AWARD-WINNING Scottish documentary film-maker Sue Bourne is the first to admit that when a project captures her imagination, she becomes a woman possessed – obsessively researching her subject to find the extraordinary in what appears to be ordinary.
And, while these skills obviously inform Sue’s professional life, they often overlap into more personal territory, and her four-bedroom Victorian apartment in Glasgow’s West End is typical of her vision and attention to detail.
Originally from Ayrshire, after 20 years of living and working in London where she formed her own production company, Wellpark Productions, Sue decided to return to her Scottish roots and a property where she could live, work and entertain.
“I wanted to see what it would be like to live in Scotland full-time for a multitude of different reasons,” explains Sue, who bought the flat in 2008. “I was driving up to visit my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease, and my daughter Holly was studying at Glasgow University.
“It was when BBC Scotland’s Ewan Angus commissioned me to make the documentary Mum and Me based on my personal experience, that I began to search seriously, and after months of trawling the internet, found this second-floor apartment in Lawrence Street.
“What I saw when I first viewed the flat was space and light. For some inexplicable reason, I had long harboured a dream of having an all-white house, but not in a cold, clinical way. I knew exactly what I wanted, right down to a French mirrored armoire.
“I love the idea of taking a blank canvas and turning it into a light airy space, then putting my own stamp on it, and really enjoy looking for the potential in a project. In a way, it’s not unlike film making.”
Sue was fortunate in finding a builder, Ross Balfour, who by coincidence had previously worked in the film industry, but more importantly was able to realise her vision.
When Sue visited Ross’s own home, it was immediately evident that they were aesthetically on the same wavelength. Sue even wanted to recreate Ross’s kitchen in Lawrence Street, complete with recessed lighting in the floor.
“I would be online until 4am sourcing room sets and furniture, then next day show Ross the images and ask if he could replicate it in my flat,” recalls Sue. “We worked well together and even managed to stay on budget.
“The main structural work involved knocking down walls between the living room and kitchen, which was a huge job involving an RSJ [steel beam]. The entire flat was stripped back except for a bath and bedroom fireplaces.”
All carpets were lifted, and floorboards repaired or replaced and painted white. New Georgian sash windows were installed in all the rooms at the rear of the house and Ross restored or built working shutters in every room.
An en suite was created in the grandly proportioned master bedroom by building a false wall behind the bed, while the main bathroom has a feature wall of black slate which makes a dramatic monochromatic statement.
One of the more significant and labour-intensive aspects was replacing the cornicing which had been removed during a previous renovation. Sue’s first estimate was for £14,000, but by tapping into Ross’s extensive network of contacts, the work was carried out for a fraction of the price by a local craftsman.
With the structural work and decoration completed, Sue could focus on the more relaxing task of picking up pieces for the flat, such as the vintage shop display cabinet and over-sized mirror which she had lacquered in white.
As Sue has a tight-knit group of friends dating back to her Ayrshire school days, creating a sociable dining area was a priority, and the aged, zinc-topped table handmade from apple boxes serves up seasoned upcycled glamour.
“I picked up eight dining room chairs for £100 in one of the Clydeside antique warehouses,” says Sue. “I love sitting at the table listening to music, and because the room runs the length of the house, it’s filled with light all day.”
The work took around four months and by the time Sue moved in, she had several films on the go, including her feature length documentary JIG, so her home-based production office was put to immediate use.
The flat is a vision fulfilled, from the midwinter floorboards to the mirrored armoire that formed a small but critical part of Sue’s fantasy home. The past four years have lived up to expectations but circumstances have dictated a return to London.
Sadly, Sue’s mother died last year, then Holly graduated and moved to London where she now works as a TV researcher, and with Sue’s work increasingly taking her back to London, she is reluctantly moving back for the short term.
“I still want this to be my full-time home but for now I need to be realistic, which is why I’m renting the flat out. I’m not precious about it and would be happy to see a professional couple or a family enjoying the space, which also has a fantastic enclosed communal garden at the rear.
“For me, this is a detour on the journey back home.” In the meantime, Sue hopes that someone else will enjoy living in her white house, which comes with its very own Bourne identity.
Sue’s flat is £1,500 per calendar month. For further details (07974 133 771, email@example.com, www.s1rental.com).
Sue Bourne (www.wellparkproductions.com)
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
What is on your bookshelf?
I love the work of William Boyd and Any Human Heart is my all-time favourite, but I’m just about to read The Land Lay Still by James Robertson, which has been recommended to me as the definitive book about Scotland.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I didn’t think I particularly liked Leonard Cohen until I saw him at the O2 last year, and now I’m playing his music all the time.
What was the last film you watched?
Two films I’ve particularly enjoyed recently are The Untouchable, and the superb documentary Looking for Sugarman, which reminded me that in spite of the difficulties of making a documentary feature film, it’s worth it all when you get it right.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a feature documentary lined up on geriatric fashionistas in the UK.
What is your personal philosophy?
I like to make the most of life as you don’t know how long you’ve got.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I love the Far East and India.