High society: Reconditioned 19th-century Edinburgh villa

Understated glamour is not exactly a traditional Victorian value, but as a décor theme it works superbly in this reconditioned 19th-century villa in Edinburgh

Most designers have to compromise some­where along the line – there’s not enough space, or enough time, or enough money to make their schemes a reality. But every so often, a dream job lands in their lap, as Bryce McKenzie discovered. “If every client was like this one, my job would be very easy,” remarks the Edinburgh-based interior designer. The project in question, in the Grange conservation area of the capital, was something of a treat. A second home for his clients, the property was accessible, the budget was sizeable and, with builders already on site, the dirty part of the refurbishment was almost complete, leaving Bryce to get on with “the pretty stuff”, as he puts it. “I was very lucky,” he recalls.“They gave me a blank slate to work from.”
Bryce embraced the challenge, coming up with a scheme that makes the most of this superbly reconditioned Victorian property without being slavish to the interior trends of the late 19th century, marrying the traditional aspects of the buil­ding to a contemporary look with high-glamour touches.
“My clients were clear that they wanted something neutral and grown-up so I knew I had to layer textures to create interest,” he explains. Instead of going overboard with colour, he has created a sophisticated look that will age gracefully with the property. There are no gimmicks here: the designer has been careful to draw out glamour and luxury through low-key tones, high-end soft furnishings and complementary furniture.
Virtually all of the furniture in the house is bespoke, made to Bryce’s designs by the craftsmen at Michael Hart Cabinet­makers: “The owners wanted furniture that would be unique and of a sufficiently high quality to be heirlooms they could pass on to their children.”
Smart design in the dining room epitomises the mix of glamour and functionality. A traditional Victorian press has been transformed to suit modern times: panelled doors have been padded in a decidedly swish Fox Linton silk wool, then laboriously studded with a grosgrain braid. These, admits Bryce, are works of art that he’d love to recreate in his own home. Handleless, they open with a gentle push. It’s the type of room where you’d expect to find Rock Hudson, Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum playing poker, through swirls of smoke and neat whisky. Sand-coloured lizardskin on the walls, by Thibaut Abacos Ray, provides a subtle layer of texture that sits comfortably with the hazy American Stark carpet. Bryce has panelled either side of the window with mirrors to give the illusion of space in an otherwise square room. The curtains continue the geometric theme; these have been custom dyed and woven by The Silk Gallery in London and are fitted on an electric track so that they open and close as the light changes outside.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 172-184, issue 92.

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What A seven-bedroom Victorian villa
Where The Grange, Edinburgh
Words Catherine Coyle
Photography Neale Smith


Bryce McKenzie, 0131 556 2185