The plot was a dumping ground but the views were fabulous: how one architect focused on what really mattered
It might seem as if every new Highland holiday home sits on a lush piece of farmland that is as beautiful as the surrounding views, but this one, Faire Chaolais (pronounced Fara Chulish, like Ballachulish), started life with a rather less promising site. Yes, it does have a spectacular outlook over the Silver Sands of Morar to Rum and Eigg beyond, but the ground was little more that a heap of leftover aggregate that had been used in the upgrading of the Fort William-to-Mallaig Road to the Isles. To make matters worse, the plot is sandwiched between the road and the West Highland railway line.
Such an unpromising situation wouldn’t have suited everyone, but the owners of Faire Chaolais were undeterred. “We have a long association with this area; in fact, our family have been coming here since the 1920s,” they say. “And in 2009 we were fortunate enough to acquire this plot.” The couple bought the plot from their neighbour, who had been negotiating planning permission with the local council for the previous 15 years – the main contention being road access for an additional house off the main road. In 2009, to the delight of the owners, permission was finally granted.
They then had to find an architect willing to take on the site’s considerable challenges. “We had seen several projects by Dualchas in Homes and Interiors Scotland and we really admired the simplicity of their designs and their respect for the traditional Highland building style,” the owners explain. “We gave them a very broad brief; in fact, all we asked for was that the building should complement the environment and make the most of the spectacular view. Daniel Bär’s brilliant design was radical and uncompromising but we felt it was exactly right for the site.”
The ingenuity of the architect’s design is that the road and the railway line that flank the house are all but invisible once you’re inside. It’s all about the big sky and sea views. “The site was tricky,” admits Daniel, “but I find difficult sites fascinating because of the design challenge they present.”
His solution to the problems posed by the location was to design an upside-down house, entered from a low-key glass door at the back. Once you are inside, however, the impact of the living area, which is cantilevered over the lower level, is both immediate and immense, culminating as it does in huge glazed sliding doors and windows that reach out towards the sea views.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 160-170, issue 104.