WHEN asked what it was about West Thorn that first attracted Julie Diamond to this property at 2 Lauder Road within Edinburgh’s Grange area in September 2004, her answer is simple: “It was the light,” she says.
“We’d been looking for a while and when we came in here, even though it wasn’t a very nice day, it was just so bright.”
Julie and her husband Joe were buying their first home together when they moved here, having previously lived in rental accommodation, and at the time West Thorn was still in the throes of being developed. Julie and Joe were quick off the mark in choosing this duplex apartment at number 5, which extends over the first and second floors of this impressive mansion house.
West Thorn was built in 1890 as a family home. In 1931 the house was bequeathed to the Sick Children’s Hospital, which renamed the property Douglas House to commemorate the generosity of its benefactor. The building was placed on the market in 2003, and was converted into six individual apartments by the Edinburgh practice Lorn Macneal Architects.
Situated on a corner site on Lauder Road within an expansive walled garden, this building creates a striking first impression, and Julie and Joe, who now have two young children, Bonnie, 2, and Chester, 1, had no qualms about buying Flat 5 while the rest of the development was still a work in progress. As Julie says, this was simply too good an opportunity to miss, and their early arrival here allowed the couple to make a few changes to the original specification.
Entering into the impressive communal hallway, with its grand timber staircase sweeping up to the first floor, it’s already clear that Flat 5 is going to be a special property. The apartment has four bedrooms, three of which, including the master bedroom, are on the upper level along with a family bathroom. The fourth bedroom is on the first floor below, along with the bay-windowed sitting room and a second bathroom, and a kitchen that connects into the dining-family room. There is also a cloakroom and a utility room on this level.
While the sitting room’s grand proportions echo the tone set by the communal entrance, with its wide bay window overlooking the shared gardens to the front of the house, the open-plan kitchen and dining-family room is arguably the highlight of this generous home. The glazed cupola over the dining-family area drenches this space in light, and is just as striking on a rainy day as it is with blue sky above, or on a clear night when the dining table sits under a starry sky.
“This space is where we live,” Julie says, particularly as double french doors open from the dining-family room onto the balcony. It is unusual to find this indoor-outdoor flow at first floor level – and this is a proper balcony with space for a table and chairs. “It also gives outdoor space for the kids to play,” Julie says.
The couple chose a contemporary style for this room, with a glass dining table retaining the visual sense of lightness while reflecting the light from the cupola above. The Roy Lichtenstein print above the sofa adds a punch of colour, as does the Bridget Riley artwork behind the dining table.
Kahrs Dublin Oak engineered flooring offers a warm backdrop against the crisp white walls, and the couple added the same floor finish in the hallway. The timber cabinets and granite worktops had already been specified for the kitchen, as had the Tecnik stainless steel range cooker, but the couple altered the floor finish, swapping the proposed timber for a tiled floor, and added the glass tiled backsplash.
Elsewhere Julie made an impact with wallpapers, mostly using prints from Designers Guild and Laura Ashley. In the living room, a pink damask print from Designers Guild features on one wall, offsetting the white marble fireplace, and Julie picked up the bold hue in the curtains that frame the wide floor-to-ceiling bay window with its cast iron balcony, and in the dramatic glass chandelier, which she sourced from Spain. “I wondered about whether to choose patterned or plain curtains here,” she says, “but decided on the plain fabric and added pattern with the pelmet, as that’s more easily changed in time.”
The balcony is also a feature for the bedroom on this floor, which has a double aspect over the gardens. The bedrooms upstairs have a different feel thanks to the coombed ceilings on this level, and Julie has added wallpapers to all three, with an architectural Zoffany print in the master bedroom giving a subtle nod to the grandeur of the building, while the kids’ rooms feature wallpapers by Ralph Lauren and Designers Guild. Even the cloakroom features a black-printed wallpaper by Laura Ashley, creating extra impact in a small space.
One the great things about this apartment is the way in which the layout allows for separation between the public and private spaces. Julie and Joe can be entertaining in the kitchen and dining-family room while the kids are asleep upstairs, and there is no sound carried from one side of the property to the other.
As well as statement wallcoverings, there are also several dramatic mirrors throughout this interior, including a hefty gilt-framed mirror on the half landing, which Julie sourced from Jeffreys Interiors, and an ornate mirror and marble-topped console in the sitting room that she inherited from her grandmother. “I like mirrors rather than paintings as you can use them anywhere,” Julie says, and here they reflect light around this already light interior and are complemented by a scattering of mirrored furniture. The end result is an elegant and vibrant living space.
The only reason that Julie and Joe are selling now is their impending relocation to Den Haag in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. In terms of scale, detailing and light, this flat set the benchmark against which they have gauged every other property they have considered. As Julie says: “We’ve managed to find a house as bright as this.” Light drew them to this property, after all, and they needed another bright living space to entice them away.
• Offers over £675,000; contact Rettie & Co (0131-220 4160, visit www.rettie.co.uk)