Tag Archives: scotland

The Attic

This room at the top of the house ties with the bathroom for most dramatic transformation.

There were two small skylights, original to the roof I’m sure as they were iron framed and cold as anything. We had them replaced along with the windows in 2003/2004, and then did little with the attic until 2019, when we cleared it ready for more major works.

I forget where, but on some renovation show we had seen Velux Cabrio skylights, and they seemed like the perfect solution for our attic. This would open the attic up to the sky, provide us with an indor/outdor balcony, and exploit some of the best views in town.

In May of 2019 we got in touch with our favorite Joiner, Neil Donald, to discuss the project. Initially we had thought just to install the Cabrio skylight/balcony, but then I asked him to expand the project to include ripping out all the existing plasterboard, insulating, and then board and skim coat. We’d never have a better opportunity to really turn the attic into usable space! We asked Neil to get the work done in time for our next trip, planned to be April of 2020. Yeah, that didn’t hapen.

It was to be over 18 months before we would be able to return in October of 2021, and admire the magnificent views from our skylight balcony!

Front Bedroom

This room benefitted from two added walls, one for soundproofing on the wall shared with our neighbors, the other created a corridor like “lab”. This is the room I slept in, on foam mats on the floor, in November of 2003 on the very first trip to the flat.

After that first trip our local builder not only replaced the window, but also removed the “lab corridor” wall – you can see there’s still a hatch through to the “kitchen” (back bedroom). That left a pretty rough room, but one that was usable for the April 2004 trip.

From there it was decorating. To this day I’m not really sure why I picked blue again, given how much there was already in the house, but there you go. We’ll redecorate it one of these trips.

Back Bedroom

Initially we had used the front bedroom, but in summer months it’s pretty noisy with the cruiser traffic on Mid St, Friday and Saturday nights. This is the room that was originally the kitchen, all of which had to be removed.

As part of the very first work we contracted with our builder between November 2003 and April 2004, we had him remove the cabinets, demolish the pantry, and restore the window to its original size.

From there it’s a matter of decorating. The pictures below show the first cut at this in 2006, it’s been painted again since.

Hallway and Stairs

We are fortunate that our portion of the house includes the original entrance, hallway, and stairs – they retain much original character.

When we first bought the flat this area was very tired, having been subjected to decades of public traffic.

The sheer size of the space meant that decorating was more of a challenge than I felt like taking on, and so I contracted with our neighbor at the other end of Bankers Lane, Pete The Paint. Pete has always been a good neighbor and was a great decorator – he’s retired now. He covered all the walls with lining paper before painting, repaired some damaged plaster, and laboriously painted all the cast iron balusters.

The results were spectacular


The original bathroom edged out the second floor kitchen to be “worst room in the flat”. I don’t think it had been renovated since the house was first divided, probably 70 or so years before we bought the flat. It’s built on a floor added to the back of the flat, supported on steel beams atop stone walls, themselves built on top of ground floor extensions.

It was a small, dingy, cold, damp room. The shower was a metal cubicle, and every aspect of the room was grim.

On the April 2004 trip we met with our builder and George Nichol, our neighborhood kitchen and bathroom guy. George would supply the bathroom materials according to our design and the builder would install everything. We asked that the room be stripped in order that it could be furred and insulated before installing new plasterboard. A wall vent over the shower stall would help with humidity management.

The Utility Room

Our “bonus” room above the main hallway has been a spare bedroom on occasion, but right from the earliest days it’s housed our laundry. Having the ability to wash and dry clothes while on holiday is priceless!

Like all the rooms it was a disaster, and with the added bonus of a sound deadening wall having been constructed as part of the work undertaken to make the rooms legally rentable. One of these years we may strip it out in order to gain back the 6″ or so that it robbed from the width of the room.

The window was replaced, and sink removed, as part of the first round of work contracted to our builder in 2003/2004. By the second trip in the autumn of 2004 I also replaced the flooring, and a still later trip saw me wallpaper and generally tidy up this little room.

I recycled the table that had been in the front room by cutting it in half, and using it as a semicircular desk in this room, and you’ll see that we had our local joiner Neil Donald make up some shelves above the washer and dryer.

The Front Room

The front room, or living room, is still a work in progress. It’s been pretty usable since after the second trip in 2004, but it still has areas of plaster to be repaired. The night storage heater that had been installed shortly before we bought the flat was too heavy for the floorboards, and actually caused the wall to sag. Since we’re not often there during the coldest months we dismantled it, and will just pay more to use on demand heaters.

As with all the rooms this one was an aesthetic disaster, with barely-there carpet and peeling paint.

Demolishing the cabinets was something achievable during my first reconnoitering trip of November 2003, along with ditching the carpet. Right from the very first days I was appreciative of the Council tip/recycling centre in Keith

A visit to the Falconry Centre on the outskirts of Huntley turned up a shed full of sofas, one of which was delivered by a team which included a lad who had rented the attic room in the building years earlier! This gave us something to sit on during the April 2004 trip, and an extra obstacle to move around as I installed laminate flooring.

For now the living room is livable enough, and the remaining wall repairs will wait awhile

Creating a kitchen

From Dentist surgery to kitchen

It made sense to have the kitchen on the same floor as the main living room, and to have it as an eat-in kitchen made the larger room at the back of the house the logical choice. As with all the rooms it already had running water.

There were multiple issues to be addressed before this could become a kitchen:

  • The window didn’t close
  • Electrical supply inadequate for an oven and hob
  • Styrofoam ceiling tiles present quite a fire risk
  • The floor is trashed
Continue reading Creating a kitchen

Our Flat In Scotland

Turning bed-sits into a home

About a year after buying the flat in 2003

The seed for the idea that grew into our place in Scotland was planted during a family holiday in France, intrigued by the romance of buying an old place and investing sweat equity to renovate it. After some thought I decided that France, while appealing for a great many reasons, wasn’t really practical for a project that would have to be managed remotely from home in the USA. A holiday trip to Scotland in 2000 re-oriented the focus there.

Continue reading Our Flat In Scotland