Light touches brighten Edinburgh West End home

Sarah Gibson's Buckingham Terrace home. Picture: TSPL
Sarah Gibson's Buckingham Terrace home. Picture: TSPL
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ADDING pattern and colour to a blank canvas turned Sarah and James Gibson’s flat into a bright home

“I’ve spent longer choosing a pair of shoes,” Sarah Gibson admits, recalling the day in 2007 when she came to view this top-floor flat at 32 Buckingham Terrace in Edinburgh’s West End.

Most people can relate to this: we typically spend longer choosing furniture to fill our homes than we do viewing the property itself. It is just the way viewings work where a decision is based – often quickly – on a combination of location, scale and style, and that hard-to-define gut instinct.

All of which told Sarah that this particular property was ‘the one’. This B-listed Victorian terrace is set back from Queensferry Road by the trees that line the street, while it is just a short walk over Dean Bridge into the city centre. English teacher Sarah and her husband James, a dentist with Campbell & Timmons Dental Care in Musselburgh, had already offered on a few other properties before Sarah spotted this flat along with two others that were advertised for sale on the same street.

“Although we’d been living in Edinburgh we didn’t know Buckingham Terrace,” says Sarah, who initially viewed the flat on her own. The place was being sold unfurnished and Sarah acknowledges that it was a challenge visualising what the spaces could look like, but with its stripped timber floors and plain walls she realised it was a blank canvas.

When James came to view the property, he was just as impressed. “I liked the fact that it was a big magnolia flat with lots of potential,” he says. “At that stage we didn’t even know about the garden.” Residents here can apply for access to Belgrave Crescent Gardens, which is a fantastic amenity to have on your doorstep. As James says: “There’s a really good sense of community here because of the garden and we’ve got to know a lot of people on the street as a result.”

As this was the couple’s first home together, they weren’t looking for a huge project, but this flat did give them the opportunity to put their own stamp on the interior room by room. They laid carpet in the two bedrooms, granting these spaces a warmer feel, and also in the study in the centre of the floor plan, which became a nursery after the arrival of their son, Fergus, who is almost two. They had the windows draught-proofed and gave the bathroom a simple overhaul with new tap fittings and a fresh lick of paint.

They also added some subtle colour to the walls throughout, again creating a warmer palette. The wallpaper on the feature wall in the living room was one of their first tasks and was the one bit of wallpapering the couple tackled themselves – never to be repeated, they agree – before bringing in a decorator when adding wallpaper to the bedrooms.

They also changed their furniture as the pieces they had arrived with didn’t work with the more-generous scale of these spaces. Some pieces were wedding gifts, including the dining table and chairs, while Sarah spotted the nest-style Fama armchair and realised it would be perfect for the window area in the living room. When James visited Omni Furnishings to look at the armchair, he spotted the sofa to match.

“I think we have similar ideas and we both like quite a traditional style,” James says. Their biggest challenge was upgrading the kitchen, which they redesigned from scratch. The couple lived with the previous kitchen for two years, by which stage they had a clearly defined wish-list of what they wanted. “There was a very old gas oven that burnt one side of everything and left the other side raw,” Sarah says. This was replaced by the Rangemaster cooker, which the couple agree was their best purchase.

As the range was bigger than the existing oven, the couple had to alter the configuration of the new cabinets and chose a simple Shaker-style design. “This style isn’t too traditional or too modern,” Sarah says. “I didn’t feel that the flat leant itself to something too traditional as it is top floor so there isn’t the same period detailing.”

The flat does have some lovely understated period features though, from the timber floors and pared-back cornice to the giant shutters that close over the bedroom windows. For a top-floor flat, the ceilings are surprisingly high and the rooms are generously proportioned with good storage. But there is nothing too ornate and the kitchen reflects this. The limestone-tiled splashback is a nice touch, especially as the downlighters below the cabinets illuminate the texture of each tile.

Sarah acknowledges there are features from this flat that the couple will revisit in their next home. “We’d definitely want a kitchen like this again as we spent a long time thinking about what we wanted here,” she says. James agrees: “This has been the best thing we’ve done,” he says.

As for what they will miss, they say the community feel and hanging out with neighbours in Belgrave Crescent Gardens on summer evenings. As Sarah says: “It’s the perfect location; it’s the perfect place.”

• Offers over £325,000; contact CKD Galbraith (0131-240 6960,