An French academic couple experimented with the layout of their Edinburgh main door flat to make it healthy, sustainable and stylish.
Antoine and Natalie Reguis bought their main door flat in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh two years ago and spent a year renovating it.
“It was a student rental before with four bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen,” Natalie says.
“The kitchen was in the centre of the property and didn’t work at all and there was no proper living room, just a seating area in the hallway.
Being a family with three children, we needed two proper reception rooms and three bedrooms.”
However, the couple didn’t just plan to lose a bedroom and reinstate the living room.
“The original plans showed that the kitchen used to be at the rear of the property and that’s where we’ve put it,” says Natalie.
“The master bathroom is now in the centre of the property where the kitchen was.
The living room was reinstated at the front of the property after lining the chimney to accommodate an Aga stove and we’ve created a master bedroom suite in the other front room.
By making the bedroom a little smaller and borrowing space from the hall cupboard we’ve added a generous en suite and a walk-in wardrobe.”
The former utility room and bathroom have been knocked into one to create a single bedroom or bunk room and the access to the garden which was through the utility room has been moved to the kitchen by blocking up the door and fitting a window in its place.
The third bedroom which didn’t require any structural changes is now a twin room.
Renovating the kitchen, the couple decided to keep digging and see what they found and the result was the old brick wall.
“It wasn’t very appealing and the bricks didn’t look that good,” says Antoine. “I thought I’d try covering them in lime wash to cover up the black bits and I think it looks pretty good now.
They’ve been repointed with lime mortar as well which is better for the building, it lets it breathe.”
In the original plans, the sink and appliances were located under the window but Antoine and Natalie opted to make the window into French doors to access the garden and moved the working part of the kitchen to the rear of the room which also gave them more space to have a defined dining area.
While the changes to the property have been substantial, the thinking behind them prompts a deeper discussion.
“I’m working at Napier University researching sustainability and energy efficiency,” Antoine says, “and Natalie has just resumed her PhD in healthy buildings.
This property is a bit of a guinea pig for us. We’re trying to create a home that is healthy, sustainable but also nicely furnished and comfortable to live in.”
Natalie says: “We’ve tried to avoid VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds]. It is difficult. There’s no glue in the flooring, it’s just solid oak.
“We’ve introduced natural paint in several of the rooms but not all as we’re trying to see if we can find a way to measure and quantify the difference.
“It’s also an experiment through Antoine’s work at the university to see how people in the trades react when we ask them to do or use certain things.
“Some things have worked and we’ve been proved right and some things haven’t. Some natural paints are better than others, we’re just learning as we go.”
It’s not only the materials that the couple are experimenting with – there are psychological elements as well.
“The layout circulation is important. Spacious bathrooms and defined kitchen and dining areas make a big difference to the way we live. Sound quality is another issue.
“We’ve used traditional plastering techniques rather than plasterboard so the rooms sound nicer.”
Furniture has also played a key role with quirky, and in the main, natural pieces being sourced from interior design studios in Italy and the couple’s home country, France.
“We might set up an online shop at some point,” says Antoine. “You just don’t find pieces like this in Edinburgh and guests often comment on the furniture.”
There’s no denying that this property is a bit special, but it’s now posing a dilemma for Natalie and Antoine.
“At the moment, we rent it out through Airbnb but we really love living in it,” says Natalie.
“We stayed here for a month before we started renting and our three children were calmer here than they are in our own house.
“Is that something to do with things we’ve done? How do we measure that? We can’t decide whether to move in here or to stay where we are and look for another property to do something similar again.
“We’ve learnt a lot from this project so we’d like another one where we can apply the same professional and scientific approach. It’s not our main job just yet but we’d certainly like it to be in the future.”
This property can be let through Airbnb from £139 per night.
Words: Nichola Hunter