Those of us who love having a look into other people’s homes have enjoyed watching the new BBC Scotland series Scotland’s Home of the Year, which has featured a wide variety of stunning homes from across the country.
Tomorrow night’s episode focuses on properties in the Skye and Arran areas visited by the show’s judges, architect Michael Angus, interior designer Anna Campbell-Jones and lifestyle blogger Kate Spiers.
One home which has been shortlisted is An Sgaileag (The Shelter) in Carbost, on Skye, which belongs to Marcella FitzGerald, her husband Ian Grant and their border collie, Jess.
Marcella didn’t have far to look when it came to creating her dream home as Ian is a designer and one half of the Portree-based partnership Kindelan/Grant Architecture.
She commissioned Ian to build the house in 2014 and chose to have it built in a field next door to their home, from where she was running a B&B business.
At that point Marcella, who is an experienced sourdough bread baker and whose earliest efforts were baked in a tiny flat in south London, didn’t have a clear idea about how they would finance things.
Thankfully, architectural commissions for Kindelan/Grant arrived, and the B&B thrived.
Over the next five years they put the money they earned into building the house which was completed early last year.
Five years after Ian first dug a spade into the ground, and four since he raised the steel beams with his home-made A frame and an engine hoist, they have a house that’s impressive, homely, spacious, airy and warm.
Sitting back from the road just above Loch Harport it enjoys panoramic views across the water into the folds of the Cuillin mountains.
While the front of the house sits comfortably among its traditional white harled neighbours, the sea-facing facade has an altogether more modernist look.
A series of angled pop-out window pods clad in narrow horizontal larch slats orient the views toward the distinctive mountain profile of Glamaig and preserve the privacy of both the owners and their neighbours.
The open-plan kitchen/living/dining area has extensive glazing facing the loch, and the combination of open sky and reflective water make it airy and light-filled.
Visitors enjoy sitting, looking out across the water and are often rewarded with the sight of seals, wild birds, otters and the occasional porpoise.
A super-insulated construction means a single wood-fired stove situated in the centre of the home (assisted by an ingenious fan-powered duct) heats the entire house.
South-oriented roof glazing also makes the most of the sun to warm the exposed concrete block interior walls and quarry tiled floor.
“The wood burner provides a cosy heart to the house in the winter months, and in summer the warmth we gain from the sun is just about all we need,” said Marcella.
While the showstopping house is fabulous enough to catch the eye of TV producers, to Marcella and Ian, it’s very much a home.
“This is our home; its materials are unadorned blocks, timber and steel, softened with fabrics, rugs and polished wood,” said Marcella.
“When you come in the front door, the wood-burning stove is visible, welcoming you in winter to the fireside.
“The acoustics are great for playing music live, which we often do with friends.
“Depending on the state of the tide, the first thing I see as I open my eyes may be a heron on the shore.
“On other mornings the loch water seems to lap against the windowsill.
“It may be blue-grey rippling satin, olive green with reflections of the hills or jabbed with rain.
“Our bedroom is shadowy, as planned, the window a lantern on the world, I love it.
“Except in an easterly wind the glass wall at one end can be pushed away into a pocket wall.
“In the open air we hear the flowing burn, the rustling leaves and birdsong. “
Marcella’s next building project, a masonry wood-fired bread oven housed in a traditional tin shed in the garden is currently underway. She hopes to have it up and running by next year.
“My first build ran for the best part of four years.
“Hopefully this will be a bit quicker!” said Marcella.