At home with Lesley and Kevin Kennedy

WHEREVER the property ladder takes Lesley and Kevin Kennedy, they'll look back with a lot of love on this home, which has seen them through the first years of marriage and the arrival of baby Edith, now two.

They instantly had a great feeling about the original miner's cottage in the Midlothian village of Newtongrange. Having decided to move away from Leeds, the couple were drawn to this area's proximity to Edinburgh, which is where Lesley comes from, and where Kevin could find work.

"Being close to family was important," says Lesley.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

When they viewed the house in summer 2005, they could see it ticked practically all their boxes. The cottage would originally have had just two large rooms (subsequently enlarged with a back hallway) but the previous owners created a three-bedroom house by extending into the back garden.

"Externally these terraced miners' cottages lend an impression of uniformity," says Kevin. "We love the fact that internally this one defies expectations."

Its move-in condition was also a huge attraction as the couple were to embark on a world tour. "My parents were between houses at the time and agreed to rent this place while we travelled the world," explains Lesley. "While we were away we had the security of knowing we owned a property that was being looked after."

They even returned to a few home improvements. In the bathroom, Lesley's dad built panelled doors to an under-sink storage shelf that had previously been curtained.

One of the first jobs the couple tackled was improving access to the large loft.

"There was a ridiculous little hatch in the hall, too small for a suitcase to fit through," says Lesley.

A proper loft hatch and ladder were installed, reached from the sitting-room, and the loft was insulated, allowing use of the roof space to store an abundance of "stuff".

"Our entire lives are up there," laughs Lesley.

Built-in storage created by the previous owners (who had three children) has also proved effective. The sitting-room boasts several flush-to-surface pop-open doors that conceal CDs and other paraphernalia. Lesley bought the beautiful timber display case after a stint working in Copenhagen. "I walked past it in a shop window every day for two years and before I left the city I decided to treat myself," she says.

The high ceilings of these cottages, among the original features the couple fell for, makes this a perfect home for a tall cabinet. Practically everything else was bought especially for the house and the couple relished being able to choose decent-sized furniture for its spacious front room. The contemporary sofa and armchair came from Ikea.

"I like buying reasonably priced pieces for a specific house rather than shoe-horning things from one home into the next," says Kevin.

The contemporary pendant light is also an Ikea buy, and had to be carefully pieced together. Art and photography in the room are full of memories. A print of Connel Bridge reminds Lesley of weekly journeys to Oban where she used to study marine sciences. A Douglas Hyde print above the fireplace, entitled Whirlwind Romance, is, says Lesley, an aptly titled wedding gift.

Both the sitting-room and adjacent master bedroom – the original cottage apartments – boast a black cast-iron fireplace. The one in the sitting-room holds a gas fire while the previous owners fitted a mirror within the bedroom fireplace.

"A lot of the houses here still have open fires and these could be easily reinstated," says Lesley.

The couple repainted a feature wall in the master bedroom, the scale of the space accommodating their choice of deep purple. Against this rich surface a wall-mounted wrought-iron candleholder from John Lewis adds to the ambience. Some of the treasures gathered on their world travels are also on show, including a woven rug from Kashmir.

"It's nice to have it somewhere we can appreciate it every day," says Lesley, although Kevin admits that when they organised to have it shipped home they had a feeling they might never see it again.

At least they could carry home (with some difficulty) the large Buddha painting that hangs in this bedroom. They bought it in Bali, the last stop of their tour.

A "hidden" master en-suite shower-room created by the previous owners is entered via a door that appears to be part of built-in storage. This area was created by partitioning the back bedroom.

"It's an effective use of space," says Kevin.

The same could be said of the spare bedroom, which doubles as an office (allowing Kevin to work from home occasionally) and guest room. The room was a yellow and pink confection, used as a child's bedroom before the couple moved in, and they got to work with subtle shades, including warm terracotta. A timber-framed futon from The Futon Company creates a full-size double bed that regularly comes in handy when relatives and friends come to stay.

Like the spare bedroom, Edith's nursery sits within the extension and Lesley loves the quirky entrance to her daughter's room. The doorway is cut within the thick, original stone wall and acts like a miniature vestibule (with space to hang coats), affording the impression of a separate little sanctuary within the house. The couple decorated this space before Edith arrived so steered away from pinks and blues. The fun animal print blind on a green background was picked up at Dunelm Mill.

It's likely that the kitchen was very poky before the extension more than doubled its size. Although it's still on a modest scale, it features every mod con that a larger space could. The couple inherited high-gloss black Ikea units, which give a contemporary feel and were chosen with efficient storage in mind. However, the timber worktops hadn't been treated and it took a while, says Kevin, to sand and stain them all.

There's room for a kitchen table beside French doors that open directly into the back garden, making this a great family room.

"It's where we tend to congregate," says Kevin, and the couple have been known to entertain a good few dinner guests there too, with Lesley loving the fact that she's not cut off from conversation while cooking. In summer, the garden, with its decked area, shed and water feature is a sun trap and ideal for barbecues.

Back in the main bathroom where Lesley's dad's handiwork is on show, the wall panelling echoes that of the front hall, while a roll-top bath, fitted by the previous owners, adds to the character. So too does a Victorian-style, high-level toilet cistern with chain pull.

Now that baby number two is on the way, the Kennedys are looking for a slightly larger home, but are keen to stay in the area, which has a leisure centre, bank, library and park.

"I can run errands here without getting in the car," says Lesley. "If this house was just a little bigger we'd be happy to stay." k

St David's, Newtongrange, offers around 175,000. Contact Warners, 0131-440 4268, www.warnersllp.com

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