Cherry Ambrose and her father Stephen Byford combine past and present in their stylish renovation of former coast guard station Tangle Tower.
Tangle Tower has long been a landmark on the banks of the Moray Firth. Built around 150 years ago, it has been used as an observation tower and as a coast guard station.
However, it had lain empty for as long as Cherry Ambrose and her father Stephen Byford could remember.
“My father had always liked the building,” says Cherry. “Obviously, you can see it’s a building with a story and a bit of history and in 2014 he bought it.”
At the time she was in the process of closing the gallery she was running, and when her father asked her to come on board to help with the renovations, she was delighted.
“It was very rundown and a mish-mash of lots of different eras,” she says.
“When we started stripping out the interior there were layers upon layers of wallpaper and every time you stripped off a layer you were going back ten years.
“It was lovely seeing all the different designs but sadly they were too far gone to save any.”
While the current layout had been for use as a domestic dwelling, it certainly wasn’t high-end luxury.
“There was an old-fashioned stove inside and it was very dark. The kitchen was a lean-to and wasn’t really part of the main building and the floor above only took up half of the upper level.
“We decided to get rid of the lean-to kitchen and brought the kitchen into the main building.
“Indeed, what is now the kitchen is where the boats were launched from when it was a coast guard station and you can still see the holes in the wall for the wood that held the boats.
“Essentially, the main building hasn’t changed that much. We ripped everything out, took down a couple of walls to make it lighter and installed bi-fold doors in the ground-floor bedroom and the kitchen area.”
“Upstairs we’ve extended the top floor to the entire width of the property.
“Dad does like a project and although the family business is photography, we’ve done a few renovations over the years.
“However, when we take on these projects, which are usually old buildings, we like to try to bring them back to what they used to be.
“We wanted something along traditional lines but with a contemporary edge. Tangle Tower is right on the beach so that was a theme we wanted to have running through the property, but not in your face.”
Cherry isn’t joking about being right on the beach. “We have a fence all around the house but we’ve installed metal barriers too as the water comes right up.
“The view is amazing, especially from the top floor. We’re also just around the corner from the nature reserve – dolphins and otters are a common sight.”
Along with the beachside location, the views also inspired the décor which takes its cue from nature.
“The blues and the seaweed painting on the walls come from the sea, but the purple in the top bedroom is from the heather that you see so much of from here in the summer.”
In the kitchen, the exposed wood and modern paint colours give the room a contemporary feel and the bi-fold doors provide the wow factor.
“In the summer you can open the doors wide and have dinner in the kitchen and you feel like you’re outside. As the winds can be quite strong this close to the sea, it’s a real bonus.”
Although the overall feel of the house is contemporary, Cherry was keen to retain an essence of the building’s history.
“I love what we did in the bathroom. I really like the industrial feel it has but it’s also very luxurious.
“Originally the space was two small bathrooms but we knocked them through into one large one. We kept the original sandstone walls, painted them white and used reclaimed Victorian tiles for the flooring.
“Dad and I both like antique furniture and it made sense to add a few pieces in there to finish it off.”
Another nod to the building’s past is in the names painted on the stairwell. “We couldn’t mention everyone who worked here or was associated with the building but we wanted to do something to commemorate them.
“We know that in February 1894 there was a terrible disaster where almost all of the crew of the coast guard station and those of the Kessock Ferry lost their lives.
“It left 26 dependents without their breadwinners. The local community alleviated the ongoing effects by clubbing together to raise funds and support for the families for some time after.
“Most of the younger generation know nothing about this disaster and as we couldn’t mention everyone on the stairs my father paid for a commemorative stone which can be found just beside Tangle Tower where there’s also a selection of benches designed by local school children.”
It’s good to see Cherry and her father are carrying on the “mish-mash” of eras at Tangle Towers, albeit in a more stylish manner.
Tangle Tower is available to let through Cottages and Castles.
Words: Nichola Hunter