Half Built House

Perthshire top tips

Practical advice from Sian on how to recreate the look of the Pitlochry cottage.


1. Putting in a new bannister

If you have a wobbly, damaged or poorly fitted bannister and spindles then it's an option to have new ones fitted by a joiner, either off-the-shelf from a good DIY store, ordered from a specialist catalogue or made bespoke for your staircase. The fabulous white oak bannister and double spiral balusters I chose for Pitlochry came as a kit with pre-drilled holes in the bannister - great for the competent DIYer. Think about the design of your home and chose a style to suit - traditional, contemporary or a great blend of the two.


2. How to plaster a curved wall

When we first arrived at the house, Colin's brave attempt at plasterboarding the kitchen's curved wall had my team gazing in awe at how many screws were forcing the boards around the curve - 2000 of them! There is no better tip for making a wall such as this than to use materials specially designed for curved areas. Thin flexible plaster boards have been created for just this purpose, no more need to wet and bend standard boards and force them into shape.

A good example is Knauf Plasterboard.


3. LED lighting

LED lights have been around for a while now but are still considered to be (and often are) too expensive for most domestic homes, even with the cost savings due to the long life of the lamps.

I wanted a cost effective dimmable lighting system to light up the back of the artwork panels in Judi's treatment room but our budget wouldn't stretch to the full height of the panels. Instead we used LED lights on a strip which could be cut and then reconnected with cable, and used it around just the areas to the sides of the artwork - see below. Still gives a great effect at a fraction of the cost!


4. Rubber flooring

If you're looking for some funky, practical floor covering, a good alternative to vinyl is rubber flooring, which comes in a wide range of vibrant colours and is warm and soft underfoot.

We struggled with floor levels in Pitlochry so rubber was ideal as it's only 3mm thick. But your installer will need to lay it on a perfectly flat and smooth surface so no lumps and bumps show through. I also wanted a vibrant colour to bring the pale washed wood and steel surfaces to life, so the cornflower blue was brilliant!


5. Getting the professional kitchen look

Judi wanted a professional kitchen feel to her cooking space, somewhere easy to keep clean and where hot pans and spillages wouldn't damage surfaces. The ideal surface is stainless steel - sleek, shiny and chef-proof, so this is the one I opted for in Pitlochry.

I had the worktops fabricated locally, and it's a relatively simple process for a residential house once the base units are in. It's more costly than a laminated surface, but less costly than granite, and looks amazing. Find steel fabricators in your area on Google.


6. Softening the industrial look

The silver steel worktops and deep granite grey gloss doors I chose from www.perthkitchencentre.com definitely gave an industrial look. But on its own it was a little too harsh for such a gorgeous cottage.

So I softened it by using a washed wood finish for the end panels and cabinetry, natural driftwood upcycled from one of Colin's jam-packed timber sheds, and bright cornflower and bluebell blues. The industrial look works well in kitchens and super modern properties, but for most residential schemes look to natural timbers and colour to soften the design edges.


7. Using fabric on a wall or panel for texture

The three panels on which I wanted to hang Judi's artwork in her new therapy room were made from MDF cut to size to fit between the skirting and the ceiling. I'd painted the wall in Button Mushroom but wanted a darker and more textured shade on the panels so the room wasn't too wishy washy. It was so easy to cover them in gorgeous linen type fabric.

I simply rolled the material out on the floor then placed each panel on top, leaving enough of an overlap around all the edges to cut then fold the material over and staple gun it to the rear side of the panels. Make sure it's nice and taut, and also the grain or weave to your fabric is level vertically and horizontally before you staple!


8. Using local artisans - bespoke can still be achieved on a budget

It was brilliant working with Brian the blacksmith on our curved steel shelves made specially for the curved wall. This was a specification borne from necessity - no-one manufactures curved shelving, or not at an affordable cost anyway. Using a nearby craftsman meant our carbon footprint stayed low - no shipping, local materials and local talent.

Search out your local craft or artistic talent online or by simply asking around, word of mouth is the best recommendation.


9. Making a driftwood mirror

These are very costly to buy and a doddle to make once you've collected all your driftwood pieces. Use a mirror with a sturdy timber frame to fix to, along an impact driver and the correct length screws to go through your frame and just into the driftwood pieces.

I started by first fixing four fairly largish pieces of driftwood in place on the external corners by screwing through the rear of my mirror frame and into those pieces to hold them in place, then gradually added pieces like a jigsaw. Any small gaps can be filled with smaller driftwood bits glued in place. This one for Judi took me about two hours to complete.


10. Facing out onto the dining area when cooking

There are no rules which say your oven always has to be on a wall and if your space can be designed to incorporate a room facing cooking station, the chef of the home can cook and converse at the same time! Judi had spent over ten years without a proper kitchen, the last thing I wanted her to be doing was always facing the wall again.

Remember to incorporate work top on either side and plan for your overhead extractor fan. This type of kitchen plan is great for families or those who entertain often so you don't miss the party!