Linn Mill

The house that Gareth Hutchison built at Linn Mill, South Queensferry, is well known in architectural circles. It was, at one time, famous for being the house with the tree growing through the balcony, but the tree is no more.
Built in the late seventies by architect Gareth Hutchison for his mother, number two Linn Mill was a delightful house from the start. It was constructed by Derek Edgar, who liked it so much that he eventually bought it from Mrs Hutchison and employed Gareth to design an eye-catching extension.

exterior of Linn MillThe house sits on a corner plot and so offered the unusual opportunity to satisfy the eye from two directions at once. Hutchison decided to curve the extension, which was to include a leisure area on the ground floor and a luxurious bedroom on the first floor. Derek, having been in California for the last twelve years, had returned with an enthusiasm for all sorts of gadgets, with the result that the house included many unusual and state of the art features.

The current owners, Gordon and Anne Campion, purchased the house in 1993. They had little to do structurally, but recently refitted the kitchen, which they found dark and hard to keep clean.

Location, location, location
“If I’m honest, we moved here to be close to the marina,” admits Gordon, who, this summer, sailed his yacht Equinox round Spitzbergen. “We didn’t have a yacht at the time but it was an ambition. My father was a whaler in the Antarctic and on my father side, for four generations back, there have been seven ship’s captains. The house is relevant. I love the presence of water and there’s lots of water here! (There’s a swimming pool and spa on the ground floor.)

bedroom with curved wall“Technically it’s a four bedroom house, but one of the rooms is a gym and the other is an office. The extension is all open plan and we love the feeling of space. It took a bit of getting used to the fact that we don’t have a door on our bedroom but it doesn’t bother us now.”

The house is timber framed but was exceptionally well insulated for its time. Heating bills are not excessive thanks to an efficient underfloor heating system and a less efficient heat exchange pump which draws warm, damp air from the house. The huge picture windows are triple glazed.

Policy Decision
“We made a policy decision not to spoil the windows by having curtains,” Anne says. “We love the fact that there are windows on two sides of the main living room and it is so light. With a view like this, we knew we would never want to close the curtains. I like the tremendous feeling of living outside, we have a lot of plants inside and on the balcony so it all merges. Even when the weather is doing its worst, I still don’t want to shut it out.”

The view to the north offers a tempting glimpse of just a little bit of the road bridge, some water and a sizeable amount of Fife. In winter, when the leaves fall, the view of the water, bridges and Fife is much greater.

swimming poolOn entering the house, the first feature to catch your eye is a swimming pool – in fact you do have to watch your feet as you squeeze past the plants to the original spiral stair leading up to the first floor living room. Beyond this is the spa, bar and barbecue area. From here, a deliciously curving stair leads up to the mezzanine and first floor sitting room, which manages to give an impression of being simultaneously spacious and cosy. While the downstairs stove heats water, the log burning stove upstairs is a comfort feature, although Anne recalls one Christmas when they survived perfectly adequately through four days of power cuts, with cooking, hot water and space heating provided by the wood burning stoves and barbecue.

A great party house
Gordon’s favourite part of the house is the mezzanine because he likes the openness, light and big space. He’s also a bit of a party animal and this is the perfect party house. On his retirement this year, the couple seated no fewer than sixty three guests for dinner. All the sofas and coffee tables were stacked away and caterers brought in to allow Anne to enjoy her guests.

living room“When we first came, we liked the minimalist look,” Anne recalls, “but as we got older, or rather matured, and the children left home, we wanted something more comfortable. We bought these really big, chunky pieces of furniture and it works really well. All the nooks and crannies make it cosy.

“The beech tree growing through the balcony made it very hobbity but the roots were causing a disturbance so it had to come down. There were a few other old trees which came down at the same time but this has allowed better trees to develop.”

Anne describes the garden as a work in progress. As nurse-manager of an independent nursing home, she doesn’t have as much time as she would like for it. She loves getting her hands dirty!

Anne and Gordon have had little need to change anything in the house except the kitchen, which resides quietly just off the sitting room. It had originally been fitted out with dark oak units and the dark oak ceiling of the rest of the house and featured a large island unit which made the worktops hard to reach to clean. Anne wanted something lighter, with watery colours, almost invisible but reflecting the ambience of the house.

kitchen and dining areaSeven years to design the kitchen
“It took us seven years to design,” she remembers. “We had several people have a go at it but they never quite got it right until we asked Kitchens International to try. It’s a very high tech kitchen that very quietly does its job. There are a lot of clever features which are discreetly hidden away. I love the curving worktops and units which give more space and now there’s room for a little breakfast table where we can sit and look out of the window. Believe it or not I can cater for twenty quite easily.

“It took five months to carry out the alterations, during which time we managed using the log stove and barbecue. The cost was greatly inflated because we had to rip out so many of the original fittings.”

The aqua splashback reflects the watery feel of waves in the curving worktops and hard wearing granite is a functional finish. “You don’t need a chopping block!”

Despite this and the gorgeous bedroom with curved walls and ensuite, it is Anne’s newly fitted bathroom which is her pride and joy. “It’s a lovely place to relax,” she says.

mezzanineThis is a house which has grown to suit changing lifestyles and tastes. You might think it is perfect now and the Campions love it both to live in, entertain in and for its location. The idea that it is possible to design a perfect house in one go was firmly knocked on the head by the length of time it took to finalise the kitchen and certainly the Campions have no desire to move on. However, Gordon did admit, quietly, that he had half a hankering to build another house one day – but only if a location anything like as good as this one could be found!

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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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