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Paul Moorhead and his wife Margaret had always planned to move to the Scottish Highlands when they retired, and in 2006 they decided to start making their dream a reality. "We drove from Ullapool to Arran, looking for a house to buy, but we couldn't find what we wanted," says Paul. "By sheer luck, I bumped into someone I'd met years previously and they mentioned that a neighbour's garden was about to go up for sale. At 0.7 acres, it was a large plot and it even faced south over the scenic Loch Etive." This was exactly what the couple were looking for, so they quickly agreed a figure that was 20% above the asking price and managed to secure the plot before it went to market.
The Moorheads contacted a local architect, John Coleman, to draw up plans for a four bedroom house with high ceilings and a large kitchen. "We wanted something contemporary and light," says Paul. "We loved the first set design, but it was rejected as the planners felt the rooflines were a step too far." This was soon adapted and new plans for a large, timber and render clad, two storey home passed through the planning process with no problems.
At this stage, Paul and Margaret were still living in Wiltshire, and as their architect had retired, they decided to hand the project over to Steven Govern of Ingram Architecture & Design in Glasgow.
The couple's decision to hire an interior designer was just right. Jane Blanchard, who is based in the area, became involved even before the building work started. Margaret credits Jane with some internal layout tweaks, such as lowering the level of the window ledges in the dining area, so the view can be seen whilst seated at the table. Jane also sourced the flooring, produced the electrical layout and created a lighting scheme, which zones the downlights. All this was in addition to selecting a colour pallette, materials and finishes.
Jane was worth her weight in gold. We also learned that working with a good interior designer doesn't have to cost more than doing it yourself. Jane got trade prices and we benefitted from this discount.
Where the fabric and structure of the building were concerned, having taken advice from John Coleman they decided to build in timber frame and looked no further than Scotland's leading timber frame manufacturer Scotframe. Their class leading close panel system Val-U-Therm both met and surpassed their specific requirements for energy performance and airtightness and being timber frame they knew it would be swift to build.
I had a complete change of heart with regards to the heating system," says Paul. "It was a combination of the initial cost and payback time that led me to question our plan to use a ground source heat pump to run the underfloor heating and ended up using a conventional oil fired boiler."
The central heating is complemented by an Aga wood burning stove in the sitting room, which the couple cite as one of their favourite features. "It's fantastic and really boosts the warmth and feeling of cosiness in the house," says Margaret. "However, the timber frame and building materials we used mean that it never actually gets too chilly in the first place. We get lots of solar gain from the glazing on the south elevation, and the warmth stays put thanks to the insulation.