Edinburgh shop given an Eighties makeover provided the perfect project for architect Tim Bayman

Picture: Neil Hanna
Picture: Neil Hanna
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‘THE key to this project is that nothing is expensive,” explains architect Tim Bayman of his and wife Lizzie’s new home.

A home that is essentially the third incarnation of a former shop unit attached to a Victorian terrace near Edinburgh city centre, which later, in the 1980s, morphed into a dark boxy single-storey (with basement) semi-detached house. The latest, Bayman, version of this unusual property is a clever, classy and inexpensive re-imagining that has culminated in a new open plan, two-bedroom home featuring a street-level living, dining and kitchen area with mezzanine-level office area and basement living space.

“I like the [Charles and Ray] Eames ethos of buying off-the-shelf things and creating something special with these basic materials,” says Tim of this, the first project carried out under the auspices of his fledgling practice, Tim Bayman Architecture. And “something special” has undeniably been achieved by essentially reverting the building back to its ‘shop front’ origins.

“The 1980s conversion tried to make it ‘housey’ by taking out elements such as the large glass window at the front of the building, which I’ve put back in. You need a large bit of glass in the front to bring light into the building,” explains Tim. Adding a new pitched roof and utilising neglected space over a dropped ceiling also introduces natural light. This effect is further enhanced by an opened-up void under the new glazing, to where the staircase has been moved allowing light into the basement. Tim’s design raison d’etre was simple. “Introduce light back into a building which had remained in the shadows since its conversion to residential use in 1984.”

But the project, shortlisted for last year’s prestigious AJ Small Project of the Year Award, involved a leap of faith for Lizzie. “I showed her the schedule, and she said ‘No way!’” laughs Tim.

“We had a maximum budget of £230,000, which might just about have covered a Georgian or Victorian terrace apartment in the neighbourhood. But when I first visited this property (which was later valued at £160,000) I took some general dimensions and realised, at 96m sq, it had a bigger footprint than many traditional properties. I then put together some ideas and spoke to the planners who said that anything would be better than what was there now. So, to me, this was a clear opportunity to see what £70,000 could do to bring a property back to life after a terrible conversion, and one that could hopefully act not only as a home and workplace but as a calling card for my new practice.”

After convincing Lizzie to go ahead, Tim rolled up his sleeves. “It wasn’t a huge budget for a complete refit of a house, with the additional cost of a mezzanine and a new roof. As I was just setting up on my own, I knew there could be an opportunity as a fixer upper. It made sense to try to build as much as possible myself with the help of my friend Guy Scott who had decided to get out of architecture to become a joiner.”

Tim and Guy completed the interior refit over five months in early 2011. “I needed a builder for the structural work and Inscape Joinery did a fantastic job for a contract sum of £37,316,” says Tim. “The builders completed all the structural elements, such as the external wall insulation and cladding, windows and doors. They were also responsible for all the structural steelwork for the mezzanine and the hole in the floor where the light comes into the basement, as well as building up the stone wall outside.”

The roof, which creates the striated beam effect in the interiors, is the same structural metal deck that is used in supermarkets. “We chose this because it’s such a narrow building we could do it in a single span and aesthetically I like the alternating stripes. It’s really just a series of hollow beams and in the same way people like cottages with beams I like this and its visible structure.”

The interior finishes such as the timber staircase, bookcase, bathroom and installation of the painted yellow steel staircase and IKEA kitchen, were completed by the Tim and Guy team. “The ethos at the start, to keep the project affordable, was that everything would be plasterboard, glass, yellow-painted steel inside and plywood,” explains Tim. “Plywood is a cheap material, but it has really nice qualities. All the internal timber is birch plywood, and we were also keen to include pre-finished birch ply floors, but there were availability issues and we ended up with engineered timber floors. But we essentially stuck to the original palette we had in mind,” explains Tim.

“In the bathroom we’ve used Trespa panels, which are usually used as cladding or as changing room cubicles at the swimming pool. They are more expensive than tiling, but it took us only two hours to install and is zero maintenance. We knew we’d get a good finish without having to be great craftsmen. It’s an economic ‘just enough’ approach.”

This approach even extends to the furniture and fittings, many of which were sourced from local charity shops and eBay (where the couple purchased the Eames tables and chair set in the basement). The G Plan dining table was a parental gift, and even the artworks are mainly by nearest and dearest.

“Most of the paintings in the house are by friends or family,” says Tim. “The Donald Provan sea painting in the dining area was our main wedding present when we got married last year. Instead of getting stuff that we didn’t need, we asked everyone to contribute towards this commission.”

In the basement living area there is a painting by Tim’s sister Ginny of her dog Abel. And the Louis Maqhubela painting opposite is a family heirloom. “It belonged to my grandfather, Gabriel Bayman, who was a big radio personality in South Africa – he was an actor on the radio, and radio was very important then, as TV didn’t reach the country until around 1976. The painting is in our family now and it’s my turn to have it.

“Overall, I approached the project from the point of view that I wanted to do just enough to do the job, if you like,” concludes Tim modestly. “I didn’t take it beyond where it needs to be.”

Tim Bayman (www.timbayman.com)