Room not gloom: An Argyll villa transformed

A gloomy Victorian villa on the shores of Argyll has been magically revived thanks to a light-filled glass extension

Mary MacCallum Sullivan just laughs when she’s asked what drove her to completely reinvent and remodel the Sheiling, her handsome two-storey Victorian villa near Lochgilphead. “Well, I knew something had to be done about the horrible pseudo-Victorian conservatory that was stuck on the end of the house – it’s one of my pet hates. And once I realised that was an option, the rest was easy.”
After many years living and working all over the world, from the South African bush to the middle of the desert in Oman, Mary saw her decision to relocate to rural Argyllshire in 2009 as something of a homecoming – this, after all, was the MacCallum family’s traditional heartland. “I felt it was time to go back to my roots, although at the same time I was keen to be within touching distance of my family in Edinburgh and my work in Glasgow,” explains Mary, a practising psychotherapist.
A seemingly endless search of Argyll then ensued. Mary was at the point of giving up when she came across the Sheiling, sandwiched between the Crinan Canal and Loch Fyne. A clutter of compartmenta­lised spaces and that tacked-on conservatory made the former B&B a daun­ting prospect, but neither was a deal-breaker. “When I viewed it for the first time, it was dark and a bit odd in its layout, but it had lovely high ceilings, and it just spoke to me,” she recalls.
If the layout felt odd, it was because the house was effectively back to front. The kitchen and dining area were at the back, in relative darkness and with no outlook, despite spectacular views towards Arran at the front. Along with the unloved con­ser­vatory, this anomaly precipitated the rethink of the Sheiling that followed in 2011. Mary’s son-in-law, Neil Taylor, formerly with Wilkinson Eyre Architects and now with Edinburgh-based APD Architecture, was happy to come on board.
“I stayed for a week, working with Mary on ideas for the house,” he says. “The discussions centred around how we could take advantage of the views over the sea to Arran and how the sky could be brought into the house – the skies up here are fantastic. It became clear that a new addition, incorporating as much glass as we could get away with, would be the best solution – a new space that would be as tall and as open as possible. Mary liked the idea of replicating the pitch of the existing roof; adopting this sloping form allowed us to create the feeling that the new addition was an extension of the space, not a separate room added on to the side of the house. That was very important.”
Achieving this meant removing almost half of the gable wall and introducing a 4m-high glass wall overlooking the loch, which wraps around the south-facing façade towards the Arran views. “The important thing about the glazing system is that it has a slim projecting fin on the outside, which gives it a slenderness and refinement, and emphasises the vertical pro­portions of the glazed panels,” says Neil.
The new extension might be unequivocally contemporary in form, but its distinctive zinc cladding and roof both reference the language of the Victorian villa. “The zinc cladding, with its overlapping, staggered pattern, relates well to the palette, echoing the slate of the house,” Neil explains. “We wanted to use just one consistent material, and zinc was ideal for that. It is quite unusual to have achieved planning consent for such a con­tem­porary house extension in this context. But the design was made permissible through the use of a building form and a limited palette of materials that closely relate to the original building and the lochside environment.”

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 80-84, issue 91.

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What A four-bedroom Victorian house plus a new extension
Where Lochgilphead, Argyll
Architect APD Architecture, 0131 555 3824
Construction time 15 months
Words Caroline Ednie
Photography Jenni Browne