John Burke has saved a derelict Georgian mill from ruin, transforming it into a sumptuous home.
“When I bought Locherlour Mill back in December 2007 it was just an empty shell with a leaky roof,” says John Burke. “I’m Irish, but moved to Crieff in Perthshire six years ago to be close to my son, Rory, who’s now 11. I spotted the mill as I was driving past, and admired its architecture and fine stone features, so when it came onto the market I decided to convert it into a home.”
Planning permission had already been granted for a conversion, but John worked with the existing architect to redesign these plans to suit his own requirements. Previously, the kitchen and orangery were disconnected from the main mill; however, building a double-height dining hall has linked the two parts and created a more practical layout.
The derelict Grade B listed (similar to Grade II* in England)?structure was completely stripped back in April 2008. Fortunately for John, after excavation from the building’s rear, the mill walls were discovered to be in good condition, with little residual damp.
Converting the 610m² cruciform-shaped building took just 13 months to complete, with John acting as project manager and tackling some of the hands-on work himself. “It’s a big old property, and you’d expect it to have some chilly corners, but it’s now actually unbelievable cosy,” says John, who was keen to make the building as energy efficient as possible during the conversion. The mill has been massively insulated to more than double Scottish Building Standards.
John also took a lead when it came to the interior finishes. The result: the previously dark building has been transformed into an inspired mix of contemporary design set against traditional industrial features, including stone walls, old arches, stone steps and the original mill wheel.
The master bedroom – formerly the pigeon loft – features a copper free-standing bath at the foot of a contemporary four-poster bed, while the double-height dining area includes a robust table to seat 22 people. Beside this, the open plan kitchen was designed with an impressive 4.5m breakfast bar with a walnut worktop. From this space the old mill wheel is visible, glimpsed through internal viewing windows into the wheel room.
Clever sourcing of materials and buying in bulk ensured that John managed to complete the ambitious conversion for £400,000 — including 56 doors and windows of all different shapes and sizes, which were imported from Poland for a fraction of the UK price. “We actually drove out and collected them in our van,” John recalls.
Despite the dual restrictions of time and budget, Locherlour Mill has been finished to the highest possible standard, and features some unique and creative touches. “It was an ambitious project to cut my teeth on, but I’ve learned an enormous amount,” says John — who married Susie, an architect, in October 2010. “I’m pleased I managed to include some hi-tech fixtures, but I also enjoyed finding bargains at auction. I suppose it’s mixing the old and new which helps to give the mill its unique character.”