Inside Coco Chanel’s Highland love-nest

A HIGHLAND mansion that was the love-nest of French designer Coco Chanel is to be restored to its former glory after lying neglected for more than 60 years.

The mansion used by Chanel looks solid on the outside, but has lain uninhabited for many years. Picture: Hemedia
The mansion used by Chanel looks solid on the outside, but has lain uninhabited for many years. Picture: Hemedia

Rosehall, near Lairg in Sutherland, is to be fully restored and become an upmarket hotel at a cost of £6.1 million. It will carry many of the design features created by Chanel.

The 20-room Georgian mansion was the romantic hide-away for the late designer during her ten-year affair with the 2nd Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor. During that time, former prime minister Winston Churchill visited the high-profile couple there.

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Rosehall is the only building in Scotland decorated by Chanel and it retains many of the features she installed. They include a bathroom suite, which is believed to feature the country’s first bidet.

Plans have been approved by Highland Council for a conversion into a boutique hotel, with five luxury holiday apartments and spa.

There was not enough of the original Chanel wallpaper to restore, but remnants will be scanned and reproduced.

Original fireplaces are to be replaced, but, where possible, features will be retained, including the doors. Work will begin early next year and those behind the renovation project hope it will be completed within 24 months.

Iain Cram, director at Bell Ingram Design, which is working on behalf of clients Ghulam Choudry and Aamer Waheed, said: “A great deal of work will be needed to restore Rosehall as, sadly, it has been uninhabited for the past 60 years.

“It’s really exciting to be part of a project where we get to bring a building back to life.

“The Chanel link has been hugely important, but it is remarkable how few of the locals seem to know about it. The council has been very supportive throughout this process, however, so seeing the plans finally approved is great.”

A team of specialists who act on behalf of the Chanel Archive have already been to view the property and offered their support in giving access to all their records.

Because the property has lain derelict for so many years, the majority of the internal features have not survived, with as much as 60 per cent of the building’s interiors having worn away.

Mr Cram said: “This is a new subject of conservation for us, but we will still have a strong nod to the 1920s-30s Chanel influence had on the property.

“Although we don’t know what the final interiors will look like, we hope to recreate as much of the original decor as possible.

“We think that Rosehall House will become one of the grandest properties in Scotland once complete.”

Built in 1822, the Rosehall Estate was sold by the Duke of Westminster in 1928 to the Graesser family and had remained in that family for six decades until it was bought by current owner Save Heritage.