King of the hill: Home that fits perfectly

The architect behind this house in Dumfries and Galloway overcame the challenges posed by its steeply sloping site to create a home that fits perfectly into the landscape

Taigh Sonas, the rather stately con­temporary villa that has recently been built in a quiet coastal village in Dumfries and Galloway, fits so seamlessly and effortlessly into its site that it looks to the casual observer as if its design must have been equally straightforward and trouble-free. In fact, the reality could hardly be further from the truth: this is a house that emerged out of constraints and challenges – and is perhaps all the better for it.
The team at Simon Winstanley Architects, based in Castle Douglas, were confronted by a long, narrow and steeply sloping hillside plot, with the most dramatic views squarely facing north – not at all suitable for the light-drenched villa that the clients had in mind. A small semi-derelict white bungalow whose best days were very much behind it currently occupied the spot.
“We’d never really thought about building our own house but the location and plot size just made sense,” explains the house’s owner, who has a long association and family connections with this part of the Solway coast. “The large garden was a major attraction too – we thought it would make a fantastic football pitch for our boys.”
Following their visit to the site, and armed with rough sketches and some magazine cut-outs from the clients, the architects tried to work out how this unpromising plot, which was rocky as well as steep, could be used to create a light-filled four-bedroom house.
“There is a difference of a whole storey between the road side and the garden side of the plot,” explains Simon Winstanley. “We had to level the rear garden to provide a large play area for the children – this involved excavating a lot of rock.
“The road side naturally had to be the main entrance, and the client wanted an open hallway and stair on entering which connected you visually to the upper-ground level. The garage and utility areas are on the lower-ground level.”
As you enter the house, a double-height staircase, beauti­fully crafted in oak and glass, leads to the main hall and the living, dining and kitchen space, which takes in panoramic views including the River Urr to the west. A ‘wall’ of floor-to-ceiling glazing also looks out directly to the terrace/lawn to the south-east.
“The kitchen and living room works especially well,” says the owner. “It is a triple-aspect room, which makes it lovely and light. I love being in the kitchen area but still able to see the boys playing at the far end of the garden.”
The staircase in the hall also leads to the first-floor lounge/terrace with its elevated views to the hills. South-facing light pours into this space via a strip of clerestory windows underneath the pre-weathered, grey, standing-seam zinc roof, which is tilted towards the sunlight. “The upper lounge has the most amazing views; you feel as though you are up above everyone. It is idyllic just to sit and watch as the world goes by,” says the owner.
The accommodation is completed by bedrooms and ancillary spaces tucked away along the north-east edge over the three levels.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 82-88, issue 93.

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Words Caroline Ednie
Photography Andrew Lee
What A new-build four-bedroom house
Where Dumfries and Galloway
Architect Simon Winstanley Architecture
Builder 3b Construction