Textiles specialist Ali Halley and her husband Steve transformed an old coach house in the Borders intoa sumptuous and stylish holiday let
When Steve and Ali Halley bought their 1830s house in the Borders town of Jedburgh, they knew it had potential. Realising it, however, has taken time.
“We moved in in 2003,” says Ali. “Our first priority was the main house, which is a lovely old Georgian property with the servants’ quarters in the attic and a basement complete with wine cellars. It’s wonderfully traditional and it also came with a coach house.”
The coach house was completely original, only missing a few sections which had been knocked down over the years. Ali says: “There were three loose horse boxes at one end, a space for the carriage, and above it was where the stable lad would have lived. It was in a bit of disrepair when we bought the house, but about four years ago we started to think we needed to do something or there wouldn’t be anything left to do something with.”
The couple spent three years considering how best to use the coach house and in 2015 they began a year-long renovation to turn it into a two-bedroom holiday let. “At Boundary Bank we have the most amazing views over Jedburgh so to me it was a project to restore a beautiful thing and be able to offer it to other people to use,” says Ali.
Before they could do this, the building required some serious TLC. “The right-hand end had just the footings left where it had been knocked down and the roof was in such disrepair that it had to come down, so really we were left with just the walls. We essentially rebuilt everything inside these walls. We installed a lovely picture window at one end and extended where the original footprint had been to add a garage with a bedroom over it.”
Ali jointly created the plans with architect David McKnight of Aitken Turnbull. “I knew what I wanted and he knew what was possible so together we decided how the interior would evolve,” says Ali. “We also had a good working relationship with Mike, our local builder [JMS Harkin], which meant any problems were quickly resolved.
“We knew we’d bought a house with potential with the attic and the cellar. I use the basement for my textile work as I dye and print textiles and I’m currently doing a degree at Heriot-Watt in textile design. The idea is that if people are interested in textiles, stitching and embroidery, they can use the holiday let as a retreat and then come to classes in the main house basement.”
Steve and Ali oversaw the build together with Steve managing the business and paperwork side and Ali concentrating on the build and design details. However, when it came to fitting out the interior Ali really started to have fun. “The downstairs living area is a beautiful open-plan space and we wanted to keep it that way. We’ve stayed in a lot of holiday lets ourselves and I’ve been in the kitchen cooking and everyone else is off doing something somewhere else. Here you can cook, actually looking at those fabulous views through the French doors and there’s plenty of room for everyone to be in here doing their own thing but you’re not separate which is lovely.”
They also liked the idea of a wood-burning stove and the centre of the room seemed to be the perfect place for it. Ali says: “It ended up that most of the room was designed around that wood burner, but it really works. Upstairs we created two bedrooms and a nice family bathroom. Having travelled and done hotels, we knew we wanted a good shower and a bath if we could fit it in. We also wanted spacious bedrooms; we could have squeezed more in, but we didn’t want to.”
When it came to the soft furnishings, Ali was in her element. “I’m a semi-retired curtain maker and used to work with interior designers in London, so that all came down to me which was great.
“I made all the curtains and any other soft furnishings we needed. I made every single cushion here. Some of them I dyed the fabric and then did the embroidery. It was wonderful as I could have fun with my own textile work and do the holiday let as well. I could justify spending the time on it and it didn’t cost anything. Stitching really is my thing, it’s what I can sit and do all day and I find this property a beautifully creative place to be.”
The coach house has different views to the main house but it also sits low enough to feel secluded and it’s nestled in traditional, mature gardens. The couple have been tempted to move in here as the main house is still a project. Ali says: “Everything’s new in the holiday house and everything is second-hand in our house! However, it’s an amazing space and I have my own studio so the properties complement each other. There’s a real connection here that if people are interested in stitching and textiles it’s a lovely place to come.”