Space and grace

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Carol and Harry Nimmo had initially acquired a taste for Georgian architecture while living in Royal Circus in Edinburgh's New Town, so when they decided to move from their subsequent house in Murrayfield Gardens in 1999, they looked once again for a period property.

The accessibility of the location was also important for the couple, as Royal Terrace is within walking distance of Princes Street in one direction and Holyrood Park in the other. "I like being able to pop over to Valvona and Crolla's on Elm Row," says Carol Nimmo. "Looking out to the front and back of the house, all you can see is greenery and trees, you could be anywhere, but at the same time everything is just a walk away."

Although once considered the more commercial end of Royal Terrace, much has changed in recent years. Both number 5 and the neighbouring house at number 6 have been converted back to residential use; number 6 was previously a hotel, while number 5 was used as the offices for the General Teaching Council until the previous owners converted it during the late 1990s.

The A-listed Royal Terrace is reputedly the longest Georgian terrace in Europe and provides the pinnacle of architect William Playfair's Calton Hill scheme (interestingly for the Nimmos, Playfair also designed Royal Circus). The integrity of Playfair's faade on Royal Crescent has survived intact, and once inside the townhouse the same is true for the period detailing, from the flagstones in the hallway (which continue on both the first and second floor landings) and the original polished floorboards, to the open fireplaces, cornicing, architraving, dado and picture rails, along with the astragal windows and working shutters.

It's this level of period detailing and the refined elegance of it all - nothing is too showy or overly elaborate - that really makes this house stand out, along with its proportions of course, which are quite incredible. There are two points in the house where the scale of the space really impacts on you: firstly, standing in the hallway with the cupola above - so high above - pouring light down the stairwell, and then in the first drawing room, with the double doors open between this and the master bedroom creating a space 52 feet long. As Nimmo says, it's great for parties; in fact, on occasions the couple have dismantled their bed and popped it into the adjoining dressing room to create one vast entertaining space.

The couple have three children - Arabella, 16, Sandy, 14, and Fergus, 12 - and there are aspects of the house that make it work very well for a family. On the ground floor, for example, the dining-kitchen opens into the sitting room, creating a through-flow of space. In turn, the kitchen has French doors that open onto a balcony, creating a visual link with the rear garden, while a timber "bridge" leads to the garden from the back door. The couple did consider rejigging this arrangement to create garden access from the kitchen, which would involve taking away the outbuildings on the lower ground level (these would have been the old laundry rooms and now include the utility room for the flat below) and creating an extension here with a little courtyard, and this area does present some potential for the next owners to explore.

As it is though, the dining-kitchen is a lovely bright space, with solid timber units and a midnight blue Aga, while the sitting room has a striking arched double window formation to the front. The couple had little to do to the house after moving in other than redecorating rooms to their taste, and their style combines antique and modern furniture with contemporary artworks lining the walls, including favourite pieces by Sarah Carrington and Chris Bushe, as displayed in the drawing room.

"I like the northern light in these rooms," says Nimmo. "It's a wonderful light for displaying paintings."

Someone else might choose to combine the master bedroom's dressing room and bathroom to create one large en suite, although the Nimmos have preferred the added amenity of the dressing area, while the study on this floor could be a single bedroom.

There are four more bedrooms (one en suite) with a family bathroom and a laundry on the top floor. In winter, with the trees bare, these upper two levels offer fantastic views that sweep across the city and on over the Forth towards Fife.

The lower ground level, which is connected to the house from the rear hallway, has three further bedrooms with a living room, kitchen, two bathrooms, utility and study, and the central location ensures it has great rental potential, whether long term or for holiday lets.

"We've been very lucky here; it's such a flexible, easy place to stay," says Nimmo.

Whoever buys the house next will be inheriting a very fine piece of Georgian heritage indeed.

Inside knowledge


• The A-listed four-storey Georgian townhouse, designed by William Playfair, displays a wealth of period detailing including flagstone and timber floors, open fireplaces, cornicing, original astragal windows and working shutters.

• The scale and proportions of the rooms are stunning. Highlights include the interconnected sitting room and dining-kitchen on the ground floor, and the drawing room and master bedroom above, which has double doors opening between the two.

• The house has nine bedrooms, three of which are in the self-contained flat on the lower ground floor. There's also a south-facing walled garden to the rear.

• Offers over 1,350,000, contact Rettie & Co on 0131-220 4160.