Inner Hebrides Island House, Scottish West Coast Home, Western Isles Residence
Inner Hebrides Island Home
House No 7 on the Isle of Tiree by Denizen Works: Scottish Rural Property
21 Apr 2017
Inner Hebrides Island Home
Tour an Iconic Inner Hebrides Island Home
Ingenious ideas and an intimate understanding of the Hebridean island landscape influenced the design of this beautiful Scottish house
Full article first published on Houzz
Tiree, the westernmost island in the Inner Hebrides, has a special hold on architect Murray Kerr’s heart. ‘I first came here when I was three months old,’ he says. ‘My family has been spending summer holidays here for almost four decades.’ So it was only fitting that when Murray’s parents, Dave and Liz, bought a dilapidated cottage on the island, Murray should design the renovation. Not that he was first choice for the job, mind you. ‘My parents had employed another architect, but he was sending them some quite wild proposals for the new house,’ says Murray. ‘I understood my parents’ tastes better and knew the island well, so eventually they let me design it. In addition, my mother was finding it hard to say no to the other architect, but she had no problem saying no to me!’
Early structural investigations revealed how wrecked the cottage was. ‘It was going to fall down,’ says Murray, ‘but as it’s listed, we had to gain permission from Historic Scotland to demolish and rebuild it.’ Murray’s plans involved rebuilding the original cottage then adding a modern utility wing and a rear living house. It took a year, but in the end, Murray’s sympathetic ideas for the property won through. ‘I felt the building should reflect the location, the palette and all the buildings on the island, not just the domestic dwellings,’ says Murray. ‘The house had to tie in with the architecture of the island as a whole.’ That’s why the rear living house is reminiscent of the agricultural buildings that pepper the island and shelter its prized cattle from the weather.
It took 21 months of work on site to complete this project. ‘There are no building materials on Tiree,’ explains Murray, ‘so everything had to be shipped over.’ Once completed, the final task was to rename the property. ‘It was called Brandon Cottage before, which my dad felt was a bit twee,’ laughs Murray. ‘He worked out there was a Number 6 somewhere else on the island, so he settled on calling it simply House Number 7.’
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Dave and Liz Kerr, both retired
Location: The island of Tiree, in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides
Size: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (1,800 sq ft)
Architect: Murray Kerr of Denizen Works
That’s interesting: Tiree has an area of 30 sq miles and a population of around 650
The cottage the Kerrs bought was a wreck and had to be demolished, but Murray rebuilt it using the original stones with a traditional black tarred roof. It now contains two guest bedrooms (one on each floor), a bathroom and a living room.
To the side, a utility wing connects the cottage area with the large, light living space at the rear. This functional connecting space houses a play area, cloakroom and space to dump boots and clean off sand after a trip to the beach.
Family life is centred on the contemporary structure to the rear of the property. The exterior of this building is made from galvanised steel and corrugated fibre cement, with a curved roof profile. ‘The island is very exposed,’ says Murray, ‘so all the materials and detailing had to be really robust.’
The upper level houses a large kitchen, living and dining room, while Dave and Liz’s bedroom and en-suite bathroom are below, semi-submerged. ‘The windows are at waist height,’ says Murray. ‘It meant we could have a two-storey building without it overshadowing the cottage.’
In contrast to the robust, slightly agricultural feel of the exterior, the inside of the living house is light and airy. Tiree benefits from long daylight hours and plenty of sunshine in the summer months, so numerous windows were installed to make the most of this, but they were positioned at various heights to avoid overlooking a near neighbour.
1006 Navy chair, Emeco. Dining table, Green Oak Furniture
The living space is a half level up from the entrance, with the master bedroom below sunk into the landscape and having views of the sheltered garden.
The ceiling in the living space was constructed from pine skirting boards, which were given a light stain. ‘It’s a simple material, but it produces quite a nice effect,’ says Murray. White walls helps to maximise the daylight.
Hector wall lights, Original BTC, available at The Conran Shop
A glass, L-shaped roof connects the three sections of the property, allowing sunlight to penetrate and warm the house inside. Original stone from the cottage has been used in its reconstruction and left exposed, to bring heft and authenticity to the design.
Looking from the utility wing towards the rebuilt cottage and the living room, the exciting abundance of roof shapes and glazing is clearly visible. An internal window gives a view into the guest living room from the hallway, and its deep sill becomes an informal place to sit.
‘When it’s only Mum and Dad here, they can shut off the cottage part and live simply in the main living house, with access to the utility area,’ explains Murray.
In the living house, a slim window frames the views out to sea. The property is only 650ft from the sandy beach, with fertile, grassy planes, known as machair, stretching between.
Murray designed the bench seating and had it built in. ‘It’s like a Scandinavian daybed, with a single mattress making up the seat,’ he says. ‘Lots of family members come to stay here, so the children can bunk up on it for the night.’
The master bedroom is simply decorated with a pale floor and white walls. Sitting semi-submerged into the plot, it has access onto the garden, which is a sunny spot, sheltered from the Tiree breeze by a protective wall.
The sheltered garden sits at the rear of the property. Tiree is flat and treeless, with a near-constant breeze blowing, making the island a magnet for windsurfers, but presenting challenges for any property situated close to the beach. ‘The wind shifts the sand around,’ says Murray. ‘When we first saw the cottage, the side facing the prevailing wind had 3ft of sand blown up against it.’ Murray had the sand dug out to create a sheltered garden.
The curved steel structure of the newly constructed living area references the agricultural buildings that pepper the island. ‘Cows feed on the machair that carpets the island,’ says Murray. ‘Tiree produces the best beef you will ever taste!’
Major Scottish Buildings
Key Buildings in Scotland Articles – architectural selection below:
photo © Adrian Welch
GIA Design Awards – Glasgow Institute of Architects Prize
Website: Glasgow Institute of Architects
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