Interiors: Turning a Bruntsfield crash pad into a neat home

The refurbished living room at 11A Bruntsfield Crescent. Picture: Neil Hanna
The refurbished living room at 11A Bruntsfield Crescent. Picture: Neil Hanna
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BACHELOR pads are tricky to decorate. Play it too safe and they’re often stark, soulless places. Overdo it, however, and they can seem too feminine and inauthentic. So how do you get that cool, masculine look without creating another minimalist man cave?

“They need to be simple, relaxing spaces that are easy to maintain but have enough in them to feel like a home rather than a crash pad,” explains Edinburgh-based interior designer Sara Sutherland. Having just transformed a Bruntsfield bachelor flat into a sophisticated pied-à-terre for a busy professional, she should know.

Sutherland came on board the project in December 2011 with a brief to create a luxurious and sumptuous retreat. Despite having bought the property ten months previously, the client – who travels extensively on business – had still not fully unpacked.

“It was all magnolia walls and metal clothes rails,” recalls Sutherland. Now – while it has all the requisite components of a bachelor pad: low-slung sofa; flat-screen TVs; a sophisticated sound and entertainment system and an all-important wine fridge – the finished result is far from cold or clichéd.

“The key to giving the property some personality was to design around the client’s passions – music and travel,” says Sutherland. Taking these as inspiration, an ambitious cosmetic overhaul ensued.

As the owner is an avid record collector, installing a new sound and entertainment system was at the top of the list. To ensure a seamless finish, this process involved raggling along concrete floors and through original plastered walls to accommodate a complicated web of wires and cables. In the living room, a traditional Edinburgh press has been re-imagined and, thanks to reinforced glass shelves and a custom-made cupboard, is now the technology hub of the home.

Elsewhere rooms were decorated around favourite personal items such as the Cuban painting in the study. Previously a dark, dead-end space, the hallway now houses an Andrew Martin sofa and a bespoke shelving unit with inset LED lighting that was custom-made to fit the client’s record collection.

To encourage visitors to linger, Sutherland used walls of striking images. One is dedicated to the client’s favourite album covers, while a series of black and white images of far-flung and exotic destinations, reflecting the owner’s love of travel, create a focal point on another. These are interspersed with shots of Edinburgh taken by Sutherland, who has also recently set up her own photography business.

According to the designer, curation was the key to making this eclectic collection of items work. “I asked him to select his favourite pieces as opposed to using everything he’s collected over the years,” she says. Those that made the final cut, such as the Moroccan mirror in the study and the Japanese wall hanging in the kitchen, make for striking and nicely personal focal points.

The next challenge was how best to manage the space by devising new room layouts and storage solutions. “It needed to work for him when he was by himself, but also work for entertaining large groups of people,” she explains. Thanks to a previous redesign, Sutherland had a flexible foundation with which to work. At the heart of the property is an open-plan living room and kitchen, with a glass door which can be opened up to an internal south-west-facing courtyard. “It was a redundant space but offered great potential so I transformed it into an outside room complete with cool lighting, heaters, planters, shrubbery and comfy furniture, as well as a wall of vintage mirrors. It’s now ideal for lazy days in the sun or an al fresco evening with friends,” she says.

Inside, Sutherland needed to source the right furniture to create distinct zones so the rooms could be used individually, but would also work together as one big space. Her choice of a few large, sculptural pieces that fit the decor scheme without obstructing the flow is the perfect solution. The oversized corner sofa from BoConcept plays a pivotal part in making the space work so well. Forgoing the more traditional sofa layout and resisting the temptation to hang the TV over the fireplace, Sutherland has taken the room off-centre and created an unobtrusive entertainment zone at one end of the room.

The Rivièra Maison dining table in the kitchen is the other major anchor in the space. An otherwise slick and distinctly modern room, her choice of rustic pieces such as this, and the linen slipcovers for the dining chairs, soften the whole look to create the homely feel the client was seeking. An oversized vase of artificial orchids and gladioli injects a hint of low maintenance freshness.

A great way of subtly introducing depth and texture into a scheme, fabric is an important part of this story. Keeping largely to a neutral palette on 
the walls – Farrow & Ball’s Oxford Stone, Archive and Great White create a pared-back foundation – full-bodied curtains and upholstered chairs add warmth and comfort throughout. Osborne & Little’s Trevira has been used for both the corded wave curtain in the kitchen and the Louis chairs, while textured GP&J Baker silks and patterned voile create a cocooning feel at the front of the property.

Facing the street above, the bedrooms at this end of the flat have the most potential to be a little cold. However, having dressed the windows, Sutherland set to work creating other focal points such as the mulberry-hued crushed velvet headboard in the master bedroom. Like the living zones of the house, this room combines old and new, with an antique mahogany chest of drawers sitting next to a set of contemporary Heathfield sconces with LED reading lights. The Andrew Martin Da Gama Campaign side tables and the trunk in the window provide subtle reference to the international traveller theme.

Once a forgotten spare room, the second bedroom has been transformed into a guest suite. By removing the original door that opens off the hallway and replacing it with storm doors, Sutherland made space for the bed in the middle of the room. This transforms the room, which is now bookended by an en-suite bathroom to the right and a dressing area to the left.

It is only in this room where the décor tips over into feminine territory, but as this space is often used by the client’s mother, this is a transgression he’s more than happy with.

• For more information on Sara Sutherland Interiors visit; to learn more about her photography work go to