A radical new look has transformed this house, but the changes have been just as effective – and far-reaching – on the inside
First appearances can be deceiving. In the case of Blakeburn Cottage, the new home of writer and psychologist Anna Karczewska-Slowikowska, in a secluded woodland glade in the Borders, you could easily imagine you’d stumbled upon an unashamedly contemporary new-build. This, however, is a renovation and extension project, with the bones of an unremarkable 1970s bungalow inside. Two concrete chimneystacks poking out through the smooth slate roof are the only hint of its more prosaic origins.
Anna, who has lived in the Borders area for the past 20 years, most recently in a five-bedroom 18th-century house – was looking to downsize to a smaller property, where she could enjoy her retirement. A series of fortunate events eventually led to the creation of Blakeburn cottage. “I was walking around the local village one day when I spotted a new-build house that I loved,” Anna recalls. “So I contacted the owner, and asked who the architect was.” This led her directly to Matthew Johnson of Edinburgh-based practice A449 Architects.
“At the same time, a local farmer was selling an old bungalow and its surrounding plot. When I saw the ‘For Sale’ sign, I got in touch with him right away – and that was it,” she goes on. “I had to sell my own house quickly in order to fund the purchase, and as luck would have it a buyer was found.”
The bungalow was tired and a bit worse for wear, but its setting made it ideal for Anna’s purposes. She moved in temporarily, basically camping out for a month before her rental flat was ready. “I had a camp bed and a little fire,” she says. “I just really wanted to get a feel for what it was like to live here before the building work began.”
The design for Blakeburn had begun months before, at Anna’s first meeting with Matthew Johnson. “I could tell from the way that Matthew was looking at the vista, and talking about the house capturing views of the lane and the beech hedge at the top of the hill, that this was what I was looking for,” she says. “He came to my house and saw how I lived and asked if I could sum up what I wanted the new house to be in one word. I said ‘elegant’. I also mentioned my love of wood, and Matthew came up with this wonderful idea.”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 116-126, issue 108.