The old faded grandeur of this Georgian townhouse has given way to a warm and vibrant home
What does ‘home’ mean? That was a question Rachel Richmond found herself asking time and again as she contemplated the three-storey Georgian house she’d just bought in Edinburgh. The sellers had been quite candid about what home signified to them: “They told me they had no interest in interiors or decoration and that it was essentially just a space to live in,” she says. “Everything was dark green and deep red, the floors were in terrible condition, the bathrooms were falling apart and the walls hadn’t seen a paintbrush in 30 years.”
Rachel had an altogether different idea about how she wanted to live, and could visualise immediately how much better the house would look with a bit of love. “It had a sadness about it,” she says. “I just imagined all of its amazing Georgian features brought to life, in light colours, and I knew I could make a tired, soulless house into something warm and inviting.”
She spent a lot of time researching what the property would have looked like in the 1800s, trying to find out what was original and what had been added over the years. Her intention was to celebrate its heritage while putting her own stamp on it through a contemporary colour scheme. Recruiting the right trades for the job was a crucial first step, particularly as she was determined to hire local companies and Scottish craftsmen; decorating firm Nevin of Edinburgh, which specialises in Georgian restorations, was one of the first to be hired. soon followed by cornicing restorers and flooring experts.
Once the electrics and the heating had been renewed, it was on to the floors, ripping up the worn pink carpet that had been laid in most of the rooms. Underneath, Rachel could see that all the floors had been replaced over the years and were different in every room. This, combined with Edinburgh’s infamous subsidence, meant they all needed to be levelled. “Strathearn Stone & Timber did a fantastic job of laying new floors on top of what was there and repositioning the skirtings,” she says. “It was nail-biting, hoping the floors would work – I was 100% set on parquet. It turned out to be a great choice.”
The house wasn’t fit to be lived in during these initial stages, and it was only once the top-floor bedrooms and bathroom had been decorated that Rachel, her husband and their three young sons could move in. These had been earmarked as the boys’ rooms, but for the first six months it was where the whole family lived, ate and slept, as plasterers, painters and plumbers colonised the floors below. “It was pretty miserable! Living on-site calls for a lot of patience and organisation,” she says.
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Photography Neale Smith
Art Direction Gillian Welsh
Words Judy Diamond