Self-builders make the most of rural Fife home

Drover Cottage, Bankhead. Picture: Contributed
Drover Cottage, Bankhead. Picture: Contributed
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DROVER Cottage rests in an idyllic setting with a natural spring pond in front of it, and views over the rolling Fife countryside beyond.

Built from reclaimed stone, and with landscape visible from all the main living spaces, this is a home that has clearly benefited from some careful planning.

Although it looks like it has been here for many years, Drover Cottage was built just four years ago. It is thanks to the meticulous eye and attention to detail of its owners Celia and Mike Taylor that it has adopted such an established appearance. Given that Mike is a builder by trade – and this is the fourth home that the couple have built together – the Taylors clearly know what they are doing.

Drover Cottage is one of just three properties built on this former farmland on the edge of the village of Saline. Although the three plots were sold independently, the planning department requested that they be designed by the same architect in order to maintain some continuity. Nevertheless, the Taylors still had input into the overall design and layout of the four-bedroom house. The couple bought their half-acre plot at the beginning of 2009 and Mike started the build in December of that year, helped by their son Ethan, 20. Despite adverse weather conditions, the family were able to move in by October 2010.

The couple have painstakingly selected the materials and finishes throughout – from the Travertine tiles that cover the underfloor heating on the ground floor, to the oiled walnut kitchen worktops, oak doors, freestanding roll-top bath in the family bathroom, and the wooden sash and case windows. Celia’s decision to invest in exquisite finishes throughout the house – such as the hand-painted striped walls in the kitchen, the murals in the bathroom and a bedroom – have culminated in creating an individual home with both sophistication and charm.

“When we started the build in December 2009, which was that really bad winter, we literally got the foundations down and had to stop work for three months because of the weather,” says Celia, a teacher. “Fortunately my husband is a really hard worker, so he got us back on track. We were building a house in France at the same time and both working, so it was hard going.”

When the couple bought the land, the foundations and one wall remained of an old building, plus the remnants of a very small barn. They essentially knocked everything down and re-used the stone in the new building, instantly giving it an established sense of permanence. Indeed, Mike incorporated a stone with the date 1908 into a semi-circular outside dining area within the grounds. He also dug out the spring to make the pond bigger, creating a striking feature within the garden, which is bordered by beech hedging. In addition, Mike built a double garage, with a games room above it.

Inside, the house has a light, bright and open feel on both levels. The 32-foot-long open-plan kitchen, dining and living space is filled with natural daylight that enhances the Travertine flooring. The calico-painted wooden units surround a range cooker, which is backed by high gloss clay tiles in aqua tones. An island unit provides additional worktop space, along with in-built wine rack, shelving and storage. A large corner sofa nestles into one area of the room, backed by the hand-painted striped wall that adds a contemporary touch to the otherwise traditional finishes.

“I could not find wallpaper to suit the room, so a friend of mine who is a painter and decorator did that by hand for me,” says Celia. “The island is absolutely indispensable – I work from there all the time.”

The sun room opens off the kitchen and is undoubtedly a space in which to savour the outside no matter what the weather. Glazed on three sides, with bi-fold doors that open directly onto the rear garden, this is a room that again benefits from views, natural daylight and privacy. By contrast, the living room has the feel of being the perfect winter space thanks to its combination of the wood-burning stove, exposed stone walls and the plump red leather Chesterfield sofas.

As well as the dining kitchen, living room and sun room, there is one bedroom downstairs, along with an office, utility and family bathroom. Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, one of which is en-suite, and a shower room. The en-suite bedroom has French doors that open onto a Juliet-style balcony, while another bedroom has two bay windows, making it an enchanting space – Celia’s choice of a hydrangea mural on the main wall has created a room that oozes country charm.

The family bathroom is the other space with a mural – this time Victorian tulips adorn the walls, acting as a dramatic backdrop to a freestanding roll-top bath, with a full-length mirror in the corner.

“I have always wanted a roll-top bath and this is the first time I have actually been able to get one, despite us having lived in 10 houses,” says Celia. “I love murals – I did not want wallpaper in the bedroom but I wanted something that would make a statement, yet not be too overpowering.”

While the Taylors have created another beautiful home, they are on the move again – they are downsizing as they hope to spend more time at their other property in France. Despite this, Celia admits that this is one home she is sorely going to miss.

“This is one of the best houses we have created because of the overall space,” she says. “It is a great open, bright and social house, with the garden and the big rooms. It is cosy with a nice family feel, even though it is spacious. We had 100 people here for our daughter’s engagement party three years ago, and Ethan has had a couple of big parties too.

“When you build your own house and sell it, you are not just leaving a house behind – you are leaving a part of your life. So I will miss this home.”

Drover Cottage, Saline, Fife, is for sale at O/O £550,000 through Slater, Hogg & Howison (01786 470 286,