The Clowes had the expertise to build a home to their special requirements without compromising its contemporary style or traditional rural profile.
Alex and Alison Clowes have lived in East Lothian all their lives.
Indeed the couple met as teenagers at a local high school and have been married for more than 30 years.
Over that time the Clowes and their two daughters – now grown up – have lived in four houses, three of which they built themselves.
Alex is an experienced joiner in the building industry so tackling these projects was a natural extension of his work, particularly given his contacts in the trade.
The couple lived in their previous house for 23 years, and extended it to create a more luxurious five bedroom home.
Shortly after this, however, Alison was diagnosed to be in the early stages of multiple sclerosis.
“With each house, we’d wanted to improve our way of life for ourselves and our family,” says Alison, and this diagnosis was the catalyst for the couple’s next project at Akora House.
As Alison explains, they wanted to plan ahead for another stage of life – and to create a beautiful home that would suit their lives and their aesthetic.
“The criteria for the plot to build on was that it had to be in a rural area with open countryside aspects, and with close and easy access to major traffic routes,” says Alison.
“We wanted a smaller family house, with the countryside on our doorstep.”
The couple came to this plot in the village of Humbie, situated just off the B6368 and within easy driving distance of Haddington to the northeast and Dalkeith to the northwest, and within commuting distance of Edinburgh.
With its vibrant local community and village atmosphere, Alex and Alison knew that Humbie was a place where they could make their home.
The couple worked on the design with architect Gary Anderson, who is Alison’s cousin.
Accessibility and flow were key requirements which Akora House has fulfilled admirably.
Arriving into the double-height hallway with its galleried landing above, you can see straight through into the large family kitchen space at the rear, and out through the quadruple bi-fold doors into the garden.
There’s that sense of space and connection, with long views between rooms thanks to the large openings in place of doorways.
There’s a family room off the hallway on your right – this could easily become a dining room – and a large living room on your left, which is a beautiful space with floor-depth windows on one side and a log-burning stove.
There’s also a utility room and a shower room at the back of the house, off the kitchen, and a handy cupboard off the hallway.
All three bedrooms are upstairs, along with the family bathroom, and the master bedroom has an en-suite shower room. Although smaller than the couple’s previous home, Akora House demonstrates how every inch of space can be used.
By opening up the layout downstairs, there’s no “dead” space; no wasted circulation areas or gloomy spots. Upstairs, every window enjoys a view across rolling countryside and to the Lammermuir Hills.
“Every window is like a different picture,” says Alison.
As Alex and Alison were involved in every step of the process – and juggling the project around their full time jobs, meaning they had to do most of the work at weekends and on holidays – the house took two years to complete.
Alex was able to call on the expertise of qualified tradesmen to help with the more specialised aspects of the build, and throughout there was a clear focus on quality, from the build specifications to the internal fit-out.
Oak flooring extends throughout the ground level, creating a warm backdrop to the crisp finishes and contemporary fittings.
From the outside, you might never imagine that this interior was so contemporary, as the couple wanted the house to fit sympathetically within its wider surroundings.
The couple chose a sleek kitchen from Howdens, combined with Silestone worktops from Stonecraft and integrated AEG appliances.
A central island was positioned to take in the views, and the sink was set into the island. Alison had the idea of adding slim brick tiles to form the splashback on one wall, and carried this look into the utility room. “The brick detailing gives this space so much warmth,” she observes.
The bathroom and shower rooms are as contemporary, and Alison and Alex tweaked the original plans for the en-suite, where they had specified a larger double shower.
“We realised that by taking some of this space we could have a nice big linen cupboard on the landing,” Alison explains, and Alex redesigned this layout without compromising the en-suite, which now has a large walk-in shower.
The couple also reworked the plans for the landing to create the gallery area, which Alison uses as a study.
Akora House was only completed a year ago, so it may seem surprising that the couple are selling so quickly, but medical opinion and advice suggests that living in a warmer climate would be of great advantage to Alison’s health.
They’re now looking at the possibility of buying a smaller home here, and maybe a small holiday apartment somewhere warmer.
Having poured so much time and energy into designing and building Akora House, this will be a hard place to leave.
“I open the door at night when I come home and think, wow…” says Alison. “It’s an amazing house to live in.”
Akora House is for sale at offers over £380,000 with Gillespie Macandrew
Words Fiona Reid