With family in Scotland but living in Dubai, Jan and Ellie Felton were keen to find a business venture that allowed them to spend more time in the UK – a holiday home seemed like a good option.
The couple spent the summer of 2010 viewing potential properties for holiday lets until they came across Stuckgowan in a property magazine.
“It’s a very striking property and from a Scottish perspective there’s nothing I know of in Scotland that looks like it,” says Jan.
“It’s reminiscent of an Italian summer mansion but on the banks of Loch Lomond.”
With rain lashing down and literally running through the property, Stuckgowan was breathtaking but ruined, although that wasn’t enough to deter the Feltons.
“It was a bit of a shambles but it was still an amazing structure built around 200 years ago and it came with 34 acres of ground, albeit unusable. It was sitting in a proper Scottish jungle.”
In April 2011 they took possession of the estate, which was effectively two properties, the main house and the coach house.
Both were in ruins and the couple embarked on a massive renovation programme which took them through to 2013.
And whilst the plan hadn’t really been to build a holiday letting empire, when Stucktaymore came on the market a few years later it was added to the portfolio.
“In each property we’ve started with a basic plan and budget, and in every property we’ve failed.
When I say that, it’s because there’s a level and a style and a feel that we want to deliver and it’s not about taking a house and renting it out to someone – that’s easy.
“What we’re trying to create is a house where people go, ‘Wow! They’ve thought of everything.’
“Also, we felt that there was no point refurbishing a property if it wasn’t going to work as a business because it would just die again.”
With two properties under their belt and learning every time, Stucktaymore has exceeded Jan’s expectations.
“Stuckgowan used to be my favourite but the changes we’ve made here really make the house work.”
The changes include relocating the kitchen, adding a breakfast room and establishing what to do with the downstairs store rooms.
“They were only 1.7 metres high and then there were these really ugly boxes on the front and back of the house which created an amazing sunroom but looked awful.
“As I’m quite particular about how the exterior looks, we ended up redoing the entire front porch, re-roofing the back box, adding the terraced balcony and the external eating areas and digging into the foundations to make the storage rooms usable.”
Internally, Ellie worked her magic continuing the process she’d started in the first property.
“I used to be a dancer and I’m quite artistic, but furnishing houses on this scale was quite daunting,” Ellie explains.
“Working to a theme makes it much easier and gives me a direction so each of the three houses has its own particular theme.
In Stuckgowan it was trees and in Stucktaymore it’s birds.
Each bedroom is named for a reason. For example, Osprey is the room that looked out on to the osprey nest, and I try to include subtle nuances in each room that refer to the name like a bird motif on a cushion or blind.
“With that as a starting point it gives the house a uniformity throughout.
“We then pick a colour from the theme and it’s a way of creating something different but which still flows.
In each property we’ve made a point of not having a master bedroom but instead every bedroom has something unique.”
Although the themes and colours came about relatively simply and are inspired by the landscape the properties are in, the actual process of furnishing the houses in the themes and colours was more problematic.
“In Dubai it was so easy and we furnished our house by travelling to Bali. In the UK everything is so expensive and takes months or weeks to be made.
“So, I measured the house from top to bottom and started sketching. Every piece of significant wooden furniture has been built from scratch in Bali and shipped over.
“I wanted simple, strong, solid pieces so the main rooms are classic in style, grand where they need to be, but comfortable enough to snuggle in.
“When it came to the soft furnishings we hit the same problem. In Dubai, we’re on the silk route, with hundreds of tailors and amazing fabrics, so we commissioned it there and I brought most of it over in my suitcase – no clothes, just curtains.
“It was never our intention to build a big business but now that we have these properties – amazing places where we can get family and friends together – we’re enjoying the fruits of our labour.”
All three properties are available to let through the estate’s website.
Words: Nichola Hunter