The chance to turn a neglected Georgian flat into a destination Airbnb apartment for discerning tourists was a gift for an ambitious design duo.
What do you get when you combine a beautiful Georgian property in Edinburgh’s New Town with an owner who is a talented florist and a design team who are known for creating individual and inspiring living spaces?
The answer is this apartment on Ainslie Place, which is owned by Jennie Hughes of Abercromby Florals, which was redesigned by Xanthe Weir and Rachel Richmond of DecorAir as an Airbnb.
Xanthe and Rachel launched DecorAir last year with the aim of offering tailored design packages to the buy-to-let market and they are currently working on a slew of diverse projects including a townhouse conversion in the city’s York Place to create four luxury flats for the holiday market; Dod Mill, a holiday development project in the Scottish Borders; and a project for Novotel Edinburgh Centre Hotel.
Rachel is also the design director of the Edinburgh-based interior design company, Hen & Crask, while Xanthe is the founder of the online store, Lair, specialising in mid-century furniture, lighting and curios, so together they bring years of design experience to every project.
At Ainslie Place, Xanthe and Rachel were working with a client who completely trusted their judgment and gave them free rein when it came to design decisions.
Located on the first floor, the apartment has a very large reception room with a dining area, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a separate cloakroom. Jennie had purchased the apartment years ago and had subsequently let it, so by the time DecorAir came on board, the interior was in need of an overhaul.
As Xanthe says: “Jennie wanted to try renting the property on a short-term basis rather than long-term, so our brief was to refurbish it and bring it up to a really good standard suitable for the Airbnb and short-term let market.
“Jennie has travelled extensively and has stayed in a lot of properties and knows the market and how it has changed, so she was really a dream client.
“She set a budget and a very specific timeline, but apart from that she trusted us completely and gave us full creative control.”
Indeed Rachel and Xanthe had a defined deadline as Jennie wanted to let the property during the Edinburgh Festival.
The apartment was listed with the premium Airbnb management company BnBbuddy at the end of July, and welcomed comedian and author Ruby Wax while she was appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
“Already bookings to stay here have exceeded our expectations,” says Xanthe.
When considering the redesign, Xanthe and Rachel took inspiration from the beautiful natural light that flows through this apartment thanks to the tall windows – those at the front of the property overlook the private gardens at Ainslie Place.
“The floor-to-ceiling windows to the front and back allowed us to be quite bold with colour,” says Xanthe, as evidenced by the dark grey kitchen cabinetry, for example.
Décor aside, fundamental elements such as wiring and heating were in place, so Xanthe and Rachel could focus on the aesthetics, and every space in this apartment has been transformed.
Designing for the letting market does require a specific approach, says Xanthe. “We select furniture and fittings to be that bit more robust and easy to use, but with a strong aesthetic and design thread running through the whole scheme.
“There’s so much supply now in the short-term lettings market that it’s vital to stand out with more considered interiors.
“We wanted this property to appeal to an international visitor, so we were careful to reinstate the original features.
“We also wanted to give a nod to some Scottish heritage, so selected a few pieces to reference this in a very subtle way.”
The scale of the drawing room called for a dramatic approach, and Rachel and Xanthe responded by specifying oak flooring laid in a parquet design.
“We love parquet and felt it would break up the space and add interest to the eye, and the warm oak has quite a busy grain that adds character,” says Xanthe.
The walls and woodwork are painted in subtle tones of grey. A lot of the furniture is sourced from high street and online retailers, including the dining table from IKEA and lighting from Made.com.
“The beauty of it is in the mix,” says Xanthe. “The proportions of the rooms meant that we had to purchase a lot of furniture, and this was a challenge on the budget front.
“We had to source furniture with scale and form in order for it not to be lost in the space.
“Lighting was also complex as the ceilings are very high, so we sourced fittings that were dramatic and practical at the same time.
“Rachel and I both live in Georgian properties and have worked on many projects in Edinburgh’s New Town so we have a lot of experience in how to involve the whole space, placing furniture in zones to create warmth and focal points. Furniture placement is key.”
The same oak flooring was used throughout, but in a regular wide plank format in the other rooms, and this creates a flow as you move from space to space.
The previous kitchen had units on all walls creating a cluttered feel, whereas now, with sleek cabinetry on two sides only, the room appears more open.
The matt finish cabinetry is in Pencil, a rich grey, while geometric tiles from Mandarin Stone add a pop of colour on the splashback.
In the bathroom and cloakroom, Xanthe and Rachel were able to refurbish the existing tiles and added concealed lighting above the mirrors, with walls painted in Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball.
In the bedrooms, rather than fit headboards, they designed upholstered cushions, using fabric from Jane Clayton, which are hung on black iron poles (from Poles Direct), enabling the beds to be configured as singles if needed.
The fitted wardrobes were repainted and new handles were added, while the original window shutters were refurbished after being unusable for years.
“That was one of the largest costs in the project, but we wanted to retain the original features, and the shutters work really well at cutting out the light at night,” says Xanthe.
Another significant cost was ridding the apartment of woodchip and relining the walls, but it’s clear that the effort in both time and investment was worth it.
Indeed, it’s remarkable to consider how much this interior has changed in such a short time.
The drawing room previously had a worn veneer floor, with magnolia walls and floral curtains. “It gave the room a very dated and unloved look.
Now, the new parquet floor coupled with the decoration creates a room that seems inviting yet also grand and impressive at the same time,” says Xanthe.
Indeed their client only asked the design duo to change one thing: an orange chair, which didn’t make the cut as Jennie isn’t a fan of the hue.
DecorAir has created a dynamic interior at Ainslie Place that will offer guests all the style they could want for their Edinburgh sojourn.
For more information, contact DecorAir on www.decorair.co.uk
Book Ainslie Place through BnBbuddy at www.airbnb.co.uk
Words: Fiona Reid