Seeing double: Scott and Joanne Brown’s Linlithgow home

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The renovation Scott and Joanne Brown have tackled in their Linlithgow home has doubled 
the size of the former run-down farm cottage.

IT HAS taken four years and a bucket load of hard graft for Scott and Joanne Brown to turn a lacklustre renovation project into their dream home. Their stone-built cottage, a former farmhand’s house dating back to the mid-19th century, is a work in progress, but the family are beginning to feel very proud of what they’ve achieved.

Not only have the couple transformed a dilapidated wreck into a gorgeous family home for themselves and their two young daughters, they’ve created a property that’s virtually twice the house it used to be. A large back extension has increased the footprint of the single-storey property in Linlithgow, forming a new open-plan lounge, diner and kitchen, while the three original rooms at the front are now two bedrooms – one with en suite – a family bathroom and handy study.

Scott, 36, an optician, saw the potential in the property, part of Clarendon Farm, when it was for sale at the end of 2009. But even with their eternally optimistic outlook, the couple know they took on far more work than they first imagined. With savings blown on architects’ and builders’ fees, they’ve had to get stuck into some serious DIY to stretch their budget. Tiling, plumbing, painting and joinery are among the many jobs Scott has tackled. He even fitted the kitchen and parts of the bathrooms himself.

He says: “The house was essentially a bit of a wreck. Tenants had been living in it for a very long time and it looked like it hadn’t been updated since the 1950s. There was no central heating and the electrics were all surface-mounted – you could see all the wires running down the walls. A tiny kitchen and bathroom had been created in small 
alcove spaces and it basically all needed to be ripped out and started again.

“The space wasn’t adequate either, but we knew we could rectify that with a new extension.”

The couple picked up their keys in November 2009 but were unable to start work straight away. Their previous house in a more remote part of Linlithgow hadn’t sold so they’d been forced to rent it out and had to wait for a sale to free up cash for their renovations. Luckily, it was only four months before a buyer came along and work began in June 2010.

It took three months for builders to add on the new open-plan living space, during which time the couple stayed with relatives. They moved back into their new shell of a home in October 2010, two months before their first baby was due.

Joanne, 37, a freelance consultant in arts development, recalls: “Our family and friends thought we were mad – we had one working toilet, no kitchen to speak of, and a baby due in a matter of weeks, but we were happy. We didn’t care.

“We muddled together some living space and created a kitchen with some flat-pack plastic drawers and a counter-top oven and hob from Argos. It worked fine for us.”

Today it’s an entirely different story. Not only has the house grown, the family has too – eldest daughter Cecelia is now two and her baby sister Marina was born six months ago, around the time Scott finally rectified the problem of not actually having a proper kitchen.

The room that forms the heart of their home was inspired by a vintage-look French-style dresser Joanne bought with money left to her after her grandfather died. They matched paint to its muted shade of sage and used it to customise inexpensive Ikea units. Scott, who worked as a building site apprentice when he was younger, fitted everything himself and handmade all the footplates and cornicing. The cost of the kitchen totalled £3,500, including a Belfast-style sink and all the appliances, half the bill they were quoted by a leading kitchen firm.

Thrifty touches also include the ‘invisible’ bookshelf, a copy of a £700 designer version made by a local sheet metal plant for £35.

Although the original back stone wall of the property has been retained and is exposed as a period feature, the rest of the room is modern in feel with ceramic tiled floors, cleverly-placed skylights and a wall of glass sliding doors leading to the garden. The focal point, a whitewashed fireplace, is set off with a humorous nod to Baronial style with a stag’s head made of recycled cardboard.

Leather sofas provide seating along with a 1960s swivel chair the couple
inherited from the house’s previous owners. A feature wall papered in a 
silver and white tree-design from Wallpapers Direct captures Joanne’s idea of bringing the outdoors inside.

The view from her sofa is one she’ll never tire of. She says: “The house came with its own one-acre field and that played a big part in us wanting the house so much.

“We have our own sheep on there, we’ve planted fruit trees, and we’re getting hens in the summer. This is the kind of lifestyle I’ve always wanted.

“I grew up in countryside in Selkirk and Scott lived in countryside outside Linlithgow when he was a boy, but as adults cities have been important to us – we’ve lived in Glasgow and Scott works in Edinburgh.

“When I had a family of my own, I definitely wanted to move back to the country and this is exactly what I had in mind – we have the best of both worlds here. Although we’re in the country, we’re not isolated. We can walk into town from our house and we’re right beside the train station for our commute to work. Edinburgh is only 25 minutes away by train.

“I can’t see us moving from here for a very long time. If we had to choose 
between country versus city life, it would be country every time for us.”

The bathrooms show more evidence of Scott’s handiwork, not least the 
Roccoco-inspired en suite. He laid the floor himself, no mean feat considering the material – two-inch-thick tiles of green slate reclaimed from some Edinburgh University floors. He also created the unique vanity unit from a set of MDF drawers which he painted black and then modified internally to create a waste route for the inexpensive Bauhaus basin mounted above. A black mirror and wall-mounted light above complete the look.

In the family bathroom, the couple have created a Moroccan look with a feature wall of blue floral tiles from Fired Earth behind their showpiece Burlington claw foot bath, a splurge at £440 from Boundary Bathrooms. An 
ornate gold mirror and blue glass hanging light pendant catch the sun’s rays that flood in from the skylight above. 
Cecelia and Marina’s room takes inspiration from the farmland outside the window with handpainted blue sky and fluffy white clouds on the walls and a green carpet to represent the grass.

The only room still requiring attention is the couple’s own bedroom. They’ve decorated, adding a cheery yellow B&Q floral paper as a feature wall for their carved wooden sleigh bed, but they still need to add doors to their fitted wardrobes.

Scott added: “We’re still not quite finished, but we’re getting there. It’s been hard work – I’ve had four years of getting stuck into work at home on any spare second I’ve had but it’s all been worth it. We’ve created a house that’s truly ‘us’.”