On the outside, the house is quite traditional looking. It has whitewashed walls and a slate roof. Penny had considered going for a stone structure with a turf roof but the site is highly visible to passengers on the ferry that goes back and forwards to the Isle of Mull. So there were planning considerations and it was reckoned that the new- build should fit in with the surrounding buildings.
Originally Penny had wanted to dig down into the hillside and create a basement for storing kayaks and perhaps a car and a boat. The planners rejected this idea stating that it would make the house too conspicuous. In the end the decision was taken to build a large shed in the garden. It is a smaller space than the original basement would have been but it provides an ideal site for the photo voltaic solar panels.
When it came to creating the interior layout, there were a number of key considerations. It had to suit all three owners and it had to be conducive to feelings of calm and sanctuary. In order to ensure that was the case, the architect kicked off a comprehensive consultation process. Penny says, ‘Andrew asked myself and my two daughters to all give an interpretation of what sort of feelings we were looking for. So we all did that independently and he received three envelopes, each with very different things in them.’
Elder daughter Laura drew a picture of a couple walking down a beach. Her focus is very much on the outdoors which is unsurprising given that she is a scuba diving instructor whose work takes her all over the world. Olivia, who has just completed a degree in fashion design in Brighton, is more inspired by urban surroundings. She depicted brick buildings that were reminiscent of those in the south of England where the family was based for many years. Her drawings illustrated her concern with aesthetically appealing proportions. In the end, Olivia had a lot of input into the choice of colour for the kitchen and in the tiling while Laura took an interest in choosing the bathrooms.
Penny’s wishes were very much informed by previous family houses. She says, ‘We used to live in a 17th century thatched stone cottage and I loved the coolness of that house in summer and the warmth in winter. Then we moved to a modern Scandinavian type house and I loved the light and the air and that, along with the planning considerations, is probably what swayed me.’
The architect was also presented with a fairly exacting, practical brief. Penny says, ‘I wanted the heart of the house to be an open plan kitchen, dining and seating area because we are very much into food as a family. And I felt it was important to make use of the views, so it would be an outward looking house. I also wanted a boot room because we spend a lot of time outside and it’s good to have somewhere to put muddy or wet stuff when you’ve been outside on the hills or in the water.’
All these specifications have been implemented to stunning effect. The house is airy and open inside and looks out on panoramic sea views. However, on the ground floor, there is also a small, enclosed sitting- room, complete with wood burning stove. Penny says, ‘We wanted a snug; a little space which is warm and cosy for reading and film watching and for hiding away when the weather is not for being out in.’
Upstairs, all 3 bedrooms are of similar dimensions. Penny explains, ‘So many modern houses have a huge master bedroom and two or three smaller, non- descript bedrooms for children. That is not what we wanted. My girls are adults now so our rooms are fairly equal in size and we didn’t go for en-suites. Instead, we have two bathrooms which are for sharing’.
Energy efficiency and eco-technology were also high on the family’s agenda. This has been achieved with the incorporation of a ground source heat pump which works alongside the solar panels. A wood burning stove in the open plan area. as well as the one in the snug adds atmosphere and supplementary heat.
During the actual construction process, Penny was based in Edinburgh but she made site visits on a weekly or fortnightly basis to see how things were going and to make decisions. She also made full use of modern technology in order to confer with her daughters about fixtures and fittings. However, the bulk of the project management responsibilities rested with local builder Kenneth MacDonald who proved to be extremely reliable and efficient throughout. He also made a point of working closely with the architect, seeking his advice when necessary.