Turning this house from ugly duckling into elegant swan was less abracadabra and more hard graft – although there were plenty of magic moments along the way
With its pink granite, pointy turret and leaded windows, there is definitely something of the fairytale about Toftwood. It’s not overt – this is an elegant, well-proportioned home in Milltimber, Aberdeenshire – but the unusual architecture hints at something a little out of the ordinary within.
Yet when the current owners bought the house, it was a gloomy prospect. Built at the turn of the 20th century and owned by the same family for 70 years, it was sadly lacking in adequate internal space, light and iPod docks. A 1960s sun lounge was dated in the extreme and four bedrooms plus one bathroom does not add up to luxury for the modern family. But, facing south towards the Deeside valley, with high ceilings, original Victorian sash-and-case windows, solid doors and walls plus a lovely mature garden, there was potential aplenty, as Justine Winter of interior design firm Orchid Newton, realised when she was commissioned to bring the house into the 21st century.
Before the fun and the fairytale transformation, there was the heavy lifting and the delicate negotiations with the planning department to get through. Adding an extension for a new kitchen and family room, and which would also allow the accommodation to be increased to six bedrooms and five bathrooms, required some lateral thinking. “Planning specified that any new windows facing the neighbours’ houses could not overlook their gardens,” says Justine. “Because of this, one of the large new bedrooms was designed with electric Velux windows to give maximum light without intruding on anyone’s privacy.”
The extension freed up the old kitchen, plus the drawing room, to become one generous-sized drawing room. This was a tricky process that required the removal of a solid wall with an old chimney. The original living room is now a dining room with a new fireplace and patio doors leading into the garden. “The challenge with this room was removing the lathe-and-plaster walls while retaining the original cornicing of the ceiling, then remaking the damaged area. It would have been easier to pull it all down and start again, but that is not as satisfying as restoring the old.
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