Susan wasn’t viewing this apartment with the intent to buy it – her husband Chris had already made that decision back in December 2003 when he’d bought this penthouse on the eastern edge of Edinburgh’s New Town after visiting the Applecross development with a friend who had purchased a neighbouring property. “Chris lived here for a while on his own and was rattling around in it,” Susan says. “He never really bonded with it.” Chris decided to let the property and moved into a mews house in the city’s West End – a house that he and Susan subsequently shared. And then life changed – and for the better. “We knew we were going to start a family, and when I found out I was having twins, something had to give,” Susan explains. “There just wasn’t enough room in the mews.”
It made sense to move into the penthouse, and little wonder that Susan was so taken by this space as it has 180 degree views that sweep from Calton Hill across the city to the Firth of Forth and Fife beyond.
It’s also much larger than you might anticipate. The expansive open-plan sitting, dining room and kitchen sets the tone in terms of its scale and light, and French doors open from the seating area onto a wide terrace. Having created an open-plan kitchen, dining and living space in their mews, this environment instantly felt familiar to the couple. “This is the same space that we had in the mews only on a bigger scale, with better views and with more privacy,” Susan says.
There are four bedrooms: the master bedroom and en-suite, two double bedrooms, and a smaller room that Susan and Chris use as a study, with another great view towards Calton Hill. This latter was circulation space when Chris bought the apartment, but he realised that by building a wall here and ‘borrowing’ part of the hallway, he could create a home office.
Having been rented for a number of years, Susan wanted to put her own stamp on the interior, transforming this streamlined penthouse into a family home for her twin sons, Theodore and Dexter, now two.
The first task was to ‘soften’ the terrace off the main living space. As she says: “The terrace is part of this room.” Susan suggested laying artificial turf while Chris added the cane screen to the balustrade – a child-friendly addition that also increases the privacy. When sitting on the sofa, all you see is the sky. Susan also chose the curtains and blinds throughout, which were made by Into Interiors, and again the window treatments soften the crisp lines of the rooms. Before, as she says, the style was more minimal, but the soft furnishings have transformed the feel of the interior. “I rarely have the curtains closed sitting in here,” Susan says of the living space. “Even when it’s snowing it’s lovely, and this space is so bright.”
Susan has mixed old pieces with new, and cites her years spent travelling with work as being key to her eclectic style. Her keen eye for sourcing pieces started when she was living in Dubai and furnishing her first apartment there, when Susan would head to the souks, and she also picked up pieces on trips to Thailand. “Travelling is an education in itself,” she says. “I lived in Dubai for seven years and I was on a budget so I had to be inventive.”
These days she’s still canny, often picking up great finds in sales or sourcing pieces online, and giving existing items new life. A pair of chairs upholstered in a pink Designers Guild fabric originally belonged to Susan’s grandmother, and Susan is about to have the chairs lacquered to work in the couple’s next home – a 1930s house in Cramond with a garden for the boys to race around in. Some purchases for this penthouse were influenced by the more robust needs of a young family – without compromising on style – as with the hammered metal coffee table from Habitat that can withstand any number of knocks and jammy fingers.
Susan paired the glass dining table with Philippe Starck’s Ghost chairs – again, robust pieces for all their style. Graham and Green is a favourite haunt for accessories, including the cushions that scatter the sofa, while the more precious objects are raised just high enough to be out of harm’s way. There are modern classics, including Kartell’s Bourgie table lamps, and sleek contemporary pieces such as the elongated white Ligne Roset TV cabinet, mixed with antiques such as the Bavarian cuckoo clock that once belonged to Susan’s great-great-great grandfather.
The bedrooms feature wallpapers from Cole and Son, with ‘Lily’ in the guest bedroom – a gorgeously bright space – and with ‘Flamingos’ adding a subtle pop of colour and quirky decoration to the elegance of the master bedroom, while ‘Woods’ adds impact to the study space. The only rooms that Susan hasn’t changed at all are the en-suite shower room and the family bathroom as there was no need to – both spaces have contemporary mosaic tiling and smart fittings, while the en-suite features a walk-in wet area behind a curved wall. There’s also a second terrace off the master bedroom, again creating that indoor-outdoor flow.
Now, as the family prepares to move to their new home, Susan wants to recreate the contemporary mood of this open-plan living-dining space, mixed with spaces that will feel sympathetic to the 1930s house. For Chris, living in this penthouse second time round has been an entirely different experience. “He loves it now, it’s a home,” Susan says, acknowledging that this will be a hard place to leave. “I love the location. I love that you can walk into town; I love that there’s a concierge and a garage. And this is where I brought our children home to after they were born, to their first little nursery, so there are memories here.”
Now though, it’s time for another new start, and for someone else to appreciate living in this striking penthouse with its skyscape vistas.
Offers in excess of £495,000; contact Knight Frank (0131-222 9600, www.knightfrank.co.uk)