Hay Barn near Dunbar offers break from city life

The Hay Barn, near Dunbar. Picture: Jon Savage
The Hay Barn, near Dunbar. Picture: Jon Savage
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IT IS a familiar story for many city dwellers: sometimes there comes a point or stage in life when you simply want a different lifestyle. You’ve “done” the city, you’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time for a change of scene. For Roland and Ruth Inglis, this point happened almost 14 years ago.

The couple – Roland is a senior HR manager in financial services while Ruth works for the Scottish Government – had been living in an Edinburgh flat. “I grew up in the Lake District, so I’m a real country boy at heart, while Ruth’s family stay in the Borders,” Roland explains.

Having spent a lot of time in East Lothian, the couple decided to search for a property that would enable them to commute into Edinburgh for work while enjoying the outdoors lifestyle that this location offers, from its prized beaches to its equally famous golf courses.

Having looked all over East Lothian and the Borders, Ruth spotted this steading development at Easter Broomhouse, on the outskirts of Dunbar. The buildings were in the process of being developed by a local company, Dunglass Ltd.

The couple initially viewed one of the neighbouring properties to this house, the Hay Barn. “We didn’t get it, but we came back and saw this house and realised it had a great plot, with a big garden, and south-facing,” Roland says.

The couple made their offer, and found themselves the proud owners of a substantial four-bedroom steading – a very different property in scale and style from their city home. The dual carriageway hadn’t been constructed, but still the couple could either drive to work or take the train from Dunbar.

“We moved here in 2001, before we had kids, and it was me and Ruth in this big house,” Roland recalls. “We didn’t even lay carpets upstairs for the first six months as we didn’t use all the rooms.”

One of the benefits of this property was that the original steading here was in a more ruinous state than the other buildings, so this house offered all the benefits of a new build, including high levels of insulation, combined with the character of its stone shell.

As the couple bought the property early in the development, they were able to specify some of the internal fittings and finishes. For example, they asked the developers to leave the timber finishes, including the doors and architraves and the staircase, in the original timber. “We just like the bare wood with a waxed or oiled finish,” Roland says.

The timber kitchen was designed by the developers – one of the duo behind this development also ran a kitchen company. “The only specification we asked for here was a darker timber finish, but we didn’t argue with the kitchen design as it was a great design,” Roland says.

The generous scale of this space allows for a central island and there is still ample room for a large eight-seater, farmhouse-style dining table. Slate flooring adds to the rustic style, while pocket sliding doors open between the dining-kitchen and the even larger sitting room, which has windows on three sides and a cast iron gas stove.

For Ruth and Roland, who initially worked as a chef back in his pre-uni days, this inter-connected dining-kitchen and sitting room offered the perfect entertaining zone.

Naturally enough, the Hay Barn evolved as the couple had children – they now have three sons: Jake, 11, Mac, nine, and Gus, seven. Originally the developers had considered creating a double-height sitting room, but decided instead to include a huge room above the sitting room. After Mac was born, the couple realised it was too big to become a child’s bedroom, so they formed two double bedrooms and a section of hallway from this space, with a wall of built-in storage in the latter.

This alteration created four bedrooms on the first floor – and there is also a ground floor bedroom, which is currently used as a play room.

The biggest change came about in 2010 when the couple extended the Hay Barn with a new sunroom. Featuring glazing on three elevations and a stunning green oak frame, this sunroom alone was a substantial project that took six months to complete. The design process began in 2009.

“At one stage we had considered building a home, and were keen to build an oak-framed house,” Roland says, which is when the couple realised the potential they had here. “It was by seeing what other people had done to properties, and watching Grand Designs,” he reflects. “We didn’t want something really modern that we could only use in summer; we wanted something functional to use year-round.”

The couple turned to Alba Green Oak Frames (www.albagreenoakframes.co.uk), who designed and constructed the green oak frame, and it was during the design process that the company came up with the idea of adding the central king pin. “They’re a very talented team,” Roland says. “There’s not a screw or a nail in the structure; everything is tied together with pegs. The craftsmanship was just incredible.”

The couple specified the black limestone flagstones, with underfloor heating, while the external wall of the house has been left exposed, adding to the rustic quality – albeit with a wall-mounted flatscreen TV and recessed Bose speakers. As Roland says: “It was about adding that modern twist against the original stone, and having it all framed by the green oak.”

A local joinery company, JC Joinery, project-managed the build, and Walker Brothers Builders & Stonemasons, which is based in Haddington, tackled the stonemasonry, having originally worked on the steading itself.

Oak-framed glazed concertina doors were made, so that this space can be closed off from the dining-kitchen, or left open, while sliding glazed doors open one side of the sunroom on to a large patio area with an L-shaped sofa.

This extension has changed how the family uses the house. As Roland says: “We thought this space would be for the kids, and we’d use the more formal sitting room, but Ruth and I use the sunroom all the time, and we’ll sit here as a family on the big corner sofa. With the doors open on to the patio you can live outside in summer, but this space gives you that bit of shelter. And it’s great just sitting here, looking out to the countryside.”

The couple wanted a different lifestyle when they moved to Easter Broomhouse, and ended up with an even better home than they could ever have imagined.

• Offers over £445,000; contact Rettie & Co (0131-220 4160, visit www.rettie.co.uk). The Hay Barn has open viewings today and next Sunday, 20 April, from 2pm-4pm.