The vistas from a rugged corner of Skye proved irresistible for one couple

The views from this rugged corner of Skye proved irresistible to a couple in search of the perfect place to build a new home

Do certain places on Earth possess a seductive allure that draws you back – especially if you’ve been particularly happy there? The case of Lorna and Murray Gray and the Isle of Skye would suggest so. When they embarked on a plan to build them­selves a new long-term family home, they ended up buying a plot in the precise spot they’d spent their honeymoon many years before.
“It had never been our plan to return to the area,” says Lorna, “it just worked out that way.” Perhaps it was a subconscious thing: “We’d had a picture of the views from this area of Skye on the wall of our home in rural Perthshire for the past 20 years. The kids tell us that all their lives they’d been looking at an image of the views and now they’re looking at the real thing. The picture is back up in the new house.”
Just as the location was never set in stone, the Grays’ ideas for the shape and scale of the new house also changed several times. “Originally we thought about a renovation project, as this was something we’d done in the past,” says Lorna. “We had a Scandinavian kit house in Perthshire and we did quite a bit of renovating on that house when we moved in. It had great views over Strathearn and the mountains, and we knew that our new project would have to have great vistas too. We’d always had a mountain view and we thought it would be really nice to have a sea view.”
Just as the idea of a coastal home began to take root, the Skye plot came on to the market. They were very tempted, but before they went ahead with the purchase, the couple caught up with architect Alan Dickson of Rural Design. They’d come across several houses designed by the practice during the course of family summer holidays on the island.
“The site has cracking views, but it is steep,” says Dickson. “But I told them that we shouldn’t be too worried about the slope. Clearly it would cost a wee bit more to build on the slope but it didn’t mean the project would not be viable. Blow your budget on the plot – that’s the advice I’d give to clients.”
The Grays were sold. Their brief was simple: an upside-down house that would take full advantage of the surrounding panorama. “It was all about the views – that’s all we said to the architect. We wanted every room to have a one, even the toilet,” says Lorna.
In response to the sloping site, the house is designed over multiple levels. “We worked on the idea of a narrow plan as this minimises the amount of excava­tion required,” explains Dickson. “And, as it’s only one room deep, it means every room gets the views. It’s a simple philosophy that unlocks lots of possibilities. A lot of kit houses are two rooms deep so half the rooms are looking at the back of the hill.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 122-132, issue 107.

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What A two-storey house with a separate annex
Where Waternish, Isle of Skye
Architect Rural Design
Interviews Caroline Ednie
Photography Nigel Rigden