Real Homes: restful riverside haven in Mid Calder

Calderbank House, in the conservation village of Mid Calder
Calderbank House, in the conservation village of Mid Calder
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Calderbank House has sat quietly on the edge of the conservation village of Mid Calder in West Lothian since at least the 1740s. Originally a coaching house, the B-listed property with impressive views over the river below has a lot to recommend it, not least – to owner Iain Sinclair – its fishing rights and a wine cellar which runs the length of the house.

Iain says: “Those two things probably sold the house to me, as I imagined myself relaxing in these beautiful surroundings with a spot of fishing or a glass of wine.”

The drawing room

The drawing room

As it turned out, most of Iain and his wife Katie’s spare time in their ten years at Calderbank has gone into renovating the house and grounds.

When they took it on, it was materially sound, but there was only central heating in about a third of the rooms, and the wiring and plumbing was eccentric to say the least.

Iain says: “We seemed to come across more and more work with every wall we got to, so the project grew as we went along.”

Some of the sash and case windows had to be replaced, as did some of the flooring and the whole of the outside needed reharling.

The bespoke kitchen

The bespoke kitchen

Iain says: “During this work we found a keystone with the date 1711 on it, which might have been reused from an older house, or suggests this one is older than we think.”

As well as remedial work, the couple had big plans for the lower ground floor, which, when they moved in, consisted of a bedroom, which unusually housed a freestanding bath, and a dark, partitioned workshop.

The original kitchen was on the floor above, with no access to the garden, so Iain and Katie made the obvious choice to transform the lower part of the house into a big living area.

The work has extended the usable space in the house, creating a kitchen, dining and sitting room which runs the length of the property, plus a separate study off it.

The family room is open plan to the kitchen

The family room is open plan to the kitchen

It isn’t just the size of the project which impresses, but the level of detail. When kitting out the study, Iain commissioned a bespoke carpenter who usually focuses on high-end yacht fit-outs, to create the shelves.

The kitchen is also bespoke, this time by Studio Carpentry of Edinburgh, and the handmade units are of solid dovetailed oak.

The two steel beams and the columns which allow the expansive room to be open plan have been carefully matched to the pattern found upstairs and cornicing has been commissioned to match too.

In the first-floor drawing room a small remnant of panelling in a recess gave them the idea of what the room would have looked like, so they recreated the design and re-panelled the whole room to half height.

The elevated position allows extensive views from the terrace

The elevated position allows extensive views from the terrace

Alongside this sensitive treatment of a period home was the retrofitting, where possible, of modern comforts. The heating is underfloor and a modern spiral stair from the ground floor means the warmth permeates through the whole house.

The couple spent two years on the work, but it is the upgrading of the garden which has perhaps been the real labour of love.

With three children, Jack, 11, Maisie, nine, and Isabella, seven, they have always enjoyed the aspect of being able to open the door to let the youngsters run wild outside.

Some decades ago, Calderbank House had been split into two properties, as had its garden, and so when Iain and Katie took it on, one half of the grounds had been planted by someone with a real eye for landscaping while the lower half had been left to go wild. The removal of 64 leylandii which amounted to a wall of trees opened it all up and increased the light.

This lower area now houses swings and a trampoline with a lawn for a kickabout, plus a gate to what the family refer to as Bella’s Beach on the Linhouse Water which skirts the grounds.

The latest upgrade was a treehouse which is, of course, handmade and bespoke, but this time by Iain.

A long-held aspiration to build their own property means that it is time for the family to move on.

Iain says: “We have poured everything into this house and for an old property, it is now easily maintained and in really good order. Perhaps the next owners will have time for a spot of fishing.”

Offers over £750,000, contact Savills on 0131 247 3700.