A Perthshire cottage was bereft of character until the couple behind Jeffreys Interiors worked their magic
Working for clients in Pitlochry prompted a complete lifestyle change for Jeff Laing and Alison Vance, owners of one of Scotland’s best known independent interior design businesses, Jeffreys Interiors.
“It was about six years ago,” Alison says “We were working in Perthshire and we found that we really loved the area, so much so that we started looking for somewhere we could rent as a holiday home – our bolthole from the city.”
The couple’s Edinburgh home is a stunning basement conversion, but their Perthshire check list was slightly different. “It had to have three bedrooms, a garden for our dog Duffy and be within walking distance of a good pub with great food.”
The answer presented itself in the shape of a 1750s joiner’s workshop with adjoining bothy in a small conservation village near Dunkeld. While interior designer Alison had lived in the country in her native Northern Ireland, Jeff was a confirmed city dweller so when the opportunity to rent the cottage presented itself it made sense to them to try out country life before committing fully.
“We rented for about a year and a half and have now owned the property for around the same amount of time,” says Alison. “It had been converted into a three-bedroom cottage in the late 1980s, but while it was a cottage externally, internally it was more like a bungalow. There were no original features and it lacked character. The bathroom and kitchen both needed updated and the layout was quite old fashioned, so we’ve worked hard to inject more of a cottage feel within the refurbishment.
“We changed the layout by swapping the kitchen and bathroom around, took down the stud wall between the bathroom and the living space and created an expansive open-plan kitchen and living room. By doing this, we added another two windows to the living area, which has given us more light.
“We also took down the ceiling over this area and opened it up to the beams – which effectively doubled the size – then used the same colour for the ceiling and walls to really open it up. This not only gave us a more spacious feeling, but it added a lot more character to the room.”
The area taken up by the old kitchen was divided to provide a good-sized shower room, and a utility cupboard was then incorporated into the hall, giving much needed storage to the property. This had the added benefit of making the hall a more interesting shape, rather than just a narrow corridor.
Beams were added to the hall ceiling along with modern recessed spotlights to brighten it up and tongue and groove panelling was incorporated in the hallway and bathroom. All the modern pine doors were replaced with solid, reclaimed oak, ledge and brace cottage doors, which have had a lime wash effect applied.
“We really wanted to create a calm and relaxing environment so we based all of our colours on a classic, neutral, colour palette with the same base paint featured throughout all walls, ceilings and woodwork. That said, we have papered two of the bedrooms and bathroom, but have picked up the tones to ensure consistency. The floor colour has been run throughout the cottage with sisal in the kitchen, hall, living room and guest bedrooms. In our bedroom, we’ve featured a luxurious carpet in the same shade and used ceramic, limed wood-effect tiles in the bathroom.”
Alison’s fondness for blue and white has also come to the fore. “I have rather indulged my love of these colours in the kitchen, living room and master bedroom. Some of the pieces I’ve had for a while and some have been bought purposely for this cottage.
“The sofa in the living room is in a blue and white William Yeoward fabric and our everyday crockery is from Ralph Lauren’s new collection, which is conveniently in blue and white too. We’ve built an island into the kitchen and had gorgeous bar stools made for us by Clock House in blue leather with antler handles and the wooden legs have been given a smoked finish to work with the rest of our colour scheme. We placed Julian Chichester mirrors on either side of the chimney breast which is a good trick to enhance the light.”
The couple have made the garden more attractive, with deep flower beds and bold planters creating colour and interest. “We converted the wooden shed that was here and made it into the garden room with glass doors in the side, a paved area for a table and chairs and a bespoke semi-pergola using tree trunks from a local saw mill to frame it. It’s a completely separate room, but we spend a lot of time there. It has a large dining table so we’ve catered for dinner parties for up to 12 friends in this space. Even at this time of year, we spend many afternoons here as there’s heating as well as a bio fuel fire, which allows us to have a real fire and we can still enjoy the garden views.
“The cottage is very different from our Edinburgh home, however we believe that interiors should in some part be dictated by the building and the location. I really feel we’ve been influenced by our love of Flemish design and have created a relaxing Highland lodge-esque ambience with details such as the antlers above the TV in the living room and the Linwood wallpaper, which features a Highland scene in the bathroom. It’s not strictly either one, just a reflection of our tastes.”
The couple’s tastes have also been a hit elsewhere in Perthshire and they opened Jeffreys Interiors in Dunkeld last year. “Being in the area, we visited Dunkeld often and spotted the antiques business that was in the old church. We heard the owner was retiring so we found out who the landlords were and told them we’d be interested in the building. A year on, it’s doing really well.”
Now that Jeff has adapted to country life, it’s the couple’s intention to retire to Perthshire. “We’re spending less time in Edinburgh and although we still love the city and spend a lot of time in our Stockbridge business, we really love the village, have made lots of great new friends and Duffy is in seventh heaven in the country.”
Jeffreys Interiors, 8 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh, 0131-247 8010; Tay Terrace, Dunkeld, 01350 697222; Jeffreys-interiors.co.uk