Building their own property was the only answer for a couple who wanted to head back into town but still walk their two dogs in the woods
Jenny Farish and her husband Alexander Jameson had been living in a farmhouse near Auchtermuchty for 12 years when they decided that it was time for a change of scene. The couple didn’t set out with the intention of building a house. Rather, they were looking to buy a property in Perth.
“As our son Andrew was getting older, being closer to town became more important, so we looked and looked at houses, but we couldn’t find anything that we really wanted,” Jenny recalls. “Having binged on Grand Designs and Location, Location, Location, we got it into our heads that if we couldn’t find a house we should build one, and of course having thought about it, our search then became about looking for a suitable plot.”
From the start, the couple knew that choosing the right location was key. As Jenny says: “There was no point in building a fabulous house somewhere no-one wanted to live.”
They found this plot in Bellwood Park, right in the heart of Perth, and within a conservation area close to Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park. Originally, the plot was an old orchard that belonged to another property, so Jenny and Alexander were inheriting a mature site when they arrived.
“We’re surrounded by trees, but you can walk into the city centre in five minutes,” says Jenny. “And the house backs on to the hill and the woods. We have dogs – a black lab called Murphy and a Border terrier called Fizz – and we have all this green space behind us. We can enjoy a city life but still feel as if we have a foot in the country.”
Accessibility to transport links was also important to Jenny, who works as a voiceover artist, radio and TV presenter. “I spend a lot of time working in Glasgow and I can be on the motorway in minutes,” she says.
The couple approached the design process with a defined brief: they wanted the house to flow and have great social spaces, and to feel connected to the setting with views on to the garden and lots of natural light. They also wanted a house where there would be no “dead space”.
“Sometimes you’ll find that people have squeezed in a lot of rooms, but the rooms are small, so here we wanted quality of space rather than quantity,” Jenny says.
Saying that, this is a generously scaled house of over 3,000 sq/ft with five bedrooms, two reception rooms and three bathrooms. The couple worked with local architect Ian Muir, now of Muir Walker & Pride. The sense of space and light is evident on arrival as you enter into a double height reception hall, and a glass and timber staircase leads from here to the upper level. There are four bedrooms and a family bathroom upstairs, including the master suite with dressing room and shower room, and with an en-suite shower room for the second bedroom.
Glass double doors lead from the hall into the open plan living, dining and kitchen area, where floor-to-ceiling glazing draws in the view while filling this space with light. There’s also a fifth bedroom on this level, and a utility room tucked behind the kitchen.
“Originally, we’d intended to have this whole area open plan, but then we decided to add a partition to create a more formal seating area that was slightly separate,” says Jenny. The couple painted the partition in a fresh green that pulls the outside in, while the double-sided Dru Metro fire creates a connection between the sitting area on one side of the partition and the dining area and casual seating zone on the other.
“We’d considered having a log-burning stove here but we realised that in this house a log-burner would have been too hot and we wouldn’t have used it,” says Jenny. “This fireplace connects the two areas and both sides benefit from it.” Indeed, she says, Murphy and Fizz regularly take up position in front of the fire, with one on either side of the partition.
The building is well insulated and is triple glazed with underfloor heating throughout, and the Accoya-clad exterior offers a very durable finish. Limewashed oak flooring extends throughout the ground level, and is used on the staircase and upper landing, while polished limestone defines the kitchen area. The lime washed oak enhances the light while the wide boards have an elegant and contemporary feel.
The kitchen was sourced from Ashley Ann and again the couple opted for a contemporary design with crisp lines that would reflect the style of the house. “We wanted to add a bit of colour so we chose the grey and white, and then introduced the purple splashback as the purple and green work well together,” says Jenny.
The bathrooms are contemporary and were sourced from The Bathroom Company in Perth, with fittings by Villeroy & Boch. Jenny enjoyed the process of choosing and specifiying the various elements of this interior, but, as she says: “You’re often deciding things in isolation. You’re choosing all these things but never get to see them together until the house is built.”
The couple rented a house nearby so they were able to be on site throughout the year-long build. From buying the site, through the design and build process, to moving into the house in 2013, this project took two years to complete. Alexander has also done extensive work to the large garden, which is fully enclosed with a stream running down one side, and with mature trees and hedging creating a sense of privacy.
Now, as the family prepare to move again – as, thanks to work commitments, Jenny would like to have a small base in Glasgow as well as a home in Perthshire – Jenny is excited by the prospect of a renovation project as she doesn’t feel ready for another new build quite so soon.
“I’ll miss this house and the location,” she acknowledges. “It has a lovely atmosphere and feel to it. Whatever kind of house we have, we’ll turn it into something that works for us.”
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