It was a tricky dilemma. At the same time as Moira Perrit and her husband, Victor – who sadly passed away after the house was photographed for this magazine – were finding their old dormer bungalow in the countryside outside Glasgow increasingly harder to negotiate in their retirement, their daughter Dorothy, her husband, Andy, and their two young children weren’t achieving any real success in their quest to buy a house in the same area. The solution seemed simple, but it was a bold step. Moira and Victor decided to demolish their existing property and commission a house that could accommodate both families – together yet separately.

The result is Glenboig Cottage, a clever ‘two-in-one’ family home designed by both families with Glasgow based Studio KAP architects. “The first thing Victor and I wanted was a house that was suitable for us, in that it had to be all on one level and with easy access; with the right fixtures and fittings; and above all it had to be wheelchair friendly for Victor,” explains Moira. On the other hand, Dorothy and Andy wanted “lots of space and light, three bedrooms and open plan living.”

The design solution to suit the very different needs of each family was to create two separate but connected wings. At the building’s most southerly end a single storey ‘house’ on one continuous level incorporates the wheelchair-accessible accommodation needed by Victor and Moira. This links at half level via the living areas to Dorothy and Andy’s ‘house’. The Carswells’ home boasts an impressive double-height lounge, culminating in a staircase leading to two storey accommodation, featuring three bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper level. Slotted beneath is a kitchen diner and further living area, situated at the far north of the house.

“It looks like one house but it is very much two separate homes,” Dorothy explains. “When we were all making the decision to live under the one roof we decided that mum and dad’s living and bedroom end would be at the opposite end of the house to ours so that we are not disturbing each other. The architects have resolved this design dilemma very well. There’s a connection but it’s not too close.”

Moira’s southern wing comprises a main entrance to the east. A sheltered loggia at the south-west gable end offers an entrance into the garden, as do patio doors on the south-west wall. The south-west elevation includes additional large areas of glazing in order to take full advantage of the beautiful surrounding landscape. Two simple bedrooms also enjoy the benefit of the views. Personalised touches include the windows in Victor’s bedroom being placed at wheelchair level, so he could enjoy taking in the view, and a roomy bathroom allowing for wheelchair manoeuvrability.

Moira’s main living area is an impressive space with emphasis on cosiness, complete with warm carpets and antique furnishings. The only drawback with this arrangement, according to Moira, is that the open plan meant that there wasn’t a huge amount of wall space on which to display the couple’s painting collection, so inevitably some works had to go. Her wing culminates in a kitchen dining area, fitted simply but effectively with an MFI kitchen.

A doorway through a dividing wall leads seamlessly into the Carswells’ home, which in contrast to Moira’s is built over three levels with an emphasis on neutral colours, clean lines and materials such as mahogany, laminate flooring and simple ceramic tiles.

The impressive double-height living area boasts a large feature window – Nor-Dan double glazing is used throughout. The centrepiece of the room is a natural log fire. Mahogany stairs and landing lead to the private family quarters which include the master, as well as Katie and Jack’s bedrooms. Dorothy explains the decision to incorporate a balcony at Jack’s bedroom window: “At the very beginning, when we were looking at drawings of the house, Jack said that he wanted a balcony. This is as close to a balcony as we could get, and Jack’s really pleased by the fact he participated in the final design.”

The family has been delighted with the performance of the house so far. The house is heated via radiators, powered by a Worcester condensing boiler situated behind the shed in the garden. And although the house is fed by a single oil boiler, both families have separate heating and water controls, so logistically this works out well for both parties.

The family were also delighted with the whole construction process, which took five months to complete. Demolition of the previous house had been done separately by a local contractor, and the main building contractor, Robert Chalmers, has subsequently earned nothing but praise. “We had a marvellous builder,” says Moira. “Simply because the team started and they finished – they didn’t stop. They understood that we didn’t have the knowledge and they were excellent at explaining what they were doing,” says Moira.

The actual construction of the house is achieved via a bespoke timber frame from Scotframe, and finished in white-painted sand-cement render walls. It’s a long, low building, in keeping with the traditional form of the Scottish rural longhouse. The pitched roof is defined in natural Scottish slate, and panels on the south-west elevation and the bathroom and bedroom dormer windows are finished in Rheinzink zinc cladding. “The combination of the zinc-clad windows and grey slate set into the low, white-harled house suggests a traditional Scottish rural home, but it’s got a contemporary look. I think it’s lovely,” says Dorothy.

“In fact I learned a lot from the whole process,” she continues. “In hindsight I wish I had known a bit more about the little things that might have made a difference. We don’t have the loft space in this house so more storage would have been good,” Dorothy explains. “This is our first self-build project and, in retrospect, I sometimes kick myself for not knowing a bit more about how plans work and architectural process in general,” she continues. “But all in all, the house works brilliantly. The wall that’s between both of us is not a supporting wall so it could be taken away – if we ever wanted to make it into one big house we could easily. As a space to live in it’s great.”

Likewise Moira is delighted with the final result, as was Victor, who was immensely proud of their home “The design of the house works very well,” Moira concludes. “We are two separate houses and yet we are together. I am very independent but I also know that the family is through the door if I need more milk!”

Project Details

  • Name: Moira and Victor Perrit, and Dorothy and Andy Carswell
  • Build Cost: £220,000 (£1,190/m²)
  • Build Time: 5 Months
  • Build Route: Architect, main contractor
  • Region: Fintry, Near Glasgow

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