Nordic Elegance

When Donna Caira inherited her late parents’ home, she realised it was the perfect blank canvas to create the Nordic look she loves.

‘When our daughters left home for university, we knew we wanted to travel more and free ourselves up, so our larger family house suddenly felt unnecessary. I had inherited my parents’ home recently and it is in a great spot. Kirriemuir is on the edge of the Glens but with all the amenities you need in a small town, we both thought it would make a very good base. We took our time doing it up as we still owned our family home, back in Fife, where we continued to live while our girls were still at university. However, in the end, we decided to sell it as we now live in Qatar.

Getting started
‘My parents’ tastes were very traditional, so we knew the house needed updating. We also wanted to maximise the space. Anthony realised that the master bedroom had room for an ensuite, we were able to install an extra shower room and a walk-in wardrobe. We began by replacing most of the windows with graphite uPVC and most of the flooring, which was mainly carpet, with engineered oak. Progress was slow because we were travelling, as we had promised ourselves, plus when covid hit we could not access the house at all or find any tradesmen. The project stalled for a year at least. This gave us useful thinking time and we were able to research kitchen and bathroom products and options. I put together mood boards for every room, but it was frustrating as even when restrictions were lifted, there were long waiting times in place and prices had gone up noticeably for even the most basic materials, which were understandably, now, hard to source.

Moving on
‘When things settled down again, we replaced the existing bathroom, downstairs, with a contemporary shower room. We tackled the kitchen and decorated throughout. The house is a 1970s ex-council semi, so we felt that Scandinavian style was really in keeping with the simple lines and design internally, and I was delighted to follow this through. I painted the whole place white throughout, adding charcoal accents, layered it with natural wood flooring and painted wall panelling in places. We painted all the radiators charcoal and replaced the internal doors with a more contemporary style in graphite. The stairs are overlaid with sanded scaffolding planks, and the original balustrade, which was made by my dad who was a blacksmith, we kept, but we removed the decorative curlicues. Our hope is that the moment you enter the house you are struck by the simple, slightly rustic décor.

Finishing upstairs
‘We completed the master bedroom ensuite and fitted wardrobe next. It works well: the room is still spacious but the extra storage in invaluable. There are still two spare rooms and the main bathroom for when our daughters visit, so we have all the space we need. The décor we have chosen emphasises the space and light in the house. When we downsized, two houses ago now, I embraced the ‘no clutter’ concept with a vengeance. I love minimalism, it suits our lifestyle perfectly. As I grew up here, the house is of course steeped in memories, but I decided to pare back. There are fewer trinkets and treasures around, but still plenty to remind me this was my home for the first 18 years.

I think creativity is in our family, there are a number of graphic designers and artists, plus, my dad produced many artful pieces from his smiddy.

Back to school
‘I studied law at university and worked as a solicitor before I had children but spending time at home when my daughters were little made me realise that working in an office was just not for me. I knew I wanted to do something much more creative, and that my true passion was interior design. I went back to college when the girls started school and attended both an upholstery course and an interior design course to learn the basics, and have undertaken several projects since, in my own homes and other people’s, which I have found immensely satisfying.

You’ve been framed
‘Artworks are my favourite indulgence. I particularly love graphic prints. A few years ago now, I helped set up the fine art print company We Are Amused, with my friend, Susan Warner. It is still going strong, and I love having favourite pieces from our time together on the wall. My daughter Julia is also a photographer and I have framed up several of her beautiful images. She also travels a lot and has published a series of beautiful prints depicting the Amalfi coast and the Middle East. They are available for sale on her website juliacaira.co.uk.

Inside Outside
‘The garden is still a work in progress, but we have built a summer house out there, which is going to be my design studio. I need somewhere to store fabric samples and paint charts and stock for Stòr Living. Between trips abroad, I am slowly building up my practice again. I never envisaged myself living here again, but it feels meaningful, and I cannot wait to get myself re-established in this great location.’

SMEDJE in Kirriemuir can be rented for short breaks on Airbnb.

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