“I’M going to miss opening the curtains in the morning in our bedroom and seeing this river,” says Cecile Wishart as she contemplates the list of features that have made this property at 1 Eskside West in Musselburgh such a fantastic home. And Cecile is right: what a view.
This C-listed, stone-built house overlooks the River Esk, and you can sit in the window seat in the bay-windowed sitting room, directly below the master bedroom, and watch the geese walking along the grassy riverbank, and the swans meandering by on the water. It’s a pretty idyllic scene, and one that it would be hard to grow tired of.
Little wonder then that Cecile and her husband, Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Martin Wishart, were so taken by this house when they came to view it back in 2003. The couple used to live nearby, in a flat overlooking Musselburgh Harbour, so they knew the area well and realised that these properties on Eskside West rarely change hands. This house used to belong to the headmaster of the Junior School at Loretto, and was in good condition internally at the time. “We did want to put our stamp on the place, but we were working very hard as well, so we liked the fact that we could just move in here and take our time,” Cecile says.
1 Eskside West has plenty of period features to admire, including working shutters, fireplaces and panelled doors. Arriving into the hallway to find the original staircase with the glazed cupola high above, it is already clear that this house is bigger than it appears from outside. The three bedrooms are upstairs, along with a smart shower room, while the ground floor includes the main sitting room, which has a second seating area to the rear, along with a separate dining room. The kitchen leads into a breakfast area to the rear, and there is a utility space behind this, while patio doors lead out from the breakfast area onto a large section of decking and into the walled garden beyond. The house flows beautifully, and offers that blend of period character with contemporary detailing.
As Cecile says, in every alteration the couple have made to the house over the years, they were intent on respecting that character. One of their first tasks was to lay the timber flooring in the sitting room, and nine years later it’s still in great condition and is a lovely feature of this space.
A few years later, the couple decided to upgrade the kitchen. By this stage, they had two children, Clara, now 9, and Amy, almost 7 – since joined by five-month-old Jack – so, as Cecile says: “We wanted a really functional space, and something that was practical to keep clean.” The existing kitchen was fairly basic, and in terms of layout it didn’t function very well. The couple headed to Kitchens International and chose a relatively traditional panelled cabinet style that feels contemporary in its chalky white hue, with sleek granite worktops, and with the Belfast sink angled within the section of cabinets built into the window space. Large-profile ceramic floor tiling is combined with underfloor heating.
The curved end on one section of the floor cabinets leads you through into the breakfast room, and the same cabinetry features in the utility space beyond, which had previously been a storage area. Again there are nice touches, like the green glass used to clad the wall behind the curved breakfast bar, which ties in with the natural greenery outside. “At first, we never used this area where the breakfast room is now,” Cecile says, and it’s often the way with outshots to period buildings where the space has traditionally been used for storage and ends up feeling extraneous – but utilising this area has improved the flow between the kitchen and the garden. “It’s fantastic in summer as we can just open these doors and have this indoor-outdoor flow,” Cecile says.
Soon after completing the kitchen, the couple turned their attentions to the bathroom upstairs. There had been a bath here previously, but, as Cecile says: “We’re busy people, so we wanted the practicality of having a shower.” The Wisharts opted for a wet-style shower room, with large-profile tiling in dark grey. It’s simple, minimal, stylish and practical, which was clearly Cecile’s mantra throughout.
“One of the things that we’ve learned with this house is that if you put the right things in it, then you don’t have to change them again,” she says, referring to good investments such as the kitchen and the timber flooring. It is why the couple installed the traditional-style radiators a few years ago – the finishing touches that complete a space. It is why they added the gas stove to the slate fireplace in the dining room, along with the limestone insert and hearth, which they sourced from Stonecraft. (The fireplace in the sitting room has an open fire, so this house has a really snug feel on wintry days.)
It’s also why Cecile sourced all the paint colours from Farrow & Ball, and chose a mellow palette that complements the age of the house, including Elephant’s Breath in the sitting room and London Clay in the hallway. The latter was a bold choice for Cecile as the hue is so dark and rich. “I was unsure of going for this really dark wall colour, but you just have to experiment,” she says, and combined with Farrow & Ball’s Vermicelli wallpaper on the staircase wall – which subtly catches the light – the effect is warm and dramatic. Likewise, open the door into the cloakroom under the stairs and you’ll find walls painted in Brinjal – a wonderfully rich purple hue.
One of the loveliest rooms in this house is the master bedroom, which Cecile painted in Parma Gray – actually a soft blue – as with windows on two sides this space is bathed in light. Meanwhile the guest bedroom features a quirky deep-set arched window, and here Cecile chose India Yellow – an ochre hue that makes the room glow with warmth.
So why move? With three kids, and with Clara and Amy reaching that stage where they’ll soon want their own rooms, it’s time to upscale. It will be hard to leave this riverside setting, Cecile acknowledges, and to find another property that offers this accessibility to the couple’s professional life in Edinburgh, yet with great walks on the doorstep for the family’s Jack Russell, Max, and with the privacy of having no one looking into the house – even the back garden is completely private.
And, let’s face it, there aren’t that many properties close to Edinburgh where you can watch the neighbourhood swans from your sitting room window. There will always be another house and another project, but it’s moments like these that are hard to replicate.
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