Inside a chic holiday home in Aberdeenshire which is perfect for a romantic getaway

The Frasers explain how a neglected cottage in the grounds of their Aboyne home became a designer bolthole for holidaying couples.

Using their extensive experiences of holidays abroad, Ron and Sheila Fraser have transformed a dilapidated gardener’s cottage into a stylish couple’s retreat.

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They had been looking for a home that would offer a business opportunity for five years, and in 2015 they found it.

“We were living in Aberdeen, but our search area was around Perthshire and the eastern Cairngorms,” Ron recalls.

“What first attracted us to this property in Aboyne was the main house. It’s a substantial granite property built in 1908 and in the grounds is Invergarry Cottage.

"The cottage was in very poor condition, but we thought we could turn it into a self-catering property.”

Picture: Cool Stays

The couple bought the two properties in January 2016 and spent six months doing up the big house to live in and then a further nine months converting and extending the cottage.

“The cottage consisted of three small rooms, a bedroom, bathroom and lounge/kitchen, which wasn’t big enough for what we wanted to do.

"However, we decided that we would retain the existing building with all its original features and at the same time add a lounge and a large wet room which could also service the outside area.

We didn’t actually need planning permission as we had permitted development rights.”

Ron is an architect and Sheila an interior designer who specialises in lighting design, so there was no problem coming up with a new layout and style.

“What we wanted to do in terms of design was to keep the cottage and almost put it back to the way it was.

"In the Eighties someone had put artificial stone all the way around it. We had a photograph which was taken in the Sixties and could clearly see that it was a typical timber-lined cottage, and that’s what we’ve put it back to.”

Ron and Sheila chose to use natural Scottish larch on the original part of the cottage.

To ensure that the extensions didn’t become a pastiche, they fitted Siberian larch to them and stained it a different colour.

“The shell of the house had a distinct style that we wanted to keep, but not as a throwback to the Seventies,” says Sheila.

“We’ve kept the timber lining, so it still feels like a cottage, but at the same time we wanted to give it a contemporary twist.

Picture: Cool Stays

"For example, the kitchen/diner, is now a large, contemporary space fitted with a modern kitchen, but it still has the lining on the walls and ceiling.

“We did that again in the bathroom and the bedroom. However, in the new extensions – the lounge to the front and the wet room – we’ve made at least one wall, or in the case of the lounge, two walls completely in glass.

Picture: Cool Stays

"There’s a much more open and transparent feel to the new areas than to the smaller enclosed rooms of the original cottage.”

The décor has also brightened up the cottage. “Although we retained the timber lining, we did paint it as originally it was very dark,” Sheila says.

“We also wanted to give special consideration to the lighting so that the rooms become multi-functional. By layering the light fittings and fixtures you can create daytime and evening lighting.

Picture: Cool Stays

“For example, where we positioned the kitchen table initially I wanted to hang a pendant light, but it just wasn’t going to work.

"I thought it would be nice to have something on the wall and I found this stag’s head light. If you switch off the other illumination it creates a nice ambience.

Picture: Cool Stays

"I also love when guests arrive in the evening or in the winter and we have all the lights on to create a really welcoming feeling.”

Sheila has added many personal touches in the form of soft furnishings and artworks.

“I made the bedhead, stools and some of the cushions myself in order to create the desired design scheme,” she says.

“I wanted a Scottish style but not twee, and I sourced some lovely fabrics. We’ve got great local artworks as well.

Picture: Cool Stays

"The swan piece in the bathroom is by photographer Vhairi Walker and what’s particularly nice is it’s a photo taken in the area, so we can tell guests where it was shot on the Loch of Aboyne. It’s nice to have that reference.”

The couple also put a lot of thought into the outdoor areas, as Sheila explains: “The garden around the cottage is completely fenced off and we’ve created a lovely little kitchen patio round the back which captures the sun in the morning.

Picture: Cool Stays

"We’ve built a bird feeding station there which is great for watching the wildlife with a cup of coffee.

"At the front, where the entrance is, we’ve built another patio furnished with a chiminea, chairs and a table.

"The sun is there in the evening, so if you feel like dining outside or sitting out with a glass of wine, it’s perfect. If it’s a bit cooler you can enjoy the fresh air by simply opening the bi-fold doors from the lounge."

Picture: Cool Stays

Sheila continues: “The hot tub is another bit of luxury and we’ve screened that off, again for complete privacy.

"We just want our guests to feel that while we’re next door we’re not invading their space and they feel comfortable.

"Even the windows that back on to our property are frosted as they’re bathroom windows.”

Picture: Cool Stays

Ron explains what inspired the couple in their redevelopment. “The idea behind The Invergarry was to create something that we would want to holiday in ourselves,” he says.

“We’ve been all over the world and we’ve picked up ideas from South Africa, Scandinavia, Iceland and, of course, Scotland and we’ve merged all the ideas we like – and fortunately some other folk seem to like it as well.”

Sheila continues: “What I enjoy is that when we say farewell to the guests they look like different people to the ones we greeted on arrival – they’re so relaxed.

"For us that means they’ve experienced The Invergarry the way we wanted them to.”

Picture: Cool Stays

The Invergarry is available to let through CoolStays.

Words: Nichola Hunter