After taking early retirement, pharmacists Donald and Alison Mackinnon were finally able to focus on making dramatic changes to their home in Aberlady, 20 miles east of Edinburgh. They’d been contemplating the alterations for 13 years. “The previous owners had changed the original five bedrooms into three, and there was a lot of unused space,” says Alison. “It’s a superb house, but the rooms downstairs were very unbalanced; either too big or too small. We wanted to extend the kitchen, and build the perfect-sized everyday living room.” Word-of-mouth led the Mackinnons to builder Steve Reynolds of Reywood Construction and architect Julian Frostwick, both located a fiveminute drive away.
The brief was to create two new bedrooms and a bathroom in the attic space, and a kitchen and living room with vaulted ceiling and a wow factor. The Mackinnons remained in the home throughout the six-month build process. “By being there we felt part of the team,” says Alison. “Every day there was a decision to be made, and it meant we got exactly what we wanted. We made it our project. Steve grasped our vision and delivered it to us exactly as we hoped it could be.” When the clients wanted a large, free-standing fridge freezer against a wall, the builder came up with a better solution. “Steve suggested taking some space out of the utility room, and sinking the fridge back; it has worked well,” says Alison.
Driving through Edinburgh one day, she spotted the perfect lighting in a shop window. The result is a line of five Ottimo glass ball lamps hung at different heights, so the configuration is different depending on where you are standing. Steve cut wedges to the angle of the pitch to ensure they were all straight. He used Douglas fir for the vaulted ceiling, and Wenge wood for the steps leading down to the kitchen, and to link kitchen and living space. Another idea was to use Velux windows at the top of the house to maximise the spectacular sea view.
“We are delighted with the end result for Mr and Mrs Mackinnon, who were living in situ throughout, which meant the workforce being extra diligent in maintaining a safe, clean and tidy working environment,” says Steve. “The most difficult problem to overcome was the attic conversion as we had to divert the electrical, plumbing and heating services for the whole house.”
Every project involves some compromise. The Mackinnons originally hoped to include underfloor heating in the kitchen, but discounted this as it would have involved major excavation works and instead opted for designer radiators. The builders went the extra mile. They left their shoes at the front door when working upstairs, and when they left the site, they not only took away all their debris, but also the Mackinnons’ rubbish. “Now the only problem is people keep coming to stay,” jokes Alison, who says husband Donald often wearily mutters: ‘We’re not a B&B’.