Monarch Of The Glen

By injecting personality and personal history, this majestic Scottish property has been transformed from crumbling pile to gorgeous family home

Image Credit: Nicola Crosbie Photography

A series of chance events – including a property purchase falling through and a temporary move to her parents’ house – led Anne Macdonald and her husband Jonny Lyons to Newton Stewart, a market town in Dumfries and Galloway in the southwest of Scotland. It was there they stumbled upon Corvisel House, an impressive period property that overlooks the River Cree valley and across the bay to the coastline at Gatehouse of Fleet. ‘We never thought we’d end up in a house like this,’ says Anne. ‘It was always a dream but not something we ever thought could be our reality.’

The 16-room house was built in 1829, at the tail-end of the Georgian period, by Rear Admiral John McKerlie. His daughter married into the local laird’s family – the Johnston Stewarts – and Corvisel House then became one of the estate homes. The family lived there until the 1950s, when it was sold to an Edinburgh-based family who only used it occasionally.

Image Credit: Nicola Crosbie Photography

Although the house had lain empty for eight years, Anne and Jonny felt it had a real sense of warmth and knew it could be brought back to life. ‘There are so many things to love about Corvisel House,’ says Anne. ‘The walled garden and forest were most definitely an attraction, and the fact it had a massive workshop got Jonny very excited.’ Anne recalls how, when viewing the house, they overlooked the water dripping into the extension, a fly infestation, bowing floors, rising damp, lack of central heating, peeling walls and leaking skylights, and instead focused on the home’s potential. ‘All we saw was an amazing opportunity to create a wonderful family home. We definitely had rose-tinted glasses on!’

‘When we first moved in there was the thought that with a period property you should be traditional, but I thought, wait a minute… it’s our house!’

Having been fully renovated and sympathetically decorated, the home is now unrecognisable from the place they viewed in July 2017. Months of work to replace rotten joists, install heating, make the electrics safe and repair the leaking roof meant it wasn’t until Christmas Eve of that year that the family were able to move into their new home.

Anne describes her and Jonny’s interior style as preloved maximalists, with art deco and Nordic vibes thrown into the mix. ‘We’re like magpies when it comes to reclamation yards and antiques shops. Our family trinkets and heirlooms also play a big part in making our house a home. We get a lot of hand-me-downs from our extended family and love to incorporate each piece.’ With the walled garden and cutting bed in the vegetable patch offering an abundance of roses, hydrangeas, lilies and alliums, Anne enjoys seasonal styling too. ‘We spend a lot of time foraging when out in the forest and bringing back interesting branches, cones and feathers to use for tablescapes or mantel decoration,’ says Anne. ‘I’m a great believer that flowers and foliage can change the feeling and colourways in a space.’

Anne finds interior decorating a welcome release from her job as a lawyer. ‘Some folk might find renovations and project management stressful, but I find it gives me such a buzz! I’m lucky that when I met Jonny he shared a passion for creating new spaces and upcycling furniture. Our approach has always been to “shop” the house first – we’re constantly thinking how we can adapt furniture and we always try to make or build items ourselves.’

Read more inside Reclaim issue 77 – Buy issue 77 here

Words: Cassie Fairy

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