Colour Ways: Rosanne Erskine’s Portobello house

Rosanne's kitchen. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Rosanne's kitchen. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

  • by Emma Leask

With her love and talent for all things upcycled, designer and sculptor Rosanne Erskine has filled her Portobello property with bright accents and fascinating finds.

WHEN artist and interior designer Rosanne Erskine walked into her two-bedroom Victorian lower villa in the heart of Edinburgh’s seaside suburb, Portobello, she had a clear vision of how she could gain an extra bedroom without the cost of having to extend.

With just two bedrooms, it was a tight squeeze for Rosanne, her partner, art courier Ali McAuley, her daughters Éle (22) and Oli (14), and four cats Scallion, Sparrow, O’Malley and Chi Chi. The space dilemma was solved by turning the spacious bathroom into a third bedroom and installing a new bathroom in a cupboard. In addition, Rosanne knocked down the walls of two cupboards to create an additional larger family bathroom, cleverly adding value by creating a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house.

Having moved from a Georgian house in Portobello, her third and biggest renovation to date, she was not fazed by the work involved and enlisted the help of Build Solutions Scotland. However, she does admit to not realising it was such a big job.

“I wasn’t planning on renovating the kitchen in the first stage; however, when we moved in we discovered the whole place needed to be rewired so we had to go ahead with doing up the entire house at once. Rewiring meant channelling out all the walls and lifting all the floors – the mess and dust was incredible.

“We lived in it as a building site through the winter. There was no kitchen and bathroom for two months, no heating and we were basically camping. We went to a friend’s house for showers, there was no toilet and we lived off takeaways. It was hell.”

The end result is impressive. An artist and avid collector of objets d’art, Rosanne’s home is packed with colourful junk shop finds she has upcycled and reinvented to create quirky furniture and artwork.

Her philosophy – to support local artists and designers and keep art alive in today’s world of mass production – is apparent throughout. It was a passion she previously channelled into her former Portobello High Street shop Urban Igloo; these days she is concentrating on her interior design and styling business, specialising in sourcing one-off pieces for people’s homes.

Her retro kitchen was styled around her Smeg oven and fridge. “I like retro cream and enamel work, so I decided to have curved edges on the cabinetry to mirror the curve on the appliances. I love the retro look but with mod cons,” she says. Black and white chequered vinyl flooring, brightly coloured Kashmiri hand-painted spice tins, red fused glass and a red tablecloth create a vintage vibe. “A lot of people get stuck trying to match everything. A dining table and chairs, for example, don’t have to be from the same shop, in the same style and same wood. You can mix periods and styles.”

After discovering the sunroom was rotten, it was rebuilt with a larger, more contemporary skylight and a doorway from the kitchen unblocked – “lost space” – to create a handy desk nook. Design classics such as an Ercol sofa snapped up at an auction still has its original orange tweed cover, while an upcycled 1930s swivel chair has been re-covered and reinvented in bright red lookalike Marimekko fabric. “Upcycling helps save the planet. Rather than just chucking stuff away you can reinvent and remake things. I don’t like flat pack – it’s a short-term fix and has no future,” says Rosanne.

As testimony to her love of colour and styling expertise, Rosanne’s home recently clinched third place in the international section of popular US interiors website Apartment Therapy’s Room for Colour 2012 competition.

In the master bedroom, artwork by Barbara Ray sits alongside a desk picked up for a fiver, which Rosanne painted duck egg blue and to which she added some mismatched vintage ceramic handles. The former bathroom has made a decent-sized third bedroom, while the new family bathroom is stylish and simple, with Travertine tiling on the floor and walls.

Rosanne’s daughter, Oli, has inherited her mother’s creative streak, designing her retro-inspired bedroom herself. Sanderson’s Dandelion Clocks wallpaper contrasts with a contemporary collage and mannequin she decoupaged with music paper.

Everything in Rosanne’s living room is a junk shop or street find, from the cut glass chandelier to the cushion fabric. With an enviable eye for styling, she manages to make an old wooden box found on the kerbside (which she simply wiped with a cloth) – look fabulous. “I’ve always been a bit of a magpie and I’ve collected from charity shops all my life. My home has evolved organically. Going to one shop and buying a sofa, an armchair, a matching rug and matching artworks for the walls, I would find very bland and boring. It wouldn’t say much about my personality and I find it very uninspiring.”

Momiji and Kokeshi Japanese dolls sit alongside Rosanne and her daughter, Éle’s artwork as well as more than a few antique bird cages – the downside of her magpie tendency. “I have a bit of a thing about bird cages and bird houses – it’s been a bit of an obsession but I’ve stopped collecting them and I have it under control now,” she laughs.

Being a sculptor, Rosanne has the vision to “see inside the frame” of furniture, and resculpts pieces to breathe new life into them. Her sofa is a case in point. Not being able to afford her ‘dream’ sofa, she simply found a sturdy 1950s one then stripped it back to the frame, rebuilt it with a higher back, added castors and put in piping to accentuate the curves on the arms. “The beauty of buying old furniture is that the structure inside is so solid that it will last for years, long after modern sofas will be in the tip.

“I have an eye for finding things and putting them together where other people might not normally consider it,” she says. For those stuck with styling block or who are unable to find a piece of furniture they have dreamed up, 
Rosanne has a talent for finding or creating one-off pieces that won’t cost a fortune – or the planet.

“All my life I’ve made a home from very little – sourcing pieces from auctions and second-hand shops. You don’t need a lot of money to have a lovely home. But you do sometimes have to be patient and allow it to evolve organically.”

Urban Igloo (0788 271 3641, www.urbanigloo.co.uk)

Build Solutions Scotland (www.buildsolutionsscotland.co.uk)




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