Dark stone cottage opened up to the northern light

A light, bright home has been coaxed out of the dark, cramped confines of an old Aberdeenshire cottage

If you’re about to embark on a self-build project, Andrew Brown has some hard-won advice: “If it’s at all possible, don’t live in the house while it’s being renovated – it can be a nightmare,” he warns. “And don’t be afraid to be bolshy with your builder: we replaced ours halfway through.” There is little about the process that is in any way glamorous, he adds: “We lived in an upstairs bedroom with a little makeshift ‘kitchenette’ – a microwave and toastie-maker, the lid of which served as our dining table. It was only supposed to be for a fortnight, but we were there for three months!”
Thankfully, since the pain-to-gain ratio is firmly in latter’s favour, Andrew can now laugh at the memory of the ten months he and his wife Kate spent renovating and refurbishing their stone cottage near Aberdeen. The “wee dark cottage” that the couple had bought after spending the best part of three years searching for the right property, has been transformed. “We’d been hunt­ing for a cottage with the potential to be a light and modern space, which is practically the opposite of the tradi­tional stone cottages of the North-East,” he says.
When they found this one, they were delighted – though it wasn’t without its problems: “The previous owners had been living ‘The Good Life’,” smiles Andrew. “Lots of mod cons had been removed, including the back-boiler system, shower and fitted kitchen. The kitchen was just a range, which we decided to keep, and a free-standing sink unit.”
He and Kate, partners in the Aberdeenshire-based architectural practice Brown + Brown, aimed to bring in more light and rearrange the ground-floor layout to create more open-plan spaces – all within a modest £25,000 budget. But they were thrown something of a curve ball when they decided to take a closer look at the ceilings and roof, as Kate explains. “The bathroom had a low but spiky Artex ceiling, so we took it out, aiming to open up to the sloping roof. That’s when we discovered the roof structure was badly woodwormed and that the 150 ceiling joists were sagging in the middle!” Faced with a huge repair bill, the couple calculated that it would be cheaper to take the roof off and rebuild it than it would be to fix it.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 130-140, issue 102.

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What Traditional stone-built cottage
Where Rural Aberdeenshire
Architect Brown and Brown Architects
Photography Nigel Rigden
Words Caroline Ednie