Arthur Lodge is a unique, Greek revival property with every room designed to elicit gasps, finds Kirsty McLuckie
It has been described as the most theatrical house in Scotland and certainly for a sense of drama Arthur Lodge just off Dalkeith Road in Edinburgh has little to touch it.
The Greek revival Georgian villa dates from 1829 and is thought to have been designed by Thomas Hamilton, who was responsible for the Royal High School.
Quite remarkably for a city centre property, the six-bedroomed house is set in beautiful landscaped garden grounds with a cottage wing, carriage driveway and double garage.
Inside is a treasure trove of unique rooms over 6,000sq ft, which pay homage to the Georgian era with playful and impressive style which can provoke gasps as you enter each one.
Dr Alan Brown and his wife, Elizabeth Ballantyne-Brown, bought the house in June 2002 and undertook a programme of restoration and upgrading.
Elizabeth’s career was in fashion so she was well-placed to make all the major decisions on decor but the couple are just the latest in a long line of owners in love with the house.
William Burn-Murdoch, Antarctic explorer and painter, substantially modified Arthur Lodge when he owned it in the early 20th century and also developed the impressive gardens as well as hosting both fellow explorers Amundsen and Scott.
But it was more recent owners, John Pinkerton and Jack Howells, who transformed it in the 1980s into a homage to Neoclassicism.
The house has a wealth of exotic murals over numerous levels with no two rooms the same in either shape or height.
The porch is based on the monument of Thrasyllis on the Acropolis for example, while the garden room has Norwegian oak panelling with doors hung with old Venetian embroidery on velvet.
At the heart of the house is the central atrium, which has its original stone floor with two Ionic columns encircled by a staircase and lit by a cupola two storeys above.
Each door from the hall leads to a different revelation.
The drawing room ceiling is based on the design for the gates of the Parthenon.
The dining room meanwhile is dominated by a barrel-vaulted ceiling with a mural depicting the Apotheosis of Lord Byron who died in Greece at the time the house was built.
The state bedroom is furnished in the Napoleonic style with four murals describing a fantasy Edinburgh.
A beautifully proportioned octagonal study has original panelled doors, shutters, a marble fireplace and built-in bureau plus a balcony overlooking the garden.
It is particularly special to Elizabeth as the place where she paints.
On the lower level is the magnificent library, adjoining orangery and a door to the ltalian sunken garden.
The room is Alan’s sanctum and houses his lifelong collection of cinema and theatre memorabilia.
A flight of white marble stairs from the atrium leads into a hall with a domed, mirrored ceiling adorned with murals depicting the four seasons.
From here, a beautiful door with Doric doorcase leads out on to Dalkeith Road – and you could say, back to real life.
The Browns have made a huge difference in their 15 years there. Alan, who is a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist says: “It was clear this magnificent house needed to be significantly upgraded and made family friendly.
“We employed architect Lorn Macneal, an expert in renovating period properties, and over 18 months major works were carried out such as re-leading and re-tiling the roof, rewiring and installing central heating, and French polishing all oak doors and panelling.
“Structural work involved extending the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom, installing new bathrooms and a major refurbishment of the cottage wing.”
Outside, a circular driveway was laid and the garage rebuilt to house two cars.
While the restoration has retained the unique joyousness of the house, it has improved its comfort. This is no museum piece, but a fascinating family home.
Alan says: “It has been a great privilege for us to be part of the history of this unique Edinburgh house.
“It is ideal for parties; we have so enjoyed entertaining family and friends as well as hosting many charity and University of Edinburgh events.”
Arthur Lodge is on the market with Simpson & Marwick for offers over £1.675 million.