The makeover of a relative’s ground and garden in the capital was just the project to whet the Allans’ appetite for even grander designs in the future
WHEN Antonia Allan and her husband David decided to relocate from London to Edinburgh in 2008, they were spared a lengthy search for their new home. The couple are both Scottish and Antonia had grown up in Lynedoch Place in the city’s West End, while her grandmother lived nearby in a ground and garden apartment on Clarendon Crescent.
“My granny had lived here since 1967 and I’ve always loved this flat,” Antonia says. When her grandmother decided to move to East Lothian to be closer to Antonia’s parents, the opportunity arose for the Allans to buy the property.
Nothing major had been done to this handsome Georgian property in the past few decades, which suited Antonia just fine. “We wanted a project; the fact this flat needed work really appealed to me as I’d always seen the potential,” she says.
For Antonia and David, who have three sons, Eddie, 9, Linus, 7, and Rollo, 4, it was important that the property functioned well for a growing family, with a balance of family space and entertaining space and areas where the couple could work from home when necessary – David works as an IT consultant while Antonia is currently studying to be a psychotherapist.
The first area they tackled was the kitchen. Indeed, this space alone reflects Antonia’s aesthetic as she loves combining traditional design with contemporary features as well as adding in a few quirky elements. The cabinetry came from Old Pine & Pieces at Fenton Barns in East Lothian and was painted in a soft eau-de-nil shade, with a darker hue transforming the existing timber-clad walls. The floor cabinets are finished in timber worktops, with a classic Belfast sink, while the new kitchen island is topped in Corian, adding a contemporary edge. Antonia picked up the colourful door and drawer handles from Anthropologie.
“I’m a complete collector,” she says, “or a hoarder, as my husband would say!” Antonia has a great eye for combining pieces, and adds personality to the interior with quirky finds from eBay, like some of the old school maps that line the walls in the hallway, or random discoveries, from curios displayed in the ground floor drawing room to prints found in an antiques market in the south of France. And she has come across some great bargains: the streamlined sofa in the drawing room cost £100 on a furniture exchange site. Antonia simply added cushions by Jonathan Adler.
“These Georgian houses have such beautiful bones, you really can do anything,” she says. “I read a lot of Livingetc and have probably taken inspiration from some of the houses featured there.”
The couple stripped and sanded the original floorboards and redecorated throughout, transforming the flat into a space that suited their more contemporary style, but the biggest change came about in 2013 when they added an extension to the rear. “My taste changed between moving in and doing this extension, so it was good that we waited,” Antonia says.
While the kitchen and dining area provided a great family zone, the couple realised that their home would work better with an additional living space on the garden level, just off the kitchen and opening into the garden.
Initially they contacted an architectural draughtsman, “who didn’t really understand the planning regulations or what we wanted,” Antonia says, which led the couple to contact architect Craig Amy (craigamy.com). Craig has worked on a number of house extensions including work on listed buildings – this flat is A-listed – and intuitively understood the couple’s brief, which included the creation of a new en-suite for the rear bedroom on this level.
Planning restrictions meant that the extension could only cover 50 per cent of the rear elevation, and Craig designed the garden room to make full use of this available size, which meant that he had to come up with an ingenious solution when considering the en-suite. There was an extending rear outhouse, and Craig used this and enlarged it very slightly to create space for the toilet.
While the garden room is arguably the highlight of this property – although the original drawing room is also stunning, and the dining-kitchen is a great, easy-going space – this en-suite has such a clever and crisp design, complete with white subway tiling and a wet room-style shower area, that it again demonstrates the value of bringing a good architect on board a project.
The extension is clad in Western Red Cedar and is glazed on two sides with large sliding doors opening into the garden, and two rooflights draw light into the rear of the space and on into the dining area behind. “We use this room all the time,” Antonia says. “In summer we just open the doors to the garden, and it’s really cosy in winter with the stove lit. We have our movie nights here, and it’s quite unusual because even with all this glass we aren’t overlooked because of where we’re positioned. And we have access to the lane behind the crescent, which really helped when building this as everything came in and out via the lane rather than going through the flat.”
A section of the original rear stone wall has been left exposed within the garden room, highlighting the boundary between old and new, while a mirrored section in the dining area catches the light that comes in through the opening in the rear wall. It’s a simple but clever touch. “Adding the extension has insulated the back of the flat and made it much warmer than it was before,” says Antonia, who has furnished the space with a cool mix of contemporary pieces and added colour in the accessories.
Now as the family prepares to move out to East Lothian, Antonia acknowledges that this project has whet her appetite for another. “I’d love to do this again,” she says. “My dream is to build something; to find a plot of land and build our own version of a Huf Haus. Maybe Craig could build us a house. Or we’ll find a traditional house again, but build a glass box on the back. We’ve made the decision to move but it was a hard decision as this is my dream house.”