Helen Lucas and Malcolm Fraser have built an exciting energy-efficient timber frame house on a breathtaking waterside site on the west coast of Scotland.
We almost walked away from this plot when we first visited on a dark December afternoon,” says Helen. “It was so overgrown with rhododendrons that we simply couldn’t see the plot, although we knew the sea was there. Fortunately, Malcolm decided to come back for a second look, fought his way through the undergrowth — and there was the rock from which the view of Eigg and Rum could be seen.”
As architects, Helen and Malcolm are both familiar with creating homes for clients, but this was the first time they had designed anything from scratch for their own family. The opportunity fell into their laps when close friends purchased a house on the Scottish coast, which came complete with a building plot in the garden with planning permission for a new house.
“Planning permission had originally been granted for another part of the site, on an overshadowed, boggy, low-lying piece of ground which our oak bridge now crosses,” says Helen. “Building there would have involved felling a huge number of trees, so we applied to position the house beyond that dell, between a rocky outcrop and a burn.”
The geology of this sheltered eight-metre-wide strip of land dictated the long and narrow floorplan, which has been orientated to capture as much light as possible and to make the most of stunning views.
The planners were enthusiastic about the oak-clad design, which projects out towards the water and is topped off with a monopitch stainless steel roof — serving to camouflage the wooden house still further within its surroundings.
From the start a timber frame was the only viable choice for the remote plot, which was cleared of bracken and rhododendrons by a willing stream of family and friends. Instead of cutting down into the rock, the new house is elevated on 14 green oak posts bolted to concrete pads, which meant that the ground could remain unlevelled.
“I met someone from Carpenter Oak & Woodland in a lunch queue at a timber conference and we got talking,” says Helen. “Their enthusiasm was fantastic and the company has completed a number of projects with difficult access, so tackled our build with relish.”
The post and beam frame was built using a mixture of Douglas fir for the internal parts of the structure and oak for exposed external timbers.
“Inside, we decided to leave the timber structure exposed, and this influenced the rest of the interiors,” Helen explains. “The house took on a Scandinavian beach-house feel, with oak floors throughout and walls and ceilings lined with limewashed timber.”
Now christened ‘Frisealach’ (‘the Frasers’ place’), the finished house has become a dream family home. “You can constantly hear the sound of the water, and the wildlife here is amazing,” smiles Helen. “What we initially thought was just an overshadowed piece of land has proved to be the most idyllic setting.”