Morag Williamson’s Glasgow townhouse is a real West End wonder

DETACHED Victorian townhouses in the West End of Glasgow don’t come on the market every day, so when Morag Williamson and her husband David came across this one in 2006, they snapped it up.

“Many of the houses in the area are over several storeys and my misgivings were that the kitchen would be on the ground floor or basement and then the bedrooms would be two or three floors up. As I had young children at the time (three daughters Belle, Orla and Lily), this simply wasn’t practical. However, when we viewed this property it immediately felt like a real, family home.”

Although it felt like a family home, it still required extensive modernisation to get it looking like one, as Morag explains. “We essentially stripped it out and started again. We knocked the kitchen and dining room into one open-plan area, and installed a new bathroom upstairs. The floors were sanded, the whole house was replumbed and replastered, and we renewed all the electrics. This took place over a period of five months before we moved in. We left the utility room and the bathroom downstairs because we intended to build an extension at the back of the house and ultimately the bathroom would become a cloakroom WC.”

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Tragically, before work was due to commence, David died. It was 2010 before Morag decided it was time to tackle those areas.

The transformation of the house has been huge. Gone is the dark stained wood, deep red carpets and heavy drapes and in their place are neutral painted walls, oak floors and understated designer blinds. The ambience is calm and relaxing which is quite an achievement with three young girls calling it home.

“The house doesn’t get much natural light, so we used the décor to make it as light as possible,” says Morag. “Although it’s a Victorian house I didn’t want a Victorian interior, however when it came to designing the kitchen I didn’t think that a super sleek look would complement the house either.”

The decision was made to go down the hand-built route, commissioning the kitchen from a company in Suffolk. “We wanted to fit a kitchen that feasibly could have been in here before, but also one that we could change in a few years by repainting it.”

However, there was one major problem as Morag recalls: “After we moved in we couldn’t shut any of the unit drawers or doors as the wood had expanded so much. The company sent a tradesman from Suffolk three times but we couldn’t alleviate the problem. Eventually they subcontracted it to a kitchen maker in the Borders who discovered that the wood hadn’t been treated correctly for the Scottish climate. The Suffolk company hadn’t fitted any kitchens in the west of Scotland and they weren’t used to the humidity.

“The kitchen company also built the dining table, chairs and shelving. The shelving design is something I had seen in a magazine and I asked if they could create something similar which they did and I’m really pleased with it. The colour palette is Farrow & Ball and we were able to source the Mercury range cooker to tie in with the colour scheme too.

“I’m often inspired by friends’ houses, but the age of a house dictates as well and that’s why I chose Farrow & Ball paint, they do colour very well,” Morag adds.

The hallway has also been lightened up. “The stairs were stained dark brown, so we had them repainted and laid sisal flooring,” explains Morag. “The light fitting is Italian, but now I have to order the bulbs from Europe as you can’t buy them in the UK any more!” The sideboard in this space came from the Conran shop.

The other major change to the house was the eventual renovation of the 1980s-style bathroom downstairs. “Initially I thought having the main bathroom downstairs was a bit silly and I toyed with the concept of converting one of the bedrooms upstairs but then I decided I quite liked the idea.”

Morag employed Dene Happell at Nest in Glasgow to design her new bathroom and is delighted with the result. “Although I wanted to keep the bathroom design simple, I didn’t want it to be bland and I think choosing a D-shaped bath and the quirky sink adds interest. Dene convinced me that by mixing and matching between ranges of sanitaryware I could get exactly what I wanted and keep costs down too. The bath and WC are from the same range at B&Q and were quite inexpensive, and this allowed me to blow my budget on a funky sink and taps. On the floor, I chose tiles because they’re hygienic and practical, and again the black design is simple. It’s also the perfect backdrop for the white sanitaryware. The old school-style radiator is perhaps my one concession to the age of the property, but in this instance, I think it looks just right.”

Everything about this property is now just right but Morag still has a few ideas. “Eventually, I’ll change the conservatory into something that isn’t all glass and is more practical for Scotland. There’s also a 1930s garage at the end of the garden which is redundant as there’s no vehicle access to it and I’ve already spoken to Dene about converting that into an all-purpose living space for myself or the girls.”

Whatever Morag decides, today this house is certainly earning its keep as the perfect family home.

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