Keeping tabs on the paint pots is a small sacrifice to ensure Craigatin’s guests have a unique experience
As fans of browsing estate agents’ windows whenever they were on a mini break, it was only a matter of time before Martin and Andrea Anderson took the plunge, bought a property and made a big lifestyle change.
It happened in 2007, as Martin recalls: “My wife and I are escapees from the city of London. We spent 20 years in the capital in sales and marketing roles and we’d always harboured the desire to get out of the corporate life and have a business of our own, but it’s very tricky to create something out of thin air.”
The one thing that kept cropping up time and time again though was that whenever the couple went on holiday they found themselves peering through the local estate agent’s window. “We asked ourselves, ‘Could we do something like this, could we just change our lives?’ It motivated us to seriously consider the notion and we came to Scotland on holiday as a fact finding mission.”
Martin and Andrea stayed at a B&B in Pitlochry called Craigatin and they quickly realised what a popular place Pitlochry was. “When we were leaving we said to the owner why we had come to Scotland and he told us to keep in touch. In 2007 we bought Craigatin.
“The family we bought it from had owned Craigatin for a few years and the property was ready for a change. Andrea and I had been quite inspired by Hotel du Vin, Malmaison and that kind of boutique-style hotel and we thought it would be great if you could create that look in a small B&B. The basic structure at Craigatin was very sound – it just needed a bit of cosmetic enhancement on the interior and that’s something we were really keen to get our teeth into.”
The Victorian mansion had formerly been a doctor’s house and there were seven B&B rooms in the main house and seven in the courtyard, which was where the stables would have been. The main house had retained many of its original features such as the windows, shutters, high ceilings and cornicing, but it was also in need of being updated.
Martin explains: “We embarked upon what effectively turned out to be a four-year project. Whilst the house and courtyard had 17 bedrooms, when we purchased, the 14 B&B rooms hadn’t all been converted. However, it immediately became apparent that if we had 14 bedrooms, we needed 14 breakfast tables and to accommodate them we needed a bigger dining room. We saved up our money to do the build, and then for two years we had more tables than we had rooms to sell but now we have 14 tables and 14 bedrooms. That was the big investment.”
While the property is located in a conservation area, it is not in a listed building and it is not overlooked, so the couple asked McKenzie Strickland to work on designing an extension to house a new dining room.
Martin adds, “They’re award-winning architects from Aberfeldy and they have quite a signature style which we liked, but for us what was important was that the new part complemented the old. We didn’t want it to look like an afterthought.”
The new addition married well with the existing building, and once it was complete the couple were itching to get going on the interior design. “We’re avid consumers of design and home style magazines. I’m not an interior designer but I fancy my chances a bit now,” says Martin laughing.
“We often collect magazines and tear out pages of things we like. You discover colour combinations you hadn’t thought of, so I keep a database, and when we’re ready to do a room we already have plenty of ideas. You’ve got to be brave and you’ve got to make it exciting. If you’re not, everything ends up coffee and cream. We don’t always get it right but most of the time we do.”
The couple particularly like the colours used by Farrow & Ball as they find they work well for a modern, boutique look but one that’s respectful of a Victorian house.
“Our house is a 200-year-old, converted doctor’s house, so no room is the same structurally, and since we started decorating no room has the same colour scheme either,” says Martin.
Decorating 14 rooms differently does mean that Martin has to be rather particular in his paint storage. “It means keeping tabs on what colour you’ve painted what wall in every room, which is actually very tricky, so I have all the paint pots labelled.”
Martin’s meticulousness is being rewarded however. “We realised that people were actually choosing which room they wanted to stay in by the colour scheme and the furniture, so now we have a picture of every room available on our website. I actually think I should go into partnership with Farrow & Ball and sell tester pots as guests leave, as we’re constantly being asked what the colours are.”
The couple don’t intend to rest on their laurels though. “It’s fortunate we enjoy the design aspect of the business because, to be honest, it really never ends. We’re already looking ahead to December, when it’s usually a bit quieter, as to which rooms we’ll do next and what our theme will be. We’re constantly changing, repainting, updating, modernising.”
It’s a far cry from their previous, corporate life but certainly one that they both seem well cut out for.
• Craigatin House & Courtyard, Pitlochry, tel: 01796 472478, www.craigatinhouse.co.uk