At home with David and Rona Parry

DAVID and Rona Parry had always liked North Queensferry; they'd come here from Edinburgh for days out, stopping for a bite to eat at the Albert Hotel on Main Street. The couple were living in Bruntsfield at the time, in a flat they had spent two years refurbishing to get it looking exactly as they wanted. Neither of them was expecting to move until David, who works in communications for Scottish Water, spotted a tiny photo of Weston House in a newspaper.

"I loved this place as soon as I saw it," he recalls, and indeed standing outside this charming house you'll need very strong willpower – or an aversion to intensely characterful period properties – not to become as smitten. This C-listed cottage at 16 Main Street was built around 1754 and is tucked off a Charles Black Lane, with a shared back garden, while the front garden leads down to the waterfront with open views over the Forth. The sheltered bay has SSSI status (that's Site of Special Scientific Interest) and is a tranquil spot with the water lapping on the shore.

David was as impressed with the inside of the house. A spiral wrought-iron staircase links the three levels, with a dining-kitchen on the lower floor; a good-sized living space on the ground floor, with a bathroom off it to the rear along with a guest bedroom-cum-study; and with the master bedroom taking up the top level. If you want to consider the quirkiness of this house, just look at the four windows on the upper level.

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No two are the same: one is tiny and deep set (illustrating the depth of these old stone walls) and positioned high in the wall, while a second has a red-coloured glass border with cobalt blue panels in each corner, casting a warm glow over the white walls as sunlight streams in.

As you might expect with a property of this age, Weston House has an interesting history. It was once a sea captain's cottage, and the lower level was used as a net room (you can still see rub marks in the sandstone outside where the nets were dragged through the door). Back in the 1970s, it was still just a one-up, one-down with an outside toilet, and was apparently rented by a lady who kept chickens that would wander down to the beach to feed.

The house was subsequently refurbished and extended in two phases, and in both cases the owners were architects (perhaps it took an architect to visualise what Weston House could become). "They could have just recreated the past," David reflects, "but I think they were quite brave in the way they approached it." The first architect extended the house at the rear, adding on what is now the bathroom and second bedroom, with French doors leading into the rear garden. The narrow bands of high-level windows in both spaces offer a modern take on that tiny window upstairs.

This bedroom was initially a kitchen, and the second architect-owner changed this by excavating and tanking the lower level to form today's dining-kitchen, adding the spiral staircase at the same time. Other than the exposed stone wall in the sitting-room with its open fireplace, this interior isn't about period features. Historically it was a humble building; ornate ceiling roses and the like would look out of place. Rather, the aesthetic is crisp and contemporary. As David says: "The contrast with the house is what makes this work."

With this in mind the couple changed the kitchen, retaining the Smeg stainless steel range cooker but swapping the Shaker-style timber design for modern units in a cream hue, with warmer cream for the tiled splashback and the ceramic floor, which includes under-floor heating. "The cream softens the space rather than going for straight white to match the walls," says David. Additional storage was built in, with double doors opening to reveal the larder and fridge-freezer, while a utility zone is integrated on the side.

Upstairs, once you've grown accustomed to the surprising scale and sense of light, you realise how much the house benefits from this simple, streamlined approach. There are a few family pieces: in the couple's bedroom, a Welsh rocking chair from David's family sits alongside a leather upholstered chair from Rona's side of the family. David points out one of his favourites: a coffer (or chest) dating from about 1690, which the couple spotted while looking around local antique shops with David's mum, who bought this as their wedding present.

Given the couple's previous flat had an abundance of period detailing, this house did encourage a more pared-down approach. "We both like old pieces, but we've deliberately not gone down that road here," says David. "This house was a bit of a blank slate." There is the odd burst of colour, as in the bathroom with its deep terracotta ceramic floor tiles and matching mosaic walls, or with the sitting-room's rich reds in the rug and curtains, but the couple held back from adding feature walls, preferring the simplicity of the white backdrop.

Asked what he'll miss in leaving Weston House, David cites the lifestyle as much as the idiosyncrasies of the property itself. In summer the couple sit outside watching the sun set over the Forth, and there's always some activity on the water, from yachts racing by, to cruise ships. David enjoys sailing so this has been the ideal location, while the Fife Coastal Path begins about 50 yards away.

"Getting home from work, you feel physically removed from city living," he reflects, "even though getting to Edinburgh's city centre is closer in time than it is from most of the suburbs." (It's 25 minutes away if you take the train from North Queensferry.) "Driving back into the village, with each bend as you come down the hill, you relax a bit more."

As for leaving this historic house, David is philosophical. "It's like having a sports car: you might have one for a few years and then decide you'd like a couple of extra doors, but you enjoy it when you have it. Our next place is going to have to contrast with this as it can't compete with it." k

Offers around 230,000 should be made to Aitken Nairn, tel: 0131-556 6644 or visit www.aitken-nairn.com

• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 24 January, 2010