The Toleman family didn’t have to look far for the perfect site when they built their bespoke home, the architecturally bold Tigh Culloch, in the village of Slamannan, near Falkirk
WHILE everyone knows that finding the perfect site on which to build can be a challenge, Adam and Thérèse Toleman had a head start when they designed and built their home, Tigh Culloch, nine years ago in New Street, in the village of Slamannan, near Falkirk.
The couple and their two children, Anya, 16, and Peter, 12, had previously lived in the neighbouring manse, which sat within an extensive garden. “We had quite a lot of work to do on the manse so we came to the decision: did we pile that effort into refurbishing an old house, or get planning to build a new one on a section of the garden,” Adam explains.
For architect Adam, director at the Falkirk-based Arka Architects, choosing to build was instinctive. As he says, “Nowadays you can spend so much on acquiring a site that there’s no money left to build the house. This gave us the opportunity of getting a ‘free’ site, so to speak, and the manse has such a big garden we didn’t compromise that by building here.”
The couple sold their existing house. “We wanted to know what our budget was before doing anything,” Adam says – and rented a house nearby, enabling Adam to be on hand throughout the project while creating minimum disruption to family life. While he clearly approached the design process with an understanding of the site – of how the light moved round it at different times of the year, for example, and of the best views – Adam didn’t rush things. “I was really keen that Thérèse and I develop the design of the house together, and that it wasn’t just me bulldozing an idea through,” he says.
Initially the couple simply discussed the new design, considering what the relationships between the rooms should be, and those things that they wanted this house to achieve that their last home hadn’t. “We let those ideas roll around for as long as possible, and then I designed the house over a weekend,” says Adam. “While not every detail was designed that weekend, the way the building functions was.”
The couple wanted their home to have a free-flowing, interconnected layout, and for the interior spaces to connect with the garden, whether physically – the external terrace is another living space – or visually, thanks to the views offered by the extensive glazing at the rear. In this, Tigh Culloch offers an entirely different living experience from the cellular rooms within the manse. “In terms of square metres, the house isn’t huge, but the way the spaces flow together makes it feel much larger,” Adam observes.
The couple carefully considered how they would use each space. “We asked are there rooms we’ll use daily, weekly, monthly or annually? If the answer was annually or monthly, that room got shelved; if weekly it was debated in detail; if daily, it got on to the finished design. This way, every square metre of this house is used.”
Tigh Culloch is a house of two different facades. Approaching from the street side, the ground-floor elevation, which is clad in cedar with white render and stone on the base, has small windows, with larger windows reserved for the bedrooms on the upper level. As such, it feels very private. On the garden side, however, the three-bedroom house features floor-to-ceiling glazing that allows light to pour into the double-height living space, and into the dining-kitchen on the ground level and master bedroom above. “We wanted the entrance to feel tactile and warm, but then for the house to look geometric from the other side to engage with the garden,” Adam explains. Low-E Argon-filled double-glazed panels ensure that the extensive glazing doesn’t result in heat loss.
Although undeniably contemporary, the palette of materials is traditional, including the slate roof and lead detailing. “We used traditional Scottish materials but in a non-traditional way,” Adam observes.
Internally, the split-level layout on the ground floor creates definition between the open-plan dining kitchen and living zones, while the floorplan revolves around the corner fireplace. “While the space is open-plan, it isn’t barn-like; rather the spaces overlap in this corner,” he says.
Caithness slate was chosen for the floor and combined with underfloor heating, creating a hardwearing and organic backdrop alongside the white walls. The couple recognised the importance of having both social and contemplative spaces, particularly with a family, so a separate snug doubles as a study.
The Bulthaup kitchen was chosen for its clean-cut, architectural lines and precision detailing, and combined with a composite worktop, glass backsplash and a Vola tap. The kitchen clearly was an investment, but, as Adam says, “This kitchen looks as good now as it did the day it was fitted.”
Adam and Thérèse opted for high-quality fittings throughout, while being mindful of their budget. The bathroom fittings are from Duravit, and when they wanted to add impact to the master en-suite the couple chose marble tiles from Porcelanosa to clad one wall – saving the more expensive feature for a smaller area.
The oak staircase is also bespoke, having been designed by Adam and made by his craftsman brother, Matthew Toleman. One of the benefits of building a house when you’re in the business is having contacts. Still, there were unexpected challenges. Adam had initially designed Tigh Culloch to be built as a timber kit house – “Because of having these tall windows and extensive glazing, technically it’s not brilliant for masonry construction,” he explains.
However, Adam had problems sourcing a manufacturer who would build the kit. “It might have been down to the contacts I had at the time,” he reflects. He changed the design to masonry construction. He says, “I knew I could get a brickie on site the next week.”
The downside: Adam had to integrate additional structural steelwork, which in turn impacted on the budget. “People don’t realise how many decisions you have to make when building your own home, and those decisions come thicker and faster by the end of the process,” he says. “If you’re tired at the beginning, by the end you’ll be completely punch drunk and there’s no point making decisions in that state. It can be incredibly stressful.
“You need to set out a strategy and make all the decisions you need to early on in the process. If you manage it correctly, the process of building your own home can be incredibly exciting and enjoyable.”
Although the backdrop interior is fairly monochrome, Adam and Thérèse have added punches of colour with artworks – like the sculpture positioned on a sideboard in the hallway, which was sourced from the Line Gallery and was a present from Adam to Thérèse. Adam designed the stained glass panel that is displayed on a window in the kitchen, which again adds colour as sunlight streams through. This modern house is filled with bespoke touches and personality. Whoever takes on Tigh Culloch next will be inheriting a beautifully considered and unique home.
For price details contact Slater Hogg & Howison (01324 406 034, www.slaterhogg.co.uk)