WHETHER it is her 16th-century farmhouse, or a vintage floral frock, Dawn Murray has the canny knack of being able to create something fresh and original by mixing up the old with the new.
To pull off such image modifications successfully, you first of all have to respect what has gone before without regarding it as untouchable. Dawn has translated her affection for her stone-built Stirlingshire hideaway into a contemporary country family home with an evolving story.
“We stumbled across the farm by accident on the internet; blink and you would have missed it,” recalls Dawn, who lives with her husband Allan, sons Mitch, nine, and Max, 15, and a rural menagerie.
“The house was originally used as accommodation for farmers working on the local estate, but has been extended over the years incorporating stones picked out from surrounding land. We loved the secluded and peaceful location and that the house was different from anything else we had seen.”
With a courtyard setting, outbuildings and four acres of land, the Murrays’ home is a place of unexpected curves and features, such as beams and stone walls with sections removed to create rough-hewn, random shelving.
The backdrop is predominantly white walls and painted floorboards augmented by shades of duck egg blue, white and sage. Dawn regularly repaints the stone walls of the four- bedroom farmhouse to blend with the seasons and favours Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe Grey for the midwinter months.
“Painting is how I relax,” she says. “More often than not, you will find me up a ladder with a paintbrush in my hand. I make the best decisions when my hands are moving, so painting is also a kind of therapy for me.”
As practical as she is creative, Dawn spent the first 20 years of her career working for Vidal Sassoon (she was the brand’s World Champion Junior of the year), living in exotic locations such as LA, Vietnam and Berlin.
In the late 1980s, when she moved to Glasgow to set up Sassoon’s salon in Princes Square, she met Allan and decided to make Glasgow her home, first settling in the west end of the city.
Almost a decade ago, the couple put down rural roots at Boards Farm, on a hill overlooking Blanefield, acquiring peacocks, horses and hens along the way.
Dawn cycles from Blanefield to the Alice Rocks salon in the city’s west end on an almost daily basis, and says it is more time and cost-effective than joining an expensive gym.
While this petite powerhouse moves through life in large strides, her home is a place of cosy relaxation, which nurtures the family and welcomes friends and relatives.
Visitors are naturally drawn to the kitchen, with its traditional range, free-standing cabinets from Ikea, Belfast sink, and antique dressers from Authentics in Glasgow. Dawn is also a regular at Great Western Auction Rooms and admits to an outhouse full of furniture waiting for a home.
“Wooden whisky boxes make fantastic storage for fruit and vegetables,” she points out, “and we bought the marble-topped kitchen table from an antiques market; the cold surface is ideal for making pastry or bread.
“On a cold day, everyone heads for the slate-hearthed wood-burning stove in the living-room where the walls are more than two feet thick. This room has such a protective feel to it and it is such a toasty space that we rarely have to turn on the central heating. Come the summer, we practically live in the adjoining conservatory, which has amazing views to woodland and beyond. We have a huge sofa from Olympia in here with washable heavy-duty denim covers to keep it pet friendly.”
Three of the bedrooms are on the ground floor, while the upstairs master suite comes with whitewashed wooden floorboards and dark furnishings including an a half-canopied, ornately carved bed that is an 18th-century copy of a Jacobean design.
It is dressed simply in white bedding and plumped pillows bearing a red rose motif, with the rose theme continued in the curtains with the words: “A rose, a rose, by any nature is still a rose.”
While the living spaces are organic and tactile, with slip-covered sofas, throws and wooden coffee tables, the master bedroom is a soft romantic room, illuminated by the flames of the open wood-burning stove and woodland views from the windows.
Throughout the house, Dawn uses painted wicker baskets and wooden boxes as attractive and affordable storage, and has painted junk shop finds in muted matt colours. In the summer, she likes to fill window boxes with lavender, thyme and basil to infuse the house with natural scents.
“Everyone who visits says their shoulders drop the minute they enter the farmhouse,” says Dawn.
“From time to time, we decamp and rent it out as a holiday let where pets and horses are particularly welcome. We have two cats, Ruby the King Charles spaniel, Albert the peacock, Victoria the peahen and their three peachicks, plus visiting horses. We even have our own well; all this just 20 minutes’ drive from Glasgow.”
Visitors describe Boards Farm as “a house of curiosity”, and Dawn’s love of vintage interiors is now spilling over into fashion, as she is in the process of setting up istyleyou.com which will source pre-loved clothing for clients.
“So if anyone is looking for a particular pair of red vintage shoes, I’m the person to come to,” says Dawn. “I’ve always had an eye for vintage clothes, and recently, whenever I’ve come across a piece of particular interest, I’ll tweet it, and people have really responded to that.
“When I moved to Glasgow I was such a city girl, but now I have fresh eggs from my own hens, grow herbs and even bottle preserves. This house has really worked its magic and I just couldn’t imagine living in a city again, although I love coming into the west end to work every day.
“I have the best of both worlds.”
Boards Farm (www.boardsfarm.com)