Perfect blend: A former Victorian manse meets modern design at Liz Alexander’s Ayrshire home

LIZ Alexander likes a challenge. Three years ago she came across Kincraig, a former manse in Maybole, ten miles south of Ayr.

LIZ Alexander likes a challenge. Three years ago she came across Kincraig, a former manse in Maybole, ten miles south of Ayr.

Though the house had been derelict for some time, she knew the B-listed property could become the welcoming family home she desired.

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Liz, who has a portfolio of properties she rents out, instinctively knew that Kincraig, at 40 Culzean Road in Maybole, had bags of potential. Though some ceilings and cornicing had become damaged as a result of water getting in through the leaking roof, she could see there were enough original features to return this turreted 1886 home to its former glory. Remnants of the original stained glass window cast a striking gaze over the sweeping staircase in the hall, while Victorian fireplaces and period chandeliers remain in the majority of rooms.

After buying the four-bedroom house early in 2010, Liz embarked on a refurbishment that took several months. As well as replacing the roof and re-wiring, the house was damp proofed, a heating system with combi-boiler was installed and new Victorian-style radiators fitted. A rabbit warren of small rooms at the rear of the house was knocked out to create a stunning kitchen, with a step down to a small sitting room. Two new en suites were created upstairs, while a door was knocked through from the master bedroom into the main bathroom, creating a third en suite. Most walls and ceilings were re-plastered.

Throughout the house, Liz has shown an eye for detail, especially with her auction purchases which vary from the entire dining suite in the formal dining room, to a marble coffee table and the mirrored billiards table in the games room, which was bought on eBay. Subtle colours have been used, from ivory and soft grey to shades of chalky green. The result is a house that has become a warm, functional family-friendly home.

“I believe the house was the manse for Cargill Church, which was taken down in the 1950s,” says Liz. “The house was owned by a builder in the early 1900s and then by a tea merchant. When I bought it there was a series of little rooms at the back which the tea merchant used for blending his tea. By 2010 the house had been lying empty for some time and was boarded up. The roof was leaking and water had damaged some ceilings and all the guttering was down. I liked that things like the original bell system was still intact and working, and every chandelier was still in place – I simply took them down and cleaned them. Some of them are really beautiful.”

She adds: “I decided to knock all the little rooms at the back – a laundry, a maid’s room, tea blending rooms, a coal shed and a single stable – out and took out all the ceilings to create a big full-height kitchen. I wanted an entertaining kitchen as I think most people end up in the kitchen. When we have people round they always end up in here, so I also wanted an area set off for sitting.”

The kitchen is a lovely, bright open space with ivory units set beneath dark wood worktops and bordered with slate upstands. Each drawer and unit is finished with a leather handle, tying in with the cream leather stools that circle the breakfast bar. The taupe shade applied to the walls and ceiling brings out the warmth in the worktops and the engineered oak floor. A step down leads to a comfortable seating area.

However, while the main building work was complete when Liz and her son Oliver, and his girlfriend Holly, moved in during August 2010, the kitchen was still in pieces.

“When we moved in the kitchen was in boxes and the only sink outside,” recalls Liz. “I remember brushing my teeth out there. I had guys working here for a while after moving in.”

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Kincraig is entered through an endearing turreted vestibule that leads into the open hallway, which features a large arch framing the sweeping staircase. Liz opened up a closed fire in the hall and installed a fitting sandstone surround.

The bay windowed drawing room benefits from its original fireplace and panelling that Liz has highlighted with shades of grey and green, which combined with the ivory sofas, create an eloquent reception room.

The formal dining room boasts a bay window and original fireplace, with a small ante room off which leads through to the kitchen area.

Liz currently uses the family room as an office, but – after much encouragement from her children and grandchildren – turned another into a cinema room.

“We all piled in here to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics,” she smiles. “The kids and grandkids all use this room when they are here, especially to watch movies or football.”

The original kitchen is now a games room, complete with that mirrored billiards table. Liz continued the theme by adding a mirrored hood over the table and mirror framed pictures. A hallway leads to a WC, laundry room and then the kitchen with sitting room.

Upstairs, Liz created a Jack and Jill en suite between two bedrooms, and cleverly added an en suite to a third bedroom. The main bathroom – finished with bronze wet wall panelling, rain shower and double-ended bath – is now the en suite to the master bedroom. This room also benefits from a dressing room created from the former adjacent ‘front parlour’ room with its curved turret walls.

Outside, electric gates enclose the property, which has a sweeping monobloc drive. A large three-car garage has been re-roofed. Liz has considered turning this into a studio flat and has planning permission to build two semi-detached houses within the grounds. However, in spite of all her hard work, she has decided to sell.

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“The house is really too big for me,” she concedes. “I have enjoyed three lovely Christmases here with my family but I think I need to downsize. I would also like to spend some time travelling. I do love the house and its views though.”

• Kincraig, 40 Culzean Road, Maybole, is for sale at offers over £375,000 through Corum (01292 880 888,

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