Interiors: A beautiful interior was the silver lining to a design cloud when Eleanor Cannon’s Edinburgh home needed a revamp

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SIX years ago, when Eleanor Cannon was househunting in Edinburgh, it was all about location.

Eleanor’s children, Ruari, now 20, and Kirsty, 16, were attending Mary Erskine’s and Stewart’s Melville schools in the city’s Ravelston area, so when Eleanor noticed a five-bedroom house for sale at 9 Ravelston Terrace it was an easy decision. The house had previously been lived in by two elderly sisters, and subsequently their family had taken on the property and refurbished it to sell.

“The couple who had tackled the work had done a really good job, but because they hadn’t lived in the house there were things they hadn’t realised,” Eleanor explains. “One thing that came to light was that the house needed rewiring. No matter how lovely it was when I bought it, it all had to be started again and we had to move out.”

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and for Eleanor, who is managing director of the employment service specialists Originel, this opportunity encouraged a new approach as she turned to interior designer Gerry Burke.

“I’ve known Gerry for years as a friend, but I didn’t know him professionally until he came here,” she says. When initially decorating the house, Eleanor chose a dark colour scheme. “I’d called this the light house when I first came here because of the beautiful light that comes in from the top of the house,” she says, referring to the cupola over the stairwell, yet the effect of this had been all but obliterated by the darker palette.

“Gerry came in and said, ‘We need to bring light into this house,’ and I took the decision to trust him 100 per cent,” she recalls. “Because we were friends, I didn’t feel any need to control what he was doing.”

There was the odd occasion when that trust was tested, as when Gerry suggested laying rich brown carpeting throughout. Eleanor recalls, “I thought, ‘brown carpet?’ ” but she ran with the idea. “Would I have chosen that myself? No, but now I have the most beautiful carpet.”

Gerry introduced Eleanor to the concepts of continuity and balance. The accommodation is arranged over three storeys, and using the same carpeting as a warm, luxurious backdrop between the living spaces on the ground and first floors and the bedrooms spread over the first and second floors has helped achieve flow.

Gerry also added elements of symmetry to the spaces, as seen in the ground floor sitting room and the dining room above, where the bay windows in each are framed by tall, elegant floor lamps by Porta Romana.

The lighting throughout – which includes key pieces by Porta Romana, along with chandeliers in the dining room from The Crystal Chandelier Company – is one of the design highlights of this home, particularly the striking and sculptural Blossom chandeliers (Porta Romana again), in white gold with glass detailing, that feature in the hallway and on the landing above.

“I wanted a family home, but also a classically elegant house that was understated,” Eleanor explains of her brief to Gerry. “I wanted it to feel timeless, as if the lighting had always been here.”

Gerry and Eleanor worked through the house to create a cohesive design scheme that would still allow each space to have its own personality. The sitting room on the ground level had originally been the dining room, but this was swapped around, moving the dining room into the grander room upstairs and creating a cosier family space here. Gerry replaced the heavy curtains with silk drapes in a creamy-stone hue to co-ordinate with the walls, while Eleanor suggested the raspberry accents in the cushions and lampshades and sourced the over-scaled Chesterfield sofa from Shapes.

The dining-kitchen at the rear of the ground floor is another great family area, particularly as French doors take this space outside into the courtyard garden. While the limestone flooring and ribbed oak units were here, Eleanor added the black marble worktops. Gerry specified the pendant lighting in the kitchen and the Natives wallpaper by Élitis – which looks like animal skin – creating a distinctive feature wall within the dining area. Again, a pop of colour was added with the blinds. The oak table and bench seating is French, and also came from Shapes. “This table is six years old and it’s distressed, which is a reflection of the entertaining we’ve done here,” Eleanor says.

This element has been an unexpected pleasure of living at number 9. Eleanor says: “I didn’t realise the degree to which this would be an all-encompassing entertaining house. As a family we’re very extrovert and love having people around us, and that’s held true not just for me but also for the kids.”

This has been particularly apparent upstairs in the dining room, where one side of the space is home to the piano. Kirsty and Ruari – now an actor living in London, he has recently finished filming on zombie horror World War Z – are both musical. “There have been lots of lovely sessions with young people spontaneously playing music here; it will be an ongoing memory of this room,” Eleanor says.

In terms of aesthetics, Gerry again made an impact with the choice of wallcoverings, including a distinctive rippled wallpaper from the Compendium collection by Ulf Moritz – a luxurious finish that complements the elegant period detailing.

The modern additions are equally lovely, from those sparkling chandeliers to the silk curtains and the Ribbon wall lights in burnished gold, again from Porta Romana.

The bathroom on this level was overhauled after the ceiling caved in, and the room perfectly reflects Eleanor’s approach to her home: with paintings, wallpaper, and curtains as a backdrop to the existing freestanding bath, this is a space to enjoy and unwind in, a furnished room rather than a functional bathing area. The dressing room and en suite to the master bedroom were redesigned with built-in bespoke cabinetry detailed to reflect the age of the house, and the same detailing is repeated in the dressing room on the top floor, where one set of cabinets opens to reveal a fold-down bed – a handy option when your five-bedroom home needs to accommodate extra guests.

Throughout the process of choosing interior furnishings and finishes, Gerry also inspired Eleanor to start looking at art, and she has since built up a collection including pieces by Marion Drummond and Matthew Draper.

“I’m very passionate about the art I have. There are some very old paintings here, but also lots of contemporary artists,” she says. “I’ve found that I have an eclectic taste.”

This house has been a voyage of discovery for Eleanor. “Gerry knew my previous houses, so he knew what I was trying to do, but I’ve never quite managed it before,” she says.

“Gerry did this house effortlessly; he absolutely went the extra mile, and he’s given me a lot of confidence to trust my own instincts.” This will influence whatever interior she tackles next. “I will certainly consider light a lot more, and lighting, and I’ll consider flow and balance. For me, the house is a combination of the infrastructure and the people in it. There’s a real spirit in this house which is a reflection of the family, and that will move with us.”

Fixed price £735,000; contact Simpson & Marwick on 0131-525 8600 or visit For more information on Gerry Burke Interiors,