The need for space drove John Pullar to convert a derelict former coastguard tower in Montrose, on the cusp of the North Sea, into a home for his young family.

“If there had been a house nearby that was suitable, I would have bought it,” says John. Instead he contacted the owner of the tower, which had been left standing empty for almost 40 years — off market and with no planning permission.

Creating a Family Home

Garry Adam, of local practice GAAP Architects, was brought in to come up with a design that would turn the tower into a family home and to help get through planning. A task complicated by the tower’s category C-listed status (regarded as a building of local importance under Scotland’s listed buildings legislation).

Project Notes

  • Homeowner John Pullar
  • Location Montrose
  • Project Conversion and extension
  • Size 82m2
  • Build time March 2016 – March 2017
  • Tower cost £30,000
  • Build cost £169,500
  • Value £200,000

“The planners were initially interested in a listed building being brought back into use as a house,” explains Garry, “but then put all manner of obstacles in our way by trying to really restrict the footprint of the new extension.”

“I think the first two sets of planning applications were rejected, so we ended up having to have a meeting with the planning officer where we said: ‘Well, what is it that you’re actually going to allow us to build?’ And that’s how Garry came up with the design that we have now,” John says.

Side extension

The well thought-through design heralds old and new with a mix of materials such as stone, zinc and glass

The Design

The brief provided had been simple. A light-feeling new build section that contrasted with the heaviness of the stone tower. Plus, the creation of an open plan living space that made the most of the tower’s position overlooking the sea.

The planners’ primary concern was that the principal elevation (the sea-facing side) remained unobstructed. So the plans extended out to the side of the tower, which is more visible from the road.

With a relatively small footprint, the two bedroom scheme allows the original building to be read as a tower from the sea while providing functional space for the family.

single storey side extension

The pitch of the roof cleverly integrates a triangular glazed window that takes in the sea view when you’re walking up the stairs 

The Build

Access to the tower was originally gained via an outside staircase. So, the solution to break through the tower to put in the staircase was to connect the pitch of the staircase with the pitch of the roof.

Kitchen and internal beams

The location of the tower and extension makes it vulnerable to the elements so the robust glulam post and beam internal frame (painted grey to match the window frames) takes the load

Glazed gable window

The glazed gable at one end features highly engineered glass (from Esk Glazing), built to withstand the wind load

The build took around 11 months — with the new structure built on site from glulam posts and beams before being clad in Cedral weatherboard from Marley Eternit.

The standing seam zinc roof and gutters were installed by a specialist and zinc was chosen to contrast with the stone of the tower, but also to further add to the zero-maintenance credentials of the house.

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