Interiors: Rural Georgian Perthshire retreat

Nickie and Nick Pye created a relaxed rural retreat when they restored this Georgian house in a Perthshire glen to its former glory

Nickie and Nick Pye's Auchenflower property. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Nickie and Nick Pye's Auchenflower property. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

AUCHENFLOWER means ‘fields of flowers’ in Gaelic, so it isn’t surprising to discover that this Georgian house has a beautiful location, situated just north of Bridge of Cally, about 11 miles south of the Spittal of Glenshee in the heart of the Perthshire countryside. When Nickie and Nick Pye were looking for a house in 2002, having outgrown their last home after the birth of their son Myles, now 13, they focused on Perthshire. “The scenery is stunning,” Nickie says, “and this is a lovely glen.”

The couple – who are directors of software development company Youmanage – were working from home at the time, which freed up the locations they could consider as long as the property had easy access to the central belt. “We weren’t looking for a house as big as this,” Nickie agrees, but Auchenflower, which had seven bedrooms at the time – it now has five – ticked all the boxes. The house was also a project waiting to happen. As Nickie says: “With each place we’ve owned over the years, we’ve bought an old wreck and done work to it. We can always see the potential.”

This house has an interesting history – and its history explains some of the issues the couple were faced with when they moved here. The building dates from the mid-1700s and was originally a drovers’ inn. The house was much smaller then – it would have comprised what is now the dining room and drawing room – and the traditional L-shaped steading building also dates from around this time.

During the Victorian period Auchenflower became a hotel and the original building was extended. The property was then bought by the local estate and the house made into three properties for estate workers. When the estate eventually sold Auchenflower, each subsequent owner made alterations to reinstate the house as one single home, although previous owners had used one section as an annexe to let.

When the Pyes arrived here 12 years ago the house still had that sense of definition. “It was one-and-a-half houses really and there was no flow between rooms,” Nickie recalls. Because of the main house-plus-annexe layout, the property had two kitchens. “We always had the vision for turning this into a lovely big family home,” Nickie says, although the Pyes lived with the house as it was initially just to be certain that their instinctive reaction to the spaces was right. For example, although Nickie knew she wanted to combine one of the existing kitchens and the neighbouring morning room to create today’s extensive dining-kitchen space, she wanted to be sure the other kitchen wasn’t the better option to keep. Upstairs, one of the bedrooms was made into two en-suite bathrooms for bedrooms 3 and 4 – now, each of the five bedrooms is en-suite. One bedroom on the ground floor became an office for the couple, before later evolving into a music room.

Surprisingly, perhaps, given the refurbishment required, the family stayed here throughout the project. There were comical moments. “When the builders came in they were talking about slapping through the walls, but I hadn’t really thought what that meant,” Nickie says. “Then I realised that said slappings downstairs and upstairs were from the ground level to the eaves. We had this huge gaping hole and I was standing there thinking, ‘And there was me worried about fitting a stair gate for my son…’”

For all the inconvenience – and dust – of living through a project like this, it’s clear Nickie relished the opportunity to reinstate this property back to a cohesive whole, and to put her own stamp on the spaces. “I’ve never been a modern interiors person; everything is quite traditional,” she says. Nickie was as hands-on as she could be, from being involved in the project management to designing the kitchen cabinetry herself and having it made bespoke by a joiner. As a keen cook, this kitchen was designed to be practical with lots of storage.

Although traditional in style, the light palette used throughout grants this interior a more modern feel. The freestanding claw foot bath in the master en-suite was positioned to take in the sunlight and views of a summer’s evening thanks to this room’s west-facing orientation.

The fireplace in the dining room – previously the second kitchen – was also reinstated, and as the fireplace was opened up the couple discovered the space where the old range would have been when this room was part of the drover’s inn.

As a result, they were able to create a lovely big fireplace here with an open fire. Recognising that this room would be used mostly at night, Nickie chose a darker wall colour, picking out the teal hue in the Farquharson tartan used for the curtains and window seat (which is Nick’s family tartan) and having the paint custom-blended to match.

It’s precisely this attention to detail that makes Auchenflower such a special home. And it’s a great house for entertaining. The family tend not to use the drawing room that often in daily life, splitting their time between the dining-kitchen – their Great Dane Grace understandably needs some coaxing to leave the Aga during the colder months – and the adjoining snug sitting room with its Chesterfield sofa, but it comes into its own when friends are round. With windows on three sides, this space is filled with light, while a second open fireplace – with the original surround – creates a cosy ambience.

The Pyes are moving now because of work. As Nickie says: “Our business has changed to the point where we need to be near our office in Stirling, but if I could pick up this house and take it with us, I would.” And it’s not just the house: there is a large enclosed garden with a paddock and a pond, while the steading suggests development potential. Asked what she will miss, Nickie’s reply is simple: “Everything. This house just gets into your being. You don’t own it; it owns you.”

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