THE aroma of fresh baking wafts out the door of Alison Macleod’s third-floor flat in the Southside of Glasgow. The jeweller and silversmith is renowned for her intricate and detailed work, inspired by heirlooms and reclaimed items.
The two-bedroom flat she shares with her husband Paul reflects this fascination.
Alison, who studied her craft at Edinburgh College of Art, has a love of collecting unusual pieces. Her home is homage to her appreciation of former treasures, a trait she shared with her grandfather. “I am naturally attracted to old things, and there is a big relationship between what I collect and my jewellery, which has reference to Victorian pieces,” she says.
“My grandfather was a doctor who saw value in utilitarian objects. I have all of his old leather suitcases, plus we use his old office files as a bedside table in our bedroom. I also have his old glass-fronted bookcase in the bedroom, which we use for storage.”
Alison similarly has a love of utilitarian pieces – such as the wrought-iron hospital-style bed in the master bedroom and the reclaimed pendant lights in the kitchen – but she has a great respect for delicate and ornate items too, like her collection of Victorian crockery. Alison and Paul bought the early-1900s apartment five years ago. They both hail from Dumfries, but shortly after moving in, Alison discovered that her great-grandfather had been born a few doors away, another relation had lived across the road and her family had a long history with this part of the city.
The couple wanted to reinstate as much period character into the apartment as they could. “We lived in the flat for a while, as we wanted to see how we would use it,” she recalls. “The people we bought it from had been influenced by Changing Rooms so every room was themed. There was so much silver paint and silver ceilings – even the cornicing in the hall was silver.
“We reinstated the four-panel doors in the flat. There was a ‘dookit’ [alcove] in the living room with a lowered ceiling – a friend helped us take the ceiling away and turn it into a big cupboard. Paul sanded and stained all the floors. He also painted the living room fireplace.”
It was the kitchen that proved to be the biggest job. The couple changed the layout, taking away an archway that led into a pantry to create space for a dining table. They chose matt white units along with a solid wood worktop from Ikea, and white brick-style wall tiles. They opted for dark wood-effect linoleum that tones with the floorboards elsewhere in the flat. “The kitchen was a massive job – all the walls had to be stripped back and replastered,” says Alison.
“We were four months without a proper kitchen and had a camping stove set up in the hall – I did a lot of one-pot wonders and would wash the dishes in the bath. It was important to us to create the big dining space, though, as we love cooking and often have friends round.
“We have done a lot of work ourselves – Paul is good at the physical stuff and I do a lot of the detail things. I would have loved a Belfast sink and tiled floor, but I have so much nice crockery that I just knew I would lose lots through dropping them in the sink or on the floor, so went with the softer materials instead.”
The kitchen is a blend of practical ideas and chintzy florals, thanks to the Victorian cups and saucers, the cake stand filled with home baking that sits on the dining table, and the rediscovered press that is now an open storage space for Alison’s crockery.
In the master bedroom hangs Alison’s prized textured kilt, made by artist friend Alison Willoughby, on the wall close to some of her jewellery. Her grandfather’s old office files are now bedside storage, while an elaborate reclaimed Chinese cabinet has been customised. “I took the shelves out of the cabinet and put in a hanging rail for clothes,” says Alison. “It was red lacquered but I am not a shiny person so I sanded it down and varnished it a matt walnut tone. I am much happier with it like that.”
The bathroom features Alison’s collection of antique bevelled mirrors, while in the living room there is a clarsach from her teenage years alongside a collection of picture frames, family treasures and the framed guestbook from the couple’s wedding. Paul’s vast collection of vinyl records takes pride of place in here too. “Throughout the flat is a mix of pieces we have inherited, bits I have picked up and reupholstered, or pieces from artist friends.
“I love the mix of vintage and modern in a home – I like pieces to have a story. I get inspiration from that, so I guess that’s why I put this element into my work as well.”
Who is your favourite artist? Mark Dion. He is a conceptual artist whose work is all about collections.
How do you relax? I love baking.
What is your favourite item in your home? The Alison Willoughby skirt that hangs on my bedroom wall – I really do love it. I wear it too.
Do you have a favourite city or country? New York. My parents lived in the Cayman Islands and I like it there but it is a very new culture and I like well-established places.
What is your biggest indulgence? Objects. I have this need to be surrounded by beautiful things. I don’t spend a lot of money on each object, it is the volume of them. A little plate cost me £3 but I do now have quite a large collection of old Victorian crockery.
What do you listen to in your studio? I always have 6 Music on.
• Alison Macleod (07786 434981, www.alisonmacleod.com) will be exhibiting at the Dumfries and Galloway Spring Fling, Patti Lean’s Studio, Newtonairds, Dumfries, 2 to 5 June (www.spring-fling.co.uk). Alison will be maker of the month during July at Concrete Wardrobe, Broughton Street, Edinburgh (www.concretewardrobe.com). Alison will exhibit at the Focus Showcase, Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 15 June to 22 July