Edinburgh garden flat turned into serene sanctuary

Jo Tutton's Drummond Place home. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Jo Tutton's Drummond Place home. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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JO Tutton has brought her stylist’s eye to her Edinburgh garden flat to create an uncluttered, relaxing home

Property agents will always stress that first impressions are crucial when viewing a house, and those first impressions can either be a front garden, if you have one, or a hallway. Arriving at stylist Jo Tutton’s home in Edinburgh and walking down the stone staircase to the front door, the first impression is of the most beautiful scent. It seems unlikely to be coming from the planted containers in November, but when Jo opens the front door you realise the delicious scent – a combination of Diptyque and Ralph Lauren – is emanating from inside this Georgian garden flat. (Someone else had just left, explaining the waft of scent.) “I always have candles lit in the evening, especially in winter,” Jo says. Likewise, she always has fresh flowers dotted throughout her home. “My grandmother was a florist,” she explains.

Calming to the senses

These may seem like small details, but every element of Jo’s home has been considered to create a living space that is calming to the senses – in the palette and the clutter-free simplicity, and in the mood created by the mellow lighting and scent. Visiting the home of a stylist who spends her working life thinking about interiors, you might expect the spaces to look pretty special, but Jo appreciates that looks aren’t everything: it is also about how a space feels.

“I hate visual clutter. When you’re doing something for a shoot you’re mixing things together; maybe you’re doing a table decoration where you’re piling things on, but I don’t live like that,” she says. And the reality is, this property isn’t merely a showcase for Jo’s honed eye: it’s a busy family home. Jo and her husband Nigel have four adult children – Sebastian, Emily, Kristian and Samuel – and while Kristian and Samuel now live and work abroad, Sebastian and Emily have currently returned to stay. Without a conscious decision to embrace a lack of clutter, things could get chaotic. This home is anything but.

Jo and Nigel bought the flat seven years ago, and the interior looked very different at the time. Today, you enter into an elegant and light-filled hallway with artworks lining the walls and black slate tiling underfoot. Previously this hallway had an inner partition creating a vestibule area, and a concrete floor. What is now a smart bathroom off the hall, with porcelain tiling that looks like marble and a giant curvy bath with a rainfall showerhead, was previously an “indoor shed”, as Joanne recalls, full of “stuff”. (Notably, there are three dry-lined cellars located off the courtyard, offering great storage.)

At the end of the hallway, you find the original stone stairs that would once have led to the house above. Previously, this staircase had been closed off with a partition wall. The feature fireplace in the sitting room at the rear had been covered over – the entire wall had been built out – and Jo had this stripped back to reveal the simple surround and brick inset, which were painted to blend with the room. She created two walk-in dressing rooms off the hallway, and refitted the rear bedroom’s en-suite shower room with large-profile porcelain tiles in a glossy chocolate brown – and again with smart fittings.

Full refurb

Every surface required attention. Central heating was installed and the ceilings were redone throughout when the halogen downlighters were added, while the walls were re-plastered to create a crisp finish. Garden-level flats like this wouldn’t historically have had grand period detailing, but Jo wanted to give these spaces a sense of ‘presence’ so she had deep skirtings made, along with wider architraves that were detailed to look authentic. “My overall vision was not to have this feeling like a garden flat. This feels like a house,” she says.

If you gauge the kitchen space from the floor plans you might think it is small, but the space feels much bigger, thanks to the wall of glazing that looks out onto the rear garden, with giant sliding doors spilling the space outside. Jo, who now splits her time between Edinburgh, London and the US, worked with MMA Architects when designing this space, which was originally a narrow outshot.

While the roof profile has been retained, with slate roof tiles echoing the surrounding buildings, the wall of glazing is a contemporary addition. Originally, Jo had wanted a minimal framework to the glazing, but the local planning authority wouldn’t allow this approach at that time, so she chose hardwood framed doors instead and pulled the finish into the kitchen with the timber worktop. The high-gloss black cabinets are, she says: “A bit of glamour. With so much light coming in, I don’t think this space would have had the same appeal in white.” And the garden has been as thoughtfully designed with textural plants and graphic leaf shapes creating a beautiful green backdrop.

“I like nothing better than seeing a rundown, dilapidated building with an absolutely smart, top-of-the-range Italian sofa just placed in it,” Jo says of her aesthetic, and if you remove the dilapidation from the equation, that same sense of old-meets-new is evident here. In the couple’s bedroom there are antique pieces mixed with a glamorous chandelier and with woollen textiles. “In winter I just load the bedrooms up with more textures,” she says.

Mixture of pieces

There are ‘designer’ pieces, such as the Philippe Starck side tables she sourced years ago from Inhouse, and classics like the Eames dining chairs alongside accessible pieces like the grey sofa from Sofa Workshop.

Jo used the same warm grey paint colour, which she mixed herself, throughout, but the shade looks different in each space as it reacts to the light and the furnishings, taking on a purplish hue in the master bedroom and a yellow-ish tone in Sebastian’s room, where she introduced ochre hues.

Jo also added in accessories that pick up on the colours of the artworks, which include pieces by Welsh artist Daniel Williams and Scottish artist Pat Douthwaite. There are also artworks sourced from the local The Gallery on the Corner, alongside pieces by Sebastian. It’s a personal and eclectic mix.

Jo’s vision for this space was instinctive. “I think we viewed the flat for ten minutes,” she recalls. Although the refurbishment and redesign was tackled seven years ago (with phase two, the replastering and redecoration, completed a few years ago), if you were told that this interior was just finished it would still feel right. Good design stands the test of time.

“Once I’ve done a place and lived in it for a while, I’m ready for a new challenge,” Jo says. “But I do feel completely peaceful here; it feels calm.” k