Moving from an elegant, beautifully decorated Victorian flat in the vibrant west end of Glasgow to a potential-filled but battered old cattle shed in the sticks is the kind of flight of fancy we all might contemplate in an idle daydream but never, when push comes to shove, actually do in reality. Heather Nevay and her partner John Burke are not like other people, however. They knew they wanted a lifestyle change – “a change of gear”, as Heather puts it – and this project, on the edge of a small village in Argyll, has most certainly delivered. “It was exactly what we needed,” she says.
It all began 13 years ago. They’d bought the land – an acre and a half of woodland – from the Forestry Commission in 2003 for £94,000, a sale that included the two properties on the site. One of these was a small timber-clad cottage that was being used as an office, while the other was a stone cow byre that was serving as a workshop. It was clear that it would take a substantial effort to make either building habitable, but the couple were undaunted. “It was something to get our teeth into,” says Heather. “It was very satisfying and creative.”
The first thing they tackled was the cottage, which they did up into a cosy one-bedroom, Scandinavian-style house, timber-clad inside and out. It was complete by 2005. “We rent it out now, but we were able to stay in it while we were working on the barn, which was so convenient,” says Heather.
The much larger cow byre was a far more challenging proposition, but the couple, hardened by the first renovation, didn’t flinch. Certain they knew what they wanted to do with it, they decided against hiring an architect. It was a gamble, but it paid off: “We had no problem getting it through planning,” says John. “They liked our scheme.”
The building, which was subdivided internally in three, sits on a gentle slope, so the three ‘chambers’ were all on slightly different levels. The highest of these is now the kitchen, while the other two are guest bedrooms. The living and dining area and the entire upper floor are all new additions.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 138-146, issue 108.
Words Alison Gibb
Photography Douglas Gibb