Beach berth: The MacKinnon’s Cape Cove house in Argyll

A one-time boat house has been transformed to make the most of its waterfront location for Laura and John MacKinnon.

‘MOST houses along the coastline of Scotland have a road between them and the beach. We wanted a house directly on the water,” explains John MacKinnon. After much searching, John and wife Laura finally found a little cottage for sale an hour away from 
Glasgow in Argyll.

It was an interesting site that had seen many changes throughout the years. In the 1800s it was the site of a large boat house with its own pier which serviced a big house at the top of the hill. Under the shale on the beach, the boat rails can still be seen. During the Second World War it was seconded by the military and became a coastal signalling post for passing submarines and ships. The 1970s saw it reconfigured as a private residence.

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“It was the perfect spot. Right on the beach, with fabulous views out towards Arran and Bute to the left, and a more interesting and varied view up the loch to the right. More importantly it is so close to Glasgow that we can pop up for the weekend or even a night,” says John.

The house itself was solid and initially the MacKinnons thought a little renovation and upgrading was all that was required. However, the more they thought about it, the more they realised this house was not the beach house they had envisaged. With a little imagination they could make it in to something really special.

They called upon the services of Glasgow 
architects Cameron Webster, whose portfolio reflected the type of architecture that John and Laura were looking for.

“I grew up in Cape Town, which has some stunning beach houses, and we have both travelled extensively coming across buildings that make so much more of the elements and the location than do many modern Scottish houses. Cameron Webster Architects understood our 
vision and had a lot of experience with similar builds to bring to the project,” says John.

The architect Stuart Cameron, adds: “The MacKinnons were great to work with as they had such a clear idea of what they wanted, but were totally flexible on how we got there.

“At one stage we even mooted the idea of knocking the house down and starting again, and it may even have been cheaper in the long run, but we were concerned that what we proposed to the planners may not have gone through.

“There was also the worry of what we would find in the foundations. The original standing was solid, had stood the test of the weather and the sea for years and there was the thought of why fix what isn’t broken,” adds Stuart.

What was decided in the end was to take the original footprint of the house including the two garages and link them together with an 
entrance hall. This gave the house an extra two bedrooms, a bathroom and a utility room.

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The original skin of the house was removed and the walls were rendered and cavity insulated. The space inside was totally reconfigured with the main living room, dining area and kitchen becoming open plan and accessed from the new hallway.

Two further bedrooms feed off the hall, and stairs to the side access a large master bedroom, shower room and balcony below.

The biggest transformation was made by removing the front of the house and pushing it out over the rocks below.

“Because the Argon-filled glass acts as a wall as well as a window, it is both toughened and laminated. The front-facing glass has a UV filter to stop the house getting too hot as the light on the water reflects up to the windows and heats the house even in the winter,” explains Stuart.

The only part of the house that is recognisable from its past is the pitched tiled roof, which blends in to the rest of the building thanks to the solar panels attached to heat the water.

The house is known locally as the James Bond house and with the high level of the interior’s specifications, it happily lives up to its name. The Sonos sound system has full access to Napster’s 7 million song library, there is a Mac Mini, which stores 200 pre-loaded movies and Apple TV to download films from an iPad.

“Our plan was always to let the house out when we are not using it, so we needed the house to be low maintenance and robust. A lot of our choices of materials used inside plus the furniture were chosen with this in mind. However it was very important to us that the style and the design were not compromised,” says John.

The sofas in the living room from Habitat are brightened with contemporary and colourful cushions from Natasha Marshall. The dining room table is Stornäs from Ikea and is teamed with chairs from Dwell. The sideboard in the hall and the desk in the living room are from

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The large white walls throughout lend themselves to the dramatic work of local artist Eleanor Carlingford. Bedrooms are furnished simply from Habitat with the exception of the orange Eames rocking chair which John found at SCP.

Downstairs in the master bedroom luxurious extras such as the alpaca throw on the bed by Samantha Holmes and the deep pile rug on the floor from Chelsea MacLaine of Bearsden make this room extra special. On the outside table the candles, vases and china are from Stow Away in Helensburgh.

The kitchen, designed and chosen by John and Laura, is the simple Crème Lineaire range by Magnet with an AEG induction hob and a Smeg oven. The large island worktop is DuPont Zodiaq.

“Working with Stuart, we really were innovating as we went along. Laura and I would come across things that we liked and propose them to Stuart and likewise he would do the same. I found the teak from Wood n’ Beyond that we used on the balcony and the outside of the house and knew it would withstand the weather well, whereas Stuart sourced the Brazilian slate from the Black Slate Company for the interior and exterior fireplaces. It did help that he had similar taste in design to us,” says John.

The wood-burning stove is a Riva 66 multi-fuel fire from the Burning Question, while the tiled flooring in the living areas is Pietra Serena tiles from Bettini Tile Service which John had seen in the Apple store and tracked down.

The final outcome is a simple, elegant, light-filled space which is dominated by the sea below. When the weather is calm, the house opens up to let the outside in. The large balcony acts as an extension of the living room and the views up the loch are breathtaking. When the weather is bad and the seas are rough, water cascades down the outside of the glass and turns the house into a beautiful glass cocoon.

Cape Cove is available to rent as property A902 at

Cameron Webster (0141-330 9898,