was per­fect.

The cou­ple en­listed a firm of lo­cal builders who had been rec­om­mended as spe­cial­ists in restor­ing Ge­or­gian prop­er­ties. ‘It was quickly ob­vi­ous that they shared our vi­sion and we knew that we could trust them to pro­vide a top-qual­ity re­sult.’ They weren’t afraid to add quirky touches ei­ther, sug­gest­ing an old tin sink from Mar­rakech for the down­stairs cloak­room, which Ni­cola loves.

Pre­vi­ously di­vided up by heavy fire doors, the en­trance hall is now open through dou­ble doors to a peace­ful draw­ing room over­look­ing gar­dens at the back while the din­ing room and kitchen over­look the sunny street at the front of the build­ing. A ren­o­vated stair­case leads up to four be­d­rooms and a new fam­ily bath­room. The dé­cor was plain and un­in­ter­est­ing when they first moved in, but Ni­cola has in­jected colour and char­ac­ter. Dark hard­wood floor­ing has been laid down­stairs, while the up­stairs rooms all have the same neu­tral car­pet.

Aim­ing for a ‘Parisian apart­ment’ look,

Ni­cola has opted for fur­nish­ings that sug­gest faded grandeur, with the rooftop views adding to the chic sense of style and his­tory. She has played with scale in the pub­lic rooms, choos­ing larger pieces for im­pact. ‘Up­siz­ing is use­fully de­cep­tive,’ she ex­plains. ‘It’s es­sen­tial in a big space and can be

fun in a smaller space, as it can make a small home seem more spa­cious and gen­er­ous. A huge mir­ror will take your eye up­wards and dis­tract the viewer from the rel­a­tively small cor­ners of a prop­erty.’

She con­fi­dently mixes styles as well as scale: ‘I have mixed old and new, Africa and In­dia; not stuck to any style in par­tic­u­lar – in fact, I am com­mit­ted to mix­ing,’ she laughs. Ni­cola is in­flu­enced by the in­for­mal­ity of de­sign­ers such as Kit Kemp and Robert Kime. Rus­tic pieces sit hap­pily be­side valuable an­tiques and fam­ily heir­looms.

De­spite its open-plan lay­out, the Buchanans’ home is still cosy. Ni­cola uses fur­ni­ture and fab­rics as room di­viders and for acous­tic ef­fect. ‘Ge­or­gian in­te­ri­ors, with their high ceil­ings and large rooms, can seem bare and echoey if you are not will­ing to be brave about fill­ing them,’ she says.

Ni­cola frames any­thing of in­ter­est: pages from mag­a­zines, hol­i­day sou­venirs, any­thing that tells a story. ‘I use Mc­tague of Har­ro­gate for fram­ing, and they un­der­stand ex­actly what I want ev­ery time,’ she says. An en­thu­si­as­tic shop­per and scourer of an­tiques shops, she loves to col­lect in­spir­ing things and she of­ten has things spe­cially made. ‘But for any­thing I buy, I know ex­actly where it is go­ing to go; I am not com­pletely im­pul­sive.’

She has had to be se­lec­tive, though, care­fully edit­ing things she has col­lected over the years.

The move to Ed­in­burgh was a down­size from their fam­ily home in York­shire. ‘Liv­ing here can be a bit like liv­ing in a ship,’ says Ni­cola. ‘I have only kept things I trea­sure and ev­ery­thing has to have a pur­pose and a place. The house is very or­dered, so we never feel too crowded.’

The fin­ished apart­ment is ex­actly what they wanted and cou­pled with the busy city life­style, and reg­u­lar vis­its from their adult chil­dren, it all adds up to a highly en­joy­able chap­ter for Ni­cola and David. ‘I still visit my friends in York­shire as well, where we spent so many happy years,’ says Ni­cola. ‘Har­ro­gate by train is easy from Ed­in­burgh – I love the dual ex­is­tence, it’s great fun.’ And there are other ben­e­fits, too: ‘I was fed up with driv­ing, but liv­ing here, I walk ev­ery­where. We have keys to a com­mu­nal gar­den, so there is no lawn­mow­ing; plus a fab­u­lous view of the fire­works at fes­ti­val time and Hog­manay. We re­ally could not be hap­pier.’

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