Edinburgh’s Georgian townhouses are more than capable of standing up to big bold design statements. But to create a truly desirable home, sometimes small subtle touches can prove a lot more effective
In a city full of elegant crescents with leafy vistas, Carlton Terrace rises effortlessly above the competition – quite literally. The Edinburgh street curls around the eastern flank of Calton Hill, the grassy knoll at the head of Princes Street, and looks out over parkland and rooftops to the craggy head of Arthur’s Seat.
The townhouses here and in the adjoining Regent and Royal Terraces are William Henry Playfair’s 1820s extension to the New Town, and many of them have never been broken up into apartments or offices. Today, they are grand enough to serve as a consulate or two, as well as the odd boutique hotel, but most are still functioning as originally intended, as large-scale family homes.
When the owner of this house moved in several years ago, with her husband and two sons, the place was in relatively good condition, if a little tired and unloved. “What I remember most is that it was all painted yellow,” she says. “I actually quite like yellow, but this was too much – it was a really bright daffodil and it was in almost every room.” She picked up her paintbrush and, starting in the kitchen, began toning it down.
The more she did, however, the more she realised that the entire house – all four floors of it – needed updating. As someone who had restored several properties over the years, the work didn’t faze her, but she realised a project on this scale, and in such a prestigious building, needed input from a professional.
As chance would have it, she met Anna Murray and Lee Sowerbutts of Rehab Interiors soon afterwards at the home of a mutual friend. The talk quickly turned to decorating. Would they be interested in seeing what could be done with the house with the yellow walls?
“We went to have a look,” says Anna. “It was a gorgeous house and in a perfectly live-able condition, but we could see that it wasn’t making the most of its attributes.” Those attributes – airy proportions, floor-to-ceiling windows, intricate plasterwork – needed bringing out, and she and Lee had lots of ideas about just where to start.
Some people hire a particular interior designer because they like their style – they know exactly what sort of look their house will get, and that can be a very reassuring proposition. But it’s not something that Rehab offers. “We don’t have a recognisable style,” says Anna, “and, to be honest, we wouldn’t want to have one. Taking on a client’s house is not about what we like or what suits our taste – in fact, I think we’d get bored very quickly if we designed everything to look like my house or Lee’s house.”
Rather, they offer a collaborative approach, preferring to look at what the property offers, and to work with the client and their existing furnishings and belongings. Mixing old and new is fine. “We have no interest in making sure everything matches, as long as it looks good. We would never tell anyone to get rid of all their furniture so we can replace it with new stuff – that’s just crazy.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 186-196, issue 92.
Words Judy Diamond
Photography Reuben Paris
What A Georgian townhouse
Biggest challenge Using a restricted palette to create a decorative scheme with enduring appeal
Rehab Interiors, 0141 237 4707