Upper class: contemporary penthouse blends old with new

A stunning contemporary penthouse with views across Edinburgh has shaken off the developer’s sterile minimalism to become a warm, elegant home full of treasured antiques and heirloom furniture

Downsizing from an Arts and Crafts mansion packed with family heir­looms and antiques to a contemporary penthouse is a big jump. But when you can’t definitely decide whether you are ready for a major change, and want a luxurious master bedroom that could work in either property, it’s time to enlist the experts.
Who, the couple wondered, could help them translate the grown-up, elegant aesthetic they developed living in a period property into a top floor white box? The answer came to them when staying at the McIntosh Suite at Windlestraw Lodge in the Borders. Here at last was the style they were looking for. They summoned the interior designer responsible, Morningside-based Joelle Reid, to help.
With a background in textile desing and a CV that includes Edinburgh drinking holes Hamilton’s Bar, Opal Lounge, Rick’s Bar and Indigo Yard, Joelle was up for the challenge. It was, she recalls, a meeting of minds: an owner who knew exactly what she wanted and a designer who loves to make a client’s ideas come alive.
“The owner has great style, understands fashion and is very sophisticated, with an amazing collection of art,” says Joelle. “She knew what she liked but wanted me to push her boundaries and introduce her to different styles, textures and forms. She also wanted no hassle so had someone else source it all.”
It was a big job. The owners were considering selling their house because they no longer needed a big garden. Two years ago they bought the penthouse apartment, which they rented out. They knew they wanted a lush new bedroom. The only question was: which property should it be in? So while they made up their minds, they kept their options open.
“The brief was to design a master bedroom which would look great in the house if they decided to stay,” Joelle recalls. “But it had to translate into the penthouse if they decided to move.
“It was quite a challenge. Their existing property was a very traditional, pretty, dreamy Arts and Crafts house with coombed ceilings, while the penthouse was ultra-modern. Scale was important with the new house in mind, and the design had to be timeless, airy and light. It was also difficult to know how the colours would translate.”
While designing a room that works in a 21st-century apartment and a late-Victorian mansion was never going to be straightforward, Joelle had another tricky factor to consider. Instead of buying new furniture, curtains and accessories, Joelle’s clients wanted to bring their treasured heirlooms and antiques with them.
“I agreed with them,” she says. “It’s something I feel quite passionate about. People shouldn’t throw everything out and lose their identity. This should feel like their home, not an anonymous hotel room.”
The perfect blue for the master bedroom took a long time to identify. “The right colour was essential. Because of the owner’s love of paintings, her eye for colour is very precise. She didn’t want a cold blue, a duck-egg blue or a celadon blue. In the end, a Romo sky blue fabric predominated.”
Joelle kept the original neutral curtains, adding linen voiles to give privacy on the wraparound balcony. The bed was reupholstered in Mark Alexander’s Nantucket check wool, teamed with cotton herringbone bed linen and cushions in Mark Alexander’s Checked Linen. A bespoke Holland & Sherry cashmere throw in chalk stripes added texture.
The wooden bedside tables and wardrobes were resprayed in Farrow & Ball Wimborne White and the client’s grand­mother’s pink velvet buttoned-back easy chair was transformed into a slick, tailored piece with Holland & Sherry’s Savile Row Windsor tweed. Mark Alexander’s Srinagar Azurite wallpaper in a soft damask looks almost hand-painted. A chaise longue was reupholstered in Harlequin Amilie and the chairs were covered in Mark Alexander’s York Faded Blue. The lamps and chandelier are from Joelle Interiors.
“The brief was no overhead lights; she wanted soft five-amp lighting. As a result it’s a really tranquil space. Every­thing trans­lated across to the penthouse well and it’s her favourite space.”

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 174-182, issue 90.

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What A contemporary penthouse
Where Edinburgh
Biggest challenge Seamlessly blending antiques and heirlooms with architect-designed contemporary living
Words Emma Leask
Interior design 07854 199660 Joelle Reid Interior Design
Photography Angus Bremner