Papercutting artist and illustrator Boo Paterson fell in love with the stunning views from this elevated Edinburgh flat
When Boo Paterson spotted this flat for sale at 4/3 Baxter’s Place in Edinburgh ten years ago, she knew it was meant to be. “I’ve always been into period properties as you can do more with them, and I wanted to live in the city centre,” says the papercutting artist and illustrator, who had been living in Glasgow. “I’d rented the flat below this one over 20 years ago and was in love with the view to Calton Hill. When I left that flat I felt a real sense of regret, so when I saw the For Sale sign here I thought, ‘I have to live here again.’”
Baxter’s Place is on the eastern fringes of the New Town and number 4 forms part of an A-listed Georgian block. It’s a bustling part of the city – the Playhouse and the Omni Centre are just up the road, and a short walk takes you to Princes Street – yet once inside this flat it’s surprisingly quiet, particularly in the bow-windowed living room at the back with its view of Calton Hill. “I love being so high up,” Boo says. “Even though it’s only two storeys at the front, it’s 100ft high here at the back.”
Boo was also attracted to the rich history of this area. Mary Queen of Scots met Lord Darnley during a jousting tournament held on the low ground between Calton Hill and Greenside – which formed a natural amphitheatre and was used for open air plays and jousting tournaments – while Baxter’s Place was the home of the renowned engineer Robert Stevenson, the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson.
And there’s Calton Hill itself, which is home to several iconic monuments and buildings including the National Monument and the City Observatory. The ground level below Boo’s flat was once the Salon Cinema, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1974.
Baxter’s Place is about to begin a new phase of its life with the hotel development currently being undertaken by the Chris Stewart Group, which will see the redevelopment of three interlinked A-listed Georgian townhouses (including Robert Stevenson’s former home) along with a substantial new building to the rear. “I’ve always loved Georgian architecture,” Boo says. “The Georgians loved a curve, and I’m a big fan of art deco as well, so I feel as if these periods are allied in a way.”
Boo was fortunate when she moved in as the previous owner had similar taste in terms of the décor and finishes – although she invested significantly when the roof of the building was overhauled. Her style mixes vintage – a passion for Boo – with salvaged and inherited pieces.
Although some of the Georgian features had survived in the flat, including the working shutters in the two bedrooms, the fireplace in the living room had long gone and had been replaced by, as Boo says, “a monstrous thing with red brick and patio slabs”. Having lived in the flat downstairs, which still featured the original marble fireplace, Boo knew the style and proportions of the surround that would work here, and she sourced the fireplace from architectural salvage and installed the reproduction Victorian insert along with the black granite hearth. “It was a long process of finding the right salvage mantle and putting it all together,” she says, “but I’ve always loved an open fire.”
Boo works either from the desk in the second bedroom – a piece that her late father, a firefighter, had picked up after it was thrown out of a fire station – or in the south-facing living room, which is bathed in light. “I know a lot of artists prefer northerly light, but I’m using such a small blade for papercutting that I like brighter light,” she says.
Boo’s first experience of creating with paper came when she was three or four. “I was watching a TV programme called You And Me with my mum and they showed how to make a paper bird cage,” she says. “I’ve made things with paper ever since. When I was a bit older I started making pop-ups inspired by my brother, who went to art school. I used to make pop-up theatres – I still do – and I made pieces from felt.”
Rather than embracing a career in art, however, Boo moved into newspapers and spent 20 years working as a journalist. She also produced and hosted clubs and cabaret shows and worked as a music manager and as a circus ringmaster. In 2014 she set up the New York arts and cultural magazine Boo York City (www.booyorkcity.com), as she has lived in New York and retains strong connections there – indeed, now she has sold this flat, Boo plans to live there again.
Asked what she’ll miss most, she cites the view, as she has known this historic vista since first living on this street 24 years ago. As she says: “It feels as if you’re part of Calton Hill living here.”