STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Creating the perfect retirement home for the future is no easy feat, especially when faced with a completely blank slate, finds Nichola Hunter
The creation of a luxurious property in Auchterarder
Whilst she’s lived all over the world, for Jo Lewis, Perth will always be home. So, when her uncle decided to sell off parts of his estate in Perthshire she and her husband John jumped at the chance to plan their retirement home. The Auchterarder plot they procured in 2008 was home to the original estate farmhouse but it was well beyond rescuing. ‘It was in the most beautiful spot but there was nothing we could do to save it,’ Jo recalls. ‘That’s how we ended up with a new house. Ultimately, it’ll be our retirement home.’ To design the property, Jo contacted renowned architect Robert Adam of Robert Adam Architects in Winchester and ‘after a quick chat, we came up with the house’. Jo’s brief does sound relatively simple. ‘I knew I wanted a south-facing courtyard, that was the most important thing, especially in Scotland,’ she said. ‘Once I had that, I was happy for the architect to figure out the rest of the house.’
This isn’t entirely true: there’s also a hot tub turret, a pre-requisite of the design that Jo insisted upon. ‘If you’re going to have a hot tub, it should have its own turret,’ says Jo, laughing. Joking aside, the nine-bedroom house came together in 11 months. ‘It went relatively smoothly, although it went over budget, but don’t they all, especially if you have to put in electricity, a water supply and roads.’ The original access road, which had been washed down the hill in a flash flood in 1908, had never been replaced and there was no water or electricity, but that didn’t deter Jo. ‘We installed a ground source heat pump so we have our own hot water supply and we have underfloor heating, a wood burning stove and a log fire. But because the house is so well insulated, the heating requirements are actually very low.’ Considering the house also has an outdoor, heated swimming pool that’s quite an achievement. ‘It’s not a huge swimming pool but I think it’s a really nice thing to have, not just when you’re on holiday but when you’re at home. When you get a nice day that courtyard feels like being in the Mediterranean.’ The courtyard, which does indeed work brilliantly, was something that had been tried and tested before. ‘My parents live in a steading nearby and it has an incredible enclosed courtyard,’ explains Jo. ‘It’s always 10 degrees warmer than anywhere else on the steading so I knew we had to have a courtyard and my parent’s house was the inspiration.’ Internally, inspiration has quite simply come from everywhere. ‘Everything in the house was donated, reclaimed, or are our cherished bits and pieces. It’s incredibly eclectic. The pool table in the games room came from a friend’s house in Wales. They were downsizing so we had to pick that up from Wales. ‘I’m not joking when I say that everything has come from all over the country. One of the bathrooms is a lovely mixture of pieces. The sink unit is made from offcuts of the kitchen flooring. The bath, the sink and WC are all from different ranges but they all look good together. ‘The only real luxury in the house is the round dining table. It was made by a wonderful guy, A W Murfin, and it’s stunning. The light fitting above it is made from a cartwheel we found in the barn at my mum and dad’s house. My dad would regularly
“It went over budget, but don’t they all, especially if you have to put in electricity, a water supply and roads
go to the auction house in Perth on my behalf and buy boxes of things. I would go through the box, pick what I wanted and send the box back into auction.’ However, whilst the house seems full of colour and vibrancy, on closer inspection there isn’t much decoration. ‘The entire house is painted white,’ says Jo. ‘The colour comes from the furniture or accessories. If you stripped out the entire house the only colour left would come from the flooring. It means I can change things any time I like. ‘Although the house very much has my touch to it, I was conscious when it came to planning the bedrooms that it’s important each room is as special as the next and again the beds came from a variety of sources. The silver sleigh bed was bought from ebay and the Clive Christian four poster I swapped with a friend for two magnums of champagne. The soft furnishings have been bought and made, some are expensive, some not, and some I bought
“The colour comes from the furniture or accessories. It means I can change things any time I like
from ebay and made bigger or smaller as required.’ Hearing Jo speak like this, this house almost shouldn’t come together as well as it has but whilst Jo gives the illusion that everything is from everywhere she most definitely had a plan. ‘As soon as building commenced I started sourcing the furniture. I knew exactly what was going where and what I needed. I had everything ready to move in the day it was finished.’ Today the house is a perfect family home, but is also let out for events when the Lewis clan are not at home. ‘I’m a Scout leader and I love all things tents, but I still want a flushing toilet and a bath, so we’ve built two en suite yurts which we’ve called Bramble and Heather in the house grounds. They both have a full-size claw foot bath, WC and a woodfired hot tub. Next up we’ve just started to renovate the housekeeper’s flat into a honeymoon suite but I’m really hankering for a treehouse too…’ With Jo behind it, one gets the impression there will be a treehouse – but not exactly as we know it.
Main image: The drawing room is spacious but feels cosy. Above right: The exterior bathed in sunshine.
Above: The vast open plan living and dining area. Below: The luxurious Clive Christian four poster bed cost two magnums of champagne.
Above: The light and airy master bathroom. Below: Yurt Bramble brings new meaning to glamping.