St Andrews mansion from 1700s restored to past glory

Carphin House by St Andrews. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Carphin House by St Andrews. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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REFURBISHING a property to celebrate its past while embracing the future is no easy feat, but the renovation of Carphin House by St Andrews shows that it really can be done.

The mansion house dates back to 1790 and sits within a 1,000-acre estate, but when the current owner inherited the property it was in need of a bit of TLC. Joanne McDonald from Luma Interiors, who is also a member of the British Institute of Interior Design, was charged with the task of providing it.

“When I came on board, the workmen were in and there was a lot of renovation going on and essentially the house had been stripped back to the basics,” Joanne recalls. “I had to use a lot of imagination to get started but there was one thing that provided a strong starting point and that was the furniture.”

The owner had put all the original furniture from the house into storage and once the renovations were finished this was to be brought back into use. “I went to where it was being stored and took it all out and photographed and catalogued it, which took a long time, and then I went back to the design studio and conceptually put together a new scheme.

“There’s a lot of history in the house, the owner inherited it from his uncle and spent many childhood holidays here. He wanted continuity between then and now so it was important that we got the feel just right. My brief was to incorporate the family history, give it a new lease of life and bring it into the current age.” This meant eschewing a contemporary style in favour of a traditional look, but with a fresh feel to it.

Joanne adds: “It was important to the owner that the history and memories were preserved, and the quality as well. He had some beautiful antique pieces and I remember in particular some lovely silhouettes of family members which we’ve hung in the drawing room.”

The project took several months but it wasn’t just the cataloguing of the furniture that took the time, as Joanne explains: “Aside from it being a large house [nine bedrooms], each area required a different feel. The main part of the house is quite formal but we also wanted 
to breathe life into the less formal areas, such as the servant’s quarters.”

Joanne did this by decorating the usually gloomy, back corridors in a deep contemporary pink and using the space as a gallery for the owner’s collection of Scottish contemporary art. “These areas are often neglected in big houses and I really wanted guests to open the door and get an audacious punch!”

Another room that Joanne had fun with was the library. “It’s a very, very rich room with tobacco-coloured walls in faux fabric and it’s very warm and enclosing. The upholstery is in navy, which was inspired by the Delft tiles on the fire surround. It has quite an unusual feel to it and it’s quite a masculine room, but I really love it.”

In the bedrooms, Joanne has allowed the proportions of the rooms to dictate the style. “Similar to downstairs, the front of the property is more formal than the rear and this has applied to the bedrooms as well. The rooms at the front are much grander. Although in the main we used the furniture that was already here, we did have the freedom to reupholster so we weren’t tied to colours, but we had timbers to work with. We worked with quite a few significant beds, which were quite a challenge. Some of them were incredibly high and we had to make valances which complemented this. I really enjoyed the diversity amongst the rooms; I think it adds to the house’s charm.”

The biggest challenge for Joanne, however, was when the owner introduced his mirror purchase: “When he knew he was going to be acquiring the house he bought a fantastic mirror in London which promptly went into storage. It was the one piece I didn’t see and all I had to go on was his memory of the mirror and his description. Ultimately, I allocated a space for it in the hall and when it arrived it was totally different to what I was expecting – but fortunately it still looked fabulous.”

The entire property is indeed looking rather fabulous and the owner’s brief to retain the family’s history while providing 21st-century luxury has been met. Joanne adds: “In essence the owner didn’t want a new property; he wanted a revitalised old one and I think we’ve delivered that.”

• Carphin House is now available for exclusive use, tel: 08452 694386 or visit for more information. Drop in during Carphin’s Open Doors weekend, Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March, between noon and 5pm, tel: 01337 870401.

• Luma Interiors, tel: 0131-331 1227,