Lorraine and Graham Cotterell bought a half-renovated house and with good lighting, strong design and a lot of flair, have brought it bang up to date.

WORDS: Mairi MacDonald | PHOTOGRAPHY: Douglas Gibb

The house, which was originally built in the 1970s, had been upgraded and renovated by the previous owners to a very high specification, but had no building warrant or completion certificate and was therefore unmortgageable. It had also been repossessed by the bank. 

‘As the house was unmortgageable and a repossession, it was being sold at auction,’ explains Lorraine. ‘We were not looking to buy a house at auction however this house appeared on a mainstream website and appeared to have everything that we were after so we thought we might as well go along and have a look,’ Lorraine continues. 

The Cotterells loved the position of the house on the top of a hill, just outside the village but within easy walking distance of the shops, pub and the primary school. ‘It also had a huge garden which, after city living, was something we all really wanted,’ says Lorraine.

As the Cotterells had just sold Lorraine’s childhood family home, they were in a fortunate position to be able to make an offer with cash. ‘One of the requirements of buying a house at auction is that it is bought without a mortgage,’ explains Lorraine. 

Buying at auction did enable the Cotterells to purchase a large house in an extremely desirable area for a lot less than the market value. ‘It looked like a fantastic house but we knew that we had a lot to do to satisfy the local planning office and achieve the completion certificates,’ says Lorraine.

To achieve the standards required by Building Control, Lorraine and Graham employed an architect and structural engineer to redraw the plans and assess the building works already carried out. ‘We also wanted to make a few changes of our own to make the house work better for us,’ explains Lorraine. 

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As the house is built on a hill, the main living area is on the first floor, not the ground. Wanting a slightly more elegant entrance than the modest one that was there, Lorraine and Graham decided to eat into the utility and boot rooms next door and widen it. ‘It was a tiny, dark entrance to a big huge house. We wanted to create a feeling of space and light right from the moment someone came through the front door,’ explains Lorraine. 

This feeling has been continued throughout. Upstairs on the first floor landing the couple have raised the ceiling and removed the cupboards before moving and enlarging the doorway into the living-room. The oak door panels were replaced with glass ones to maximise the light through to the living-room and double doors were installed from the living-room into the dining area of the kitchen. Bifold doors were fitted at the back of the dining-room out on to the decking. To introduce yet more light into the kitchen, a Velux was fitted above the island. 

‘We wanted to make the entrance area downstairs and the hallway upstairs much lighter and more spacious. Light from the bright hall now floods through into the living-room and every room flows through to the next. It gives the house a much more cohesive feel,’ says Lorraine.

With Lorraine working in Glasgow every day and Graham working on film projects mainly from home, Graham was the obvious person to project manage the renovations. ‘Graham has a great eye for detail plus he knows the builders well having worked with them on our previous house after it was destroyed by a fire,’ explains Lorraine. 

Taking advantage of having the tradesmen on site, Lorraine and Graham fine-tuned the rest of the house. An inefficient heating system was replaced with two new boilers – one for the top floor and one for the ground. ‘We also fitted new wooden flooring where there was none and where an old rug had faded the wooden flooring in the hall, we had the builders cut out the wood and replace it with colourful Italian-style mosaic tiles instead. The effect is stunning,’ says Lorraine. 

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In the kitchen where the couple had inherited an expensive SieMatic kitchen from the previous owners, Lorraine and Graham chose to replace the appliances with some more up-to-date and higher specification ones. ‘We also fitted a new sink, taps and a boiling water tap, which I love,’ says Lorraine. 

The final part of the building project was to turn the space above the garage into a one-bedroom self-contained flat with en-suite, living-room and kitchen area as well as a separate entrance. ‘Willis, Graham’s youngest son, lives here when he is around,’ says Lorraine, ‘otherwise it is a very convenient guest suite.’ 

With the building work completed, Lorraine, with her fine art background, set to work choosing the colours, fabrics, furniture and artwork for their new home. ‘We brought a lot with us from our previous home as everything we have has sentimental value to us. Due partly to Mallika, our daughter, and our love of travel, our style is very Asian-influenced with much of our furniture and many accessories coming from Thailand, Vietnam and India. We are very keen that Mallika keeps in touch with her heritage, so every couple of years we return to Thailand to see her foster parents and explore the country,’ explains Lorraine. ‘Needless to say we often end up buying something to ship back home.’

Although the work only took 5 months to complete, it took 2 years to satisfy local planners. ‘We have finally got a Completion Certificate,’ says Lorraine, ‘but all the work and heartache has been worth it. We have a beautiful house in a stunning area and when we sit out on the decking and look out over Loch Lomond to the mountains beyond, we are so delighted that we made that move out to the countryside. It was originally for Mallika’s benefit, but to be honest we are all enjoying it.’

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