Force of nature
An oak extension has transformed this home in Argyll’s Crinan Ferry and provided a link to the glorious nature around it, discovers Nichola Hunter
Stephanie Schwind-Parsons has wanted to run her own B&B since she was a child and at Winterton she’s finally achieved her dream. Fortunately for Stephanie, her husband Adrian shared her dream and it was actually Adrian’s parents who introduced the couple to Crinan Ferry in Argyll, a stunning area on the West Coast where Winterton is located.
‘It goes back many years,’ Adrian explains. ‘My parents were travelling through Scotland and came across Crinan House, which is a 280-year-old, listed building and which lies at the end of a rocky peninsula between the sea at Loch Crinan and the estuary of the River Add. When it came up for sale they bought it as a holiday home.
‘Thirteen years ago, when we were
holidaying at Crinan House we saw that Winterton was up for sale. We realised this might be our opportunity to live in Argyll and run our own B&B alongside Crinan House, which is a holiday let.’
The couple were living in Germany at the time and it took them a while to sell up and move. As Winterton was to be their new home, they also intended to make some significant changes to the property. ‘There was a lot of remedial work to be done and we also wanted to extend,’ explains Stephanie. ‘We converted the loft, put in a new staircase, ripped out all the windows, rewired, installed a biomass boiler and renewed all the heating and plumbing, which took about three years.’
‘We didn’t know it was going to be such a large project,’ Adrian recalls. ‘We had renovated an old farmhouse in Bavaria, so we thought it was doable, but we underestimated it a little. I think that was because the house had never been finished properly. It was built over 30 years ago on the site of an old croft house, but the doors and windows hadn’t been fitted correctly and had rotted. Unfortunately, they all had to come out.’
The couple did the project management themselves which was a huge learning curve but a challenge they relished. Adrian is a graphic designer who had a design consultancy in Munich. He also studied interior design and by his own admission ‘is a frustrated architect’. Stephanie trained in hotel management and has worked in five-star hotels in Britain, France and Germany.
This skillset allowed Stephanie and Adrian to create a layout that offers guests a truly relaxing and comfortable stay whilst still giving them private living areas that can be enjoyed in their down time. ‘Adding the oak frame extension has transformed the downstairs,’ says Adrian. ‘We love being in nature and love how it affects us. By building this extension it lets nature into the house, and it’s also a magnificent piece of workmanship.
‘There are some stainless steel bolts going into the foundations but apart from that it’s all held together by traditional oak dowels. The frame came from Carpenter Oak who are down in Devon, but they have a commissioned workshop in Cumbria. I did the initial sketches and drawings, they made sure it would work and a structural engineer checked it.’
The extension incorporates the new sun and viewing lounge and a dining area which is accessed through the living room
We love being in nature and love how it affects us
in the old part of the house. ‘We wanted this space to be an extension of the guest bedrooms,’ he says. ‘Whilst the bedrooms are lovely, it’s nice to be able to spread out and sit on a proper sofa. As we can only accommodate four people it’s never crowded, and one can sit here and enjoy the views down the beautiful and historically significant Kilmartin Glen.’
The rest of the property has also been reconfigured to create designated guest and private spaces. ‘On the ground floor, there’s an entrance for guests, a utility room, first guest bedroom and en suite, living room with adjoining sun lounge, kitchen, private hall, pantry, private loo and scullery,’ explains Stephanie.
‘Upstairs is the second guest bedroom and en suite and our private living room, bedroom, bathroom and attic. As it’s our home we wanted to furnish it in a way that we like ourselves so there are pieces brought from our travels, but I also wanted to create something that was really comfortable and cosy. I know myself if I stay in an ugly place it makes me feel depressed and I really want our guests to be happy.
‘We did buy some additional pieces for the bedrooms but there are pieces which we’ve collected over the years and they’re integrated into the house now.’
One of Adrian’s favourite new additions to the bedrooms was the claw foot bath. ‘We’ve seen the bath in the bedroom idea in various places and magazines,’ he says. ‘There used to be a bath in that location anyway as that was part of the old bathroom and we thought “wouldn’t it be interesting to
offer a bath in the bedroom?” We enjoy lying in a bath, maybe our guests will too, especially if you’ve been for a long walk or cycle. We also have a local massage therapist who will come and do treatments, so you can have a truly relaxing experience without going out the front door.’
After your bath and massage, you can also sit down to a home-cooked meal. ‘Stephanie is a passionate cook and I’m a very happy guinea pig when she wants to experiment,’ laughs Adrian. ‘One of our philosophies was to create a place where we would love to stay ourselves and where people could come and escape from their hectic lifestyle in a place of tranquillity where they could regenerate.
‘Initially our plan was to tempt people to stay here longer and we said we’d have a minimum two-night stay, but already we have guests staying for two weeks, which is exactly what we wanted. This area has so much to offer and not just in terms of stunning scenery but Scotland’s oldest history too, dating back more than 5,000 years.’
Whilst it’s taken nearly five years to get to this stage, Stephanie now has her B&B and Adrian is an even more passionate and frustrated architect now that he has had a taste of it. Guests find that, having experienced all of the pitfalls, he is always willing to offer advice on interior design should they ask for his thoughts.
‘We’ve had over thirty different nationalities through our door in the last three years and they’ve all been lovely people,’ said Stephanie. ‘Some have returned two or three times already – which is so uplifting and fulfilling. Everything took longer than anticipated but it was worth it.’