Walking around this terraced house on Dudley Crescent in Edinburgh’s Trinity area, it’s hard to imagine how much this property has evolved since architect Peter McCallum and lawyer Bernadette Boyle bought it 21 years ago.
For a start, back in 1990, 45 Dudley Crescent wasn’t a single house: rather, the original house had been split in the 1970s to form two flats on the ground and first-floor levels. The couple had been living in a flat in Leith that Peter had bought before he and Bernadette married, but Bernadette wanted a garden, and this property, then the ground-floor flat, was the only one they viewed.
To call the interior tired would be an understatement: the kitchen was dark and cluttered with a pine panelled ceiling and timber units, while the living room featured split bamboo wall tiles. The same tiles were in the bathroom, which was in the old outhouse, and there was no central heating. It was grim.
“I couldn’t visualise it at all,” Bernadette admits, while Peter looked past the aesthetics to the bones of the building. But Peter says: “The original features were still there, the body of it was still there, and that’s the main thing.”
Number 45 has evolved in three phases since then. The first was after the couple moved in, when they literally stripped and refitted the flat, doing most of the work themselves. They barely had time to enjoy the fruits of their labour before Peter left to work in Hong Kong at the end of 1993 – “The bathroom had just been completed; I literally had one shower in it before I left,” he recalls – and Bernadette joined him a few months later. Having let the flat while living in Hong Kong, the couple returned here in 1999, by which time their style had evolved again.
“Coming back with the Chinese furniture we had bought out there impacted on our aesthetic,” Bernadette says, “and while we’d been buying artworks for years, bigger and better pieces had come along.” Pieces such as the striking paintings by Scottish artist Stephen Mangan which now hang in the living room – a collection they began in Hong Kong and continued after returning to Scotland.
Phase two involved recreating the ground level as you see it today, and was completed in early 2006. The bathroom was refitted as a walk-in wet area and features a combination of large profile composite tiles and Bisazza mosaic tiling – the latter inspired by a visit to Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong – with a bespoke mirrored wall cabinet, a Duravit basin and Vola tap fittings. Even the storage spaces throughout this house are immaculate, as is the detailing and quality of the finish.
The latter is particularly apparent in the dining-kitchen. Peter drew up the plans for the extension, and it was a tricky balance ensuring that there was ample space inside for the dining area, and to incorporate a storage wall – tucked behind sleek off-white doors by Presotto Italia – while retaining sufficient garden space. The extension was designed with an open corner, creating a seamless indoor-outdoor flow onto the rear decking, which is complemented by soft planting to the side. The iroko sliding doors were made bespoke to Peter’s design by furniture maker Alasdair Gall, and Gall also made the dining table, the cabinet for the coffee machine and the bespoke cabinetry on the kitchen’s rear wall, all in rosewood, and again, all to Peter’s design.
The latter conceals storage space and the integrated fridge freezer, with walnut veneer used internally and the decorative Rio Rosewood vintage veneer on the exterior. This detail alone would make this kitchen pretty special, but then, look at the island with its glossy lipstick-red quartz conglomerate worktop and gloss white units below. The red is so rich it glows. “I like a little shot of red in each room,” says Bernadette, and the hue is picked up in the portrait by Ukranian artist Taran Loboda within the dining area, which the couple bought in Prague.
While Bernadette considered adding a matching splashback behind the hob, the couple opted for a cooler speckled-white conglomerate finish to clad the wall here as it complements the custom-made stainless steel worktop. This kitchen exemplifies the art of mixing, both in colour and materials, and in the way those inexpensive IKEA units are combined with bespoke cabinetry.
All along, Peter and Bernadette had hoped to buy the upper-level flat and reinstate number 45 as one house. They had made a pact with their neighbours that if either chose to move, they would let the other know first. The work on phase two was barely complete when they got the knock on the door. Bernadette says: “We couldn’t turn down the opportunity,” and by July 2006 they had bought the flat above.
The original hallway and staircase had to be reinstated. During the 1970s development, the decorative balusters had been ripped out of the staircase and the stair ends had been removed to make way for the blockwork wall that was constructed to separate the flats, so this partition was removed, and the staircase and balustrade were restored to their original form.
The upstairs level was again stripped back to the bones. The former dining-kitchen became a guest bedroom, and when an original fireplace was unearthed the couple ingeniously created the new surround using a traditional door head sourced from architectural salvage. The existing bathroom was refitted with beautifully understated large-profile tiling from Ora Ceramics, combining a pale stone-finish tile with a more decorative version of the same tile on one wall. The sculptural Catalano basin is another beauty, while Bernadette picked up the similarly sculptural Bety suspension light, designed by Alvaro Alvarez, on a trip to Spain.
“I had the feeling that upstairs would be black and white after the clay and grey-toned neutrals downstairs,” she says, and the drama of this palette is encapsulated in the south-facing master bedroom and the dressing room. “I wanted a dark bedroom; I wanted black,” says Bernadette, and this room is a study in how to use black well, from the carpet, curtains and glossy column radiator to the Tektura Flocante wallpaper from Jeffreys Interiors and the upholstered headboard.
The dressing room (or third bedroom; there’s also a TV snug downstairs, with access into the garden, which could become a fourth bedroom) flips the palette with pure-white vinyl flooring and a wall of built-in gloss white IKEA wardrobes. The overscaled wing-backed sofa, in black leather, was made bespoke by Edinburgh company Be Seated after the couple saw a similar piece in a Barcelona hotel, while the black chandelier from Jeffreys Interiors and similarly overscaled mirror complete the look.
After 21 years Peter and Bernadette clearly needed to have a good reason to leave Dudley Crescent and they have: they’re moving to Spain, initially to renovate a townhouse in the village of Maella before building a new house on land they own nearby. It’s another massive project. “Hopefully, there’s a short spell of grief living through it, then the reward comes at the end,” says Peter.
The reward for whoever buys number 45, is a house with a ready-made fabulous interior. k
Offers over £495,000; contact Simpson & Marwick
(0131-525 8600, www.edinburghprimeproperty.com)