Behind the imposing façade of this Victorian villa in Perthshire lies an interior that has been cleverly adapted for contemporary living
The Victorians had the right idea: rest and relaxation was a concept they took very seriously indeed. Determined to escape the smog and clamour of the city, they created spa towns to retreat to at the weekend. In keeping with their ambitions, these getaways were suitably grand, so much so that many of their large villas remain intact – and in demand – today.
Crieff was one such destination for the Victorian escapees, attracting weekenders from Perth and Dundee as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh. The enduringly popular Crieff Hydro brought people to the area in search of lawn games and hydrotherapy and, while the spa treatments on offer have changed over the years, the hotel, built in 1878, still operates as a family-run business. At its gates sits Dalmhor House, an imposing villa designed as a striking domestic residence but latterly used as a boarding house for the town’s independent Morrison’s Academy. It had been lying empty for five years before builder and developer John Burke took the project on.
His firm, Corryard Developments, had recently completed another renovation project in the area but taking on this classic Victorian structure seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. So he bought it and, together with his wife, interior designer and architect Susie Whyte, set about giving it a new lease of life. Rather than simply reinstate it to being a single dwelling, the couple could immediately see the potential to change the layout and make something more suited to modern lifestyles.
They began by stripping the building out – and it wasn’t long before they came across large areas of dry rot. “It was really bad!” recalls John. “But we cut it out and renewed all the wood that had been damaged.”
Although Dalmhor House is in a conservation area, it is not a listed building, so they had some leeway to make changes. All of the windows and doors, for example, were taken out and replaced with more efficient models that reference the period detailing but perform better than their Victorian counterparts; the weight-hung sash-and-case window frames were retained for an authentic look.
John and Susie worked with architects McKenzie Strickland Associates to devise plans to submit to the local planning office. The shell of the building was in good health but their intentions for the inside would entail fundamental changes to the layout. “We wanted to create three separate apartments within the house itself, as well as to convert the original coach house and build a new property in the grounds,” says John.
The results demonstrate how traditional structures can be successfully transformed to suit the needs of contemporary homeowners. A sympathetic approach has taken the best elements of the era and incorporated them comfortably in a subtle, simple modern design to create a harmonious mix.
Corryard’s 15-strong team of builders, joiners, electricians and tradespeople worked full time on site. The exterior of the building was solid and just needed sprucing up, so the team set about power-washing the sandstone then repointing it with lime mortar. Structurally, the roof was also in good shape, but all the tiles and leadwork were replaced and upgraded. Work was done to the chimneys to accommodate the wood-burners that were being installed in each apartment.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 144-150, issue 113.