At home: The search for a sea view

"WE were looking for a flat with a view to the sea," explains Patricia Sheridan, and indeed the views are quite possibly the selling feature in this impressive apartment, which extends along the first floor of this detached Victorian property at 18 Westgate in North Berwick.

Even better, there are so many spaces from which to enjoy this seascape vista, as each of the three public rooms – from the combined dining-room and kitchen to the bay-windowed drawing-room and the glazed sun room – looks out over the putting green and on across the Firth of Forth towards Fife, with uninterrupted views of Craigleith Island and the town's pretty harbour.

Patricia and her husband Mark knew North Berwick well, having lived in another property in the town, which they had completely renovated. However, this property gave them the opportunity to downsize slightly without compromising on the quality of their living space or the location.

Hide Ad

Although the scale of the renovation required here would have been daunting for most, Mark's experience in the construction business enabled the couple to recognise the property's potential. In the existing layout, the bathroom was where the kitchen is now – a waste of that view, they realised – while the flat had three bedrooms facing south onto Westgate – one more than the couple wanted.

A partition wall was built to split the middle bedroom in two, creating a shower room accessed off the hallway on one side with natural light borrowed via a high-level glazed panel, along with a new en suite for the master bedroom, which is cleverly accessed through a hidden mirrored door.

While one wall went up, another came down to create the beautiful 21ft dining-kitchen. Double glazed doors open from the hallway into this space, while another set of double doors opens from the dining area into the drawing-room. One of the most striking things about this apartment today is the flow of space, which is enhanced by these tall glazed doors that create through-views between rooms. And there is a good reason why this interconnected living-dining-kitchen area feels so right: symmetry. "I'm big into making things symmetrical," Mark explains. "All the glass doors are lined up to give these interesting eye-lines. The Aga in the kitchen is placed centrally on the wall, as is the fireplace in the drawing-room, and the centre of each meets the centre of the doors between the two spaces."

He chuckles, realising this might sound a tad pedantic, but it doesn't: the result is a space that is beautifully composed and balanced.

The couple worked on the project with architect Keith Macdonald of Somner Macdonald Architects, who – in an unusual twist – had previously been renting this flat. "Because Keith knew the house he was able to understand what was needed," says Mark, adding: "Keith's very good because he really listens to what you say."

The couple were intent on balancing the property's period character with a more contemporary feel. In the kitchen, for example, Patricia had her heart set on the Aga, while Mark picked up those dividing doors from Easy Architectural Salvage and made the openings to fit.

Hide Ad

He also designed the handmade kitchen, which feels traditional in style yet the cream units (which were painted in Farrow & Ball's New White) keep the look fresh while contrasting with the classic black granite worktops. The architraves and skirtings are all new, but proportioned to look Victorian, and the same detailing is echoed in the kitchen.

Mark relishes the design process. "I'm a frustrated architect I think," he says. "During the work, I'd come in here on my own on a Saturday morning and go round the place with a felt pen marking out the spaces and the features; setting out the placement of the doors and the island." He also designed the fireplace using limestone sourced from Edinburgh Granite & Marble, making its proportions work with the overmantle mirror that has been in his family for years.

Hide Ad

These days, when you talk about strong indoor-outdoor connections, it tends to be in relation to garden rooms - perhaps a dining-kitchen that opens into a garden. Yet here the sun room achieves this same sense of being connected with the land and seascape thanks to the glazing on two elevations, with bi-fold doors sliding open to grant an unimpeded view, even though this space is elevated on the first floor.

This sun room had to be rebuilt, and while the couple only expected to use it in warm weather, they recall a recent Sunday lunch where they opened the doors to catch the sea breeze while the wood-burning stove kept things cosy. It's a great spot to watch TV or curl up with a book.

Mark readily credits his wife for the style and feel of the interior, and Patricia in turn is one of those people who can walk into the likes of TK Maxx and find the perfect lamp or console table that looks five times the price. The feeling throughout is elegant but with a fresh touch. In the couple's bedroom, painted furniture creates a French-style aesthetic that is continued into the en suite with the blue-and-white toile de jouy wallpaper and curtains. The fact that this space is "hidden" – in that the mirrored door looks exactly like that: a mirror – only adds to its impact.

Mark designed the hand-painted wardrobes for a flat he had years ago in Edinburgh's West End, and having been moved from property to property their proportions are a perfect fit here.

The Sheridans have no issues with the cold thanks to the increased insulation and overhauled windows, not to mention the warmth from the Aga. Indeed the sash-and-case-style windows behind the dining table open back fully, like French doors, so you can have dinner with the sound of the waves in the background.

The challenge was the scale of the renovation, the Sheridans agree, particularly as they moved in before the floors were laid and before work began on the sun room. The project took around a year to complete. The result is a fantastic, sociable home that makes the most of this knockout location. They will be sad to leave. As Patricia says: "The sky is never the same; the sea is never the same. Every day is different here."

Hide Ad

Offers over 525,000, contact Lindsays (01620 893481,

Somner Macdonald Architects (01620 893 825, 0131-555 2685,

This article was originally published in Scotland on Sunday on 21 February 2010