It is difficult to believe that this fabulous family home was once in dire need of some serious TLC.
From its country chic interior to wonderful gardens, East Balnakelly Steading is quite the rural idyll.
This five-bedroom converted property can be found at Cushnie, near Alford, and seems to exist in its own bubble of tranquillity.
You can enjoy the gentle ebb and flow of the burn in the garden or impress guests with the wonderful interior.
Dominic and Jo Riley spent two years renovating the steading, having transformed two farmhouses in the past.
The couple hoped to break the mould by deviating away from the standard steading layout, while still maintaining character.
Jo, who inspects buildings for The National Trust, believes her love of heritage has influenced the design.
Dominic is a geophysicist and East Balnakelly has provided the perfect escape from work.
“We knew that East Balnakelly had potential,” said Jo.
“We were perhaps a little naive in taking on the project.
“It was a typical steading, but it was rundown and there was no garden to speak of. You couldn’t see the back of the steading for dirt.
“We have previously renovated two farmhouses, but this was a different project altogether.
“The location sold it to us and just the general ambience.
“You can hear the skylarks and it’s gorgeous, yet we’re not far from Aberdeen at all.
“We wanted to do something different to the layout in comparison to other steadings, where you typically have a long corridor and rooms coming off it.
“We remodelled the design and it has been very much worth it.”
It’s difficult not to be charmed by East Balnakelly from the moment you cross the threshold.
The dining kitchen and family area is a fabulous open-plan space, filled with light thanks to Velux windows set within the vaulted ceiling.
There is a glazed arch gable window with twin double french doors, which provide access to the rear courtyard.
An AGA range cooker adds a cosy touch and this is the perfect room for entertaining.
“The kitchen is the hub of the home and our three children always gravitate here,” said Jo.
“We do heaps of cooking and baking.
“We also entertain in here and have people round for breakfast and brunch.
“The colour scheme is inspired by the sky and I have always enjoyed putting interiors together.
“The use of oranges and blues reminds me of the sky in winter.”
Attention to detail creates a rustic look, from the choice of limestone flooring to the enamel Piazzetta wood-burning stove with exposed steel flue, which can be found in the lovely snug.
A family bathroom with rolltop bath and walk-in shower enclosure completes this side of the steading.
Steps from the reception hall lead to the lower ground-floor accommodation.
You’ll find a lovely sitting room complete with granite inglenook fireplace, which houses a Jotul wood-burning stove.
There are also two good-sized double bedrooms and a home office.
An impressive bespoke oak staircase with wooden balustrade and bannister leads to the curved galleried upper landing with open-plan study area.
The master bedroom is particularly impressive, with a vaulted ceiling and exposed beams.
It offers a built-in wardrobe and well-appointed en suite.
The remaining bedroom is also of good size.
“We were very careful when making decisions during the renovation project, because we wanted the work to be done with integrity,” said Jo.
“Every single piece of work had to be of impeccable standard and we have used local materials where possible.
“We also tried to use local tradesmen.
“I can look at the granite or wood used and know where it came from – it makes the house feel very personal.”
Jo and Dominic have worked tirelessly in the grounds of East Balnakelly, which now consist of 1.5 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.
“We learned as we went along and we wanted to create different areas where we could relax,” said Jo.
“We’ve created little seating areas alongside the burn, which cascades down a series of small waterfalls.
“The steading used to be a mill and although we haven’t reinstated the wheel, we focused on the sound of water.
“Even when I’m in the house I can hear the water running – it’s a sound I’ve always loved.
“The sun terrace is great in the summer and we tried to bring the gardens into the house.
“This meant creating lots of light and having easy access to alfresco dining.”
The split-level garden features an impressive oak-sleeper staircase that leads to a large upper lawn, which in turn leads to an orchard.
A bothy can be found in the grounds and has the potential for conversion.
“It will be very difficult to leave all this behind,” said Jo.
“We feel we have one more project left in us though and we are leaving with so many happy memories.
“This is a family home and it would be wonderful to see new owners make the most of it.”
Offers should be made of more than £500,000.
Contact Raeburn Christie Clark & Wallace on 01330 822931.