An inviting combination of 200-year-old garden, modernist building and rich family history makes this an East Lothian holiday retreat with a difference
Photography Amanda Farnese Heath
Words Catherine Coyle
Finding a way to hang on to the past, without hoarding relics or clinging on to every scrap of memorabilia, is more difficult than you’d imagine. But striking a balance between honouring history and preserving something for the future is a balance that Janey and Hew Dalrymple have achieved with aplomb. When Hew’s parents passed away in 2018, he knew he’d never be able to part with the modernist home they’d built 60 years ago in North Berwick, where he and his brothers grew up. But he was also aware that this quirky, mid-century home was not fit for 21st-century living.
Designed by Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith (whose firm was responsible for the Edinburgh Festival Theatre) within the family’s 200-year-old walled garden, the property has been given a sensitive, contemporary extension and renovation courtesy of Annie Macpherson of Gray Macpherson Architects. “Partner Mich Gray was a pupil of James Dunbar-Nasmith and had long admired the building,” says Macpherson. “We were very conscious that any alterations must be respectful to the original design.”
Working in collaboration with the architect, Hew and Janey have created a magical retreat for guests where all of the splendour of the original architecture has been offset by a subtle extension, the two combining to bring the focus through the house and out to the beautifully maintained and liberating walled garden.
“We have repurposed as much of the original family furniture as we could, including the portrait paintings, which have been wonderfully restored by Lucy and Nick Wright,” says Janey, who took on the interior and garden design of the newly formed self-catering property. With six generous bedrooms, each with either an en-suite or an adjacent bathroom, as well as a reconfiguration of the original nursery into a dining room and the introduction of a large dining-kitchen that opens to impressive views of the garden, the pair had their work cut out for them.
But, with Hew’s deep-rooted personal connections to the house and Janey’s acute sensibilities that draw on the gentle palette of the garden, the renovation is an undeniable triumph. Restful tones such as the pastels of the tulips (Tulipa ‘doll’s minuet’), scillas and anemones (Anemone blanda) seep through into the bedlinen and bedroom furnishings. Contemporary interventions like underfloor heating and a Greenheat Renewables sustainable geothermal heating system play their part behind the scenes, and a new lighting design (developed under the watchful expertise of lighting consultant Victoria Richardson), brings the space to life.
“Maintaining the hierarchy of spaces was important,” explains Macpherson. “One of the great successes of the original building was the combination of traditional paintings and furniture with a modernist building, and our alternations carefully maintain these features.”
“Skylights in the new part of the building bring in lots of natural light,” says Janey, “and it has truly been transformed. It was always a welcoming house; now, we hope we’ve preserved it for generations to come.”
Sleeps 12. Minimum three-night stay from £4,000. Leuchie Walled Garden.