Georgian elegance abounds in this tenement flat in Edinburgh’s New Town
Buying a home isn’t always love at first sight. Indeed, for interior designer Asta Young-Smith, her initial reaction to this Georgian apartment in Edinburgh’s New Town was underwhelming. As she says: ‘The flat had no soul. The interior was bland, with magnolia walls, pine floors and a dated kitchen.’ But, though Asta wasn’t excited, her partner Stuart Holligan most certainly was. ‘We’ve refurbished a few properties together and have picked up a lot of knowledge over the past few years, so this was my chance to put it into practice,’ Stuart says.
Originally, the kitchen was at the back of the flat, along with a bedroom, with a second bedroom at the front, alongside the sitting room. There was a box room off the hallway, which was useful for storage but felt like dead space in a flat of this size, so the couple decided to reconfigure the layout and make every inch of this property work for them.
Stuart and Asta made the bold move of taking out the internal wall between the box room and sitting room to create a big, open-plan kitchen and living space better suited to how they wanted to live together as a family. The couple were then able to create a third bedroom from the former kitchen, giving them a useful guest room.
Asta was faced with the challenge of designing a functional kitchen within a compact floor space, while ensuring the cooking zone didn’t visually dominate the open-plan room. She achieved this by using a combination of cabinets from German firm
Hacker and utilising the full height of the space with high-level units. She also chose two different finishes, Laser Soft Taupe and Terra Oak Matt, to create a layered effect, with open shelving tucked into a recess. ‘To design the kitchen in a way that was practical with plenty of storage was challenging, but now it really has become the heart of our home.’ A small peninsula separates the cooking area from the living space, and serves as a breakfast bar that’s also the perfect spot to perch while someone’s cooking.
As Asta says, details can make a room. One of her additions that has really had an impact is the antiqued bronze mirror splashback – a glamorous choice that also reflects light back from the tall windows in the living room into the kitchen at the rear. The mural in an alcove on the end wall is another inspired
inclusion. ‘When I saw it online I felt the tones were right for this space, and it feels like a view, as if you’re looking out of a window,’ she says.
Stuart has been involved in refurbishing properties for years and worked on their new apartment every day, adding shutters and window seats - features that look as if they’ve been here forever.
The couple also decided to add wooden panelling to the rear bedroom (previously the kitchen), taking inspiration from the original flagstone floor to create a look that wouldn’t seem out of place in a country house. Stuart drew out the plans for the panelling and made and fitted each piece with his joiner. He then carried the theme through into the other two bedrooms, with bespoke panelled headboards and wardrobes. ‘It has worked so well,’ says Asta, ‘and
‘You can’t be scared to rethink your design choices - if something doesn’t work, change it’
Farrow & Ball’s Mole’s Breath paint on the walls and panels is such a wonderfully rich colour.’
There was the odd moment of panic during the renovation work, such as when a pipe leaked in the utility room. ‘We had to cut a hole in the wall to fix it, and it had just been freshly plastered,’ Asta recalls. But then, as she says, minor glitches are to be expected when working with an older property.
The apartment’s mix of crisp detailing and luxe elements reflects the couple’s eclectic approach to the interior styling, which combines auction house purchases and pieces that Stuart has made – often using recycled materials – with high street finds. Asta loves a layered, tactile aesthetic, and has combined tweeds with faux fur throws to create a cosy ambience. When specifying fittings for the shower room off the hallway, she chose an oversized basin that might have looked far too big on paper - indeed the plumber was astounded when it arrived - but by using a few statement pieces and playing with scale, she has created a truly individual look.
Some ideas, however, didn’t gel in reality. In the main bedroom, the couple decided to strip, sand and then hand-paint the original floorboards. ‘It was an experiment, but when we’d finished we didn’t like how it looked so laid carpet instead,’ Asta says. ‘You can’t be scared to rethink your design choices - if something doesn’t work, change it.’ This typifies this couple’s approach to interiors. By being bold enough to relocate the kitchen and create an open-plan living space, they have created a family home that is both functional and stylish.
KITCHEN Hacker units in Laser Soft Taupe and Terra Oak Matt work with the colours across the rest of the open-plan living space. The worktops are quartz, in a Morengo finish, from Silestone at Development Direct, while the antiqued mirror splashback is from City Glass. Stuart made the bench by the kitchen island using the timbers that were removed when the wall was opened up, and also made the table lamp using books bought at auction and a lamp from Ikea
LIVING ROOMOriginal pine floorboards have been stained using Colron Jacobean Dark Oak wood dye from B&Q. This darker colour’s traditional look is offset by walls painted in a bespoke neutral shade, created using the NCS colour chart at Johnstone’s. This softly elegant colour palette complements the original Georgian white marble fireplace, which is highlighted by a grand, gilt overmantel mirror with sconces, bought at a local auction house
BEDROOM Homeowner Stuart made the bedside cabinet. The antique chair and bureau beside the window are both from Ramsay Cornish, an Edinburgh-based auction house. The circular mirror is an inherited piece
BATHROOMCollinson Ceramics’ Koshi porcelain tiles cover the walls and floor. The washbasin and toilet are from Vitra, and the taps and shower from Grohe FOR STORE DETAILSSEE WHERE TO BUY PAGE