Lachie Stewart has designed and built – with help from his sons – a rustic hut-style dwelling for his elderly parents in the grounds of his Highlands home.

When architect Lachie Stewart wanted to build a modest home for his elderly parents in the grounds of his Highland castle on a budget of just £120,000, a hut seemed like an obvious solution. “My wife Annie and I lived in a hut for five years when our children were young and we were renovating Ballone Castle — and that worked very well for us,” he says.

Lachie’s parents, Alistair and Donina, who are both in their late 80s, also have hut experience — they stayed in one in Kenya in the 1950s when Alistair was a serving army officer. After many years of residing in a 300-year-old stone manse in Kyle of Lochalsh in the west Highlands, the couple wanted to live in a smaller property closer to their family.

The Project

  • Name: Lachie Stewart
  • Build cost: £115,000 (£1,769/m²)
  • Location: Highlands

Designing and building the new property was to be a family endeavour. Lachie’s 25-year-old son, who is also called Lachie, is a trainee architect and was charged with a lot of research and design tasks. Lachie Jr. together with his younger brother Archie, 21, and their father, spent six months doing the actual building work. They were assisted by a group of architectural students with a local contractor undertaking skilled tasks.

Douglas fir was decided on for the construction. A studded timber frame was bolted to concrete foundations — meaning it can be dismantled at a later date if required. The site is in the east Highlands, so insulation was of key importance. Therefore, the walls are filled with rigid Rockwool slabs to provide maximum thermal efficiency, and the ceiling has sheeps wool insulation. The whole house is subsequently heated by just an electric-powered Aga.

Fitting in his parent’s collection of antique furniture was also a major consideration for Lachie Sr. “We decided to heighten the ceiling inside the hut and make use of a sloping (coomb) ceiling to give the feeling of space and allow the furniture a bit of room to breathe,” he explains.

Another key issue was to maximise the sea views to the east of the house. Floor-to-ceiling glazing was installed on two sides of the open plan living/kitchen space. While inside, the rural views are set off by an interior scheme which has a charming rustic feel, with the floors and walls of the living space lined in large panels of oak and the bespoke doors having sliding oak handles. “The bolts are much easier for us to cope with than turning knobs,” Donina says.

The large bathroom has a walk-in slate shower, a washing machine and further storage cupboards with slate tops. In the bedroom there is further alcove storage and large, lit closets. Lachie’s wife Annie designed the tweed which lines the walls; it brings a feeling of cosiness and warmth. “When you are young and starting out in life or when you are at the end of your life you don’t need a large house. A hut can be a very comfortable home,” Lachie Sr. reflects. “Life has improved beyond words and we both keep so well because the house is lovely and warm and there are no stairs,” adds Donina.

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