It would be fair to say that Stuart McRae has a bit of a passion for property and interiors. His previous projects include a barn conversion and a new-build property, but Silverlea House at Ravenstruther, just outside Lanark, is, he says: “Exactly the house I’ve wanted.”
The site on Silvermuir Road was previously owned by Stuart’s sister-in-law, who had tried to get planning permission to build here in the past. After her application was rejected twice, she eventually received planning permission on appeal. “The site was just sitting here,” Stuart explains, “so I said to her, ‘I think I’ll buy it.’ At the time, the site was so overgrown you struggled to see anything on it, and there wasn’t a road in.”
It wasn’t until Stuart started to clear the site that he realised the real potential of the plot. Initially the house had been planned to sit in the middle of the plot, but Stuart realised that by positioning it to the side the building would gain fantastic views towards Tinto Craig – and the local planning authority had no objections to this change.
Stuart worked with local architect David Graham and the plans for the house were completed within a week – which is a credit both to the architect and to Stuart, who had sketched up plans for the house.
The key features for Stuart were natural light and space. “Before coming here I was living in a dark cottage that didn’t get sunlight, so here I wanted as many windows as possible,” he explains. “I also wanted this open-plan layout between the kitchen and the sitting area as this is where I spend most of my time. I wanted the house to flow, and to be bright and airy.”
Stuart, who owns his own hairdressing salon, McRae Hair, acknowledges that his love of design started at a young age. “I used to draw houses constantly when I was younger and do floor plans, so there has always been a passion there for it,” he says. He takes design inspiration from interiors magazines and keeps a photographic record of anything that catches his eye. “I went to Vegas last year for my birthday and took pictures everywhere,” he says. “I have a folder on my phone of house photos, and every time I see something I like I take a picture and keep it for future use.”
Silverlea House is a million miles removed from Stuart’s previous cottage. The tone is set from the double-height reception hall, which is bathed in light from the three skylights above, with a striking staircase to the first floor. The design for the staircase came from a photo in a magazine, which Stuart had his joiner recreate. The large-profile porcelain tiling sweeps into the wet room located just off the hallway, and also into the expansive open-plan kitchen and seating area at the rear of the house. French doors open from the kitchen onto a south-west facing terrace, and two further sets of French doors maintain this indoor-outdoor flow along the rear elevation from both the dining room and the living room.
There is also a bedroom on the ground floor, while the three other bedrooms and the bathroom are on the first floor. The master bedroom has a large en-suite shower room and dressing room, while the second bedroom is also en-suite. All in all, the living space extends to more than 2,700 square feet. Stuart says the aesthetic this time round is more contemporary than his previous homes, and the clean lines of the kitchen and seating area reflect this, from the crisp black and white palette of the former to the contemporary sofas and multi-fuel stove in the seating area. The stove also heats the hot water and the underfloor heating.
The main living room, by contrast, has a more traditional feel with its coving detailing and limestone fireplace. “I always say there are two ends to the house: the more traditional end and the more modern end,” Stuart says. “I’d have liked to have gone contemporary all the way through but I already had this furniture, so the lounge is built around the pieces I had. Whenever I have friends round we’re always in here with the fire on. It’s fantastic.”
The build was remarkably fast. The groundworks started in October 2011 when a road was formed to the site, and the foundations were laid in November and December. The kit for the house arrived on site in January 2012 and the build was completed by the end of April. “The important thing is, you have to be clear and know exactly what you want,” says Stuart, who was here every day project managing.
“So many tradesmen will say, ‘You can’t do that’, but you can do it. The biggest problem was with Scottish Power and Scottish Water getting the supplies in, but as far as the house build was concerned it was fine.”
Stuart sourced most of the fittings and finishes online – which was a necessity to keep control of the budget, he says. “It scared me a bit as I’d never sourced online before,” he admits. “All the bathroom suites were online, so I ordered one, checked the quality, then ordered the rest.”
He also sourced the new furniture for the house, while his mother made all the curtains and blinds. Stuart even turned his hand to the task when he upholstered the headboards for the second bedroom.
Creating Silverlea House as it is today was a hands-on process. Now Stuart is ready to do it all again. This house stands in 0.5 acres of grounds and there is planning permission to build a double detached garage here. Stuart also applied for planning permission for two additional building plots that share the driveway to Silverlea House. Full planning permission has been granted for two properties of a similar layout to Silverlea, again with detached garages.
As Stuart says: “I would love to build another one.” The experience here has only whet his appetite for another project, and he will take design ideas from this house to the next. All those years of scanning through magazines and collating ideas have come to fruition in a fantastic home.
Offers in the region of £350,000. Contact Strutt & Parker (0131-226 2500, www.struttandparker.com)