When interior designer Eva Serrano arrived at this handsome Georgian townhouse at 9 Duncan Street in Edinburgh’s Newington area 12 years ago, she was looking for a home that could evolve with her growing family – daughter Naroa and son Lewis – and that would give her the opportunity for a studio space at home. As she says: “The house has five bedrooms, so I could have a studio here and this gave me the work-life balance I wanted.”
Eva also wanted a property that she could put her own visual stamp on, and number 9, which is now on the market with Knight Frank, was a project in waiting. Although the architectural features remained intact, from the cornice detailing to the working shutters and original door handles, every room required a major cosmetic overhaul. “The style was 1980s with baroque thrown into the mix,” she recalls. “You needed to have some imagination to see past all that.”
Eva was inspired by the architecture itself as this Georgian house has beautiful proportions and natural light thanks to its south-facing orientation. On the ground level you’ll find a sitting room overlooking the formal garden at the front, with an open plan dining room and kitchen to the rear, and the latter opens into a utility room within the outshot at the back of the house.
The south-facing drawing room (above and top photo) is on the first floor, along with two bedrooms. “This is my favourite space,” Eva says of the drawing room, which also has a fantastic view onto the former Edinburgh Geographical Institute, now Bartholomew House. “When this room is flooded with light and you’re looking out to this building, it really transports you. It’s like time stops here; you can just sit and take in that view.”
There are three more bedrooms on the upper level, along with the family bathroom, and this was one of the first spaces Eva redesigned after moving in with limestone floor tiles and a freestanding claw foot bath, and with a large walk-in shower area adding a contemporary feel. This bathroom has a mix of traditional and contemporary references thanks to the fittings and accessories that Eva has combined here, and this eclectic approach continues throughout.
“To me, Georgian is the only period of architecture that allows you to move in any way within the aesthetic spectrum, from futuristic style to eclectic style, which is very me, to a very contemporary look,” Eva says. “The elegance of Georgian architecture means you can add anything to it.”
Today’s interior is, she says: “A reflection of my personal and professional journey. Looking back, the interior had a light and airy feel with white sofas and a more minimal style, then it became a bit moodier as it moved into vintage pieces with an industrial twist. Thankfully my job has exposed me to little gems of furniture over the years and now the interior is at its most authentic. You become more confident in your aesthetic as you grow older.”
Having grown up in Granada in Andalucia, Spain, Eva draws influences from diverse forms of architecture and design – influences that filter through into her business, Eva Serrano Design. “There’s that slight Moroccan and Mediterranean twist in the way I approach design,” she says, pointing out the window shutters details in the family bathroom – shutters she made from radiator panels, which cast a lovely pattern on the floor as sunlight filters through. “That takes me back to the Alhambra,” she says.
Working on this house has also encouraged Eva to be bolder in her approach. Previous owners had opened up the dining area and kitchen to create the open plan space at the rear, and Eva decorated this whole area in Farrow & Ball’s rich grey Down Pipe.
“It’s a myth than darker spaces should be decorated to look lighter,” she says. “This side of the house faces north so it’s naturally darker. To me it makes more sense to be authentic to the space than to try and create light where there isn’t as much light. There are valuable lessons that I’ve learnt with this house about playing with the darkness and light and working with what you have. It’s about not being afraid to experiment with colour, as at the end of the day you can repaint a space and it’s not a big deal.”
Eva is always on the lookout for interesting finds, sometimes picking up pieces of furniture or objects from charity shops or on eBay. Other pieces have come from her travels. “A lot of the interesting combinations here have been happy accidents as I’ve been moving things around,” she says, while some of the statement pieces, like the shell chandeliers, were made by Eva herself.
“I always tell people to follow their instinct,” she says. “The key word here is timeless; this house will continue to feel fresh and relevant over the years.”
9 Duncan Street is on the market with Knight Frank.
All photography by Square Foot Media.