Simon and Clare Platt may not have been looking for a new build house when they started their search for a holiday home, but when they came to view this property in Fife’s East Neuk the location instantly won them over. The house sits within the grounds of the grand Elie House – a classic Palladian Grade A listed mansion that was converted into 13 apartments by The Chris Stewart Group.
The final stage of the development was the construction of The Orangery: three new build townhouses that were built on the site of the former family chapel for Elie House, and which were designed to echo the look of a traditional estate Orangery.
Here, Simon and Clare explain what led them to choose this house and location, and how they went about transforming a ‘blank canvas’ interior into a vibrant and contemporary second home for their family – and a holiday home that’s available to let.
What brought you to Elie, and to this house in particular?
Clare: We’d been looking for a holiday home either in East Lothian, the East Neuk in Fife, or Northumberland – all places that we could drive to from our home in Edinburgh. We actually offered on a barn conversion in Northumberland that needed a lot of work, but once we’d done the arithmetic, between the renovation cost and then the cost of furnishing the house, it didn’t stack up. To be honest, we’d almost stopped looking when Simon noticed this house.
Simon: I suggested to Clare that we come see it as I thought, if nothing else, it’ll be a lovely day out in Elie. The house is set in 7 acres of beautiful communal grounds, and even coming up the drive we felt good about it.
Clare: For me, walking in and seeing how light and how well finished everything was, that was it. We knew we wouldn’t have to do a thing to the infrastructure.
How did you come to name the house Treescape?
Simon: When Clare came up with it, we both knew it was just spot on. The mature woodland throughout the Elie House estate is just beautiful, year round. You get a real sense of harmony with nature when you’re inside; the large picture windows offer restful views of trees, fields and big open skies. It’s also nice to have a little ‘escape’ hidden in the name too.
One of the challenges with a new build house can be in making the spaces feel your own. How did you achieve this?
Simon: Wherever we would have bought, we’d have gone modern – unless the setting wasn’t in keeping with that style – but here, with all the light, a contemporary response felt right.
Clare: I love greens and greys, and when you’re sitting in the living space looking out to the grounds the first thing you see is an expanse of grass and trees, and daffodils everywhere in spring, so you have these greens and browns and yellows and greys from nature that led to the palette inside. Once we had a couple of key pieces of furniture, everything else evolved from that.
Did it make a difference that you were furnishing a second home – that this wasn’t a space you’d be living in every day?
Clare: Having a second home enables you to leave your everyday stuff behind. It’s almost like your fantasy life where you don’t have to worry about the general detritus of home, so yes, you do furnish it in a different way as it gives you more free range. And when designing all the spaces at the same time, you get a more cohesive look. Yes, this space evolved, but because we’ve designed this over a six-month period, it’s evolved in harmony.
Did your ideas change or shift as you spent more time in the house?
Simon: I like going for quirky design pieces, but I don’t think this is the right house for that approach. With a converted church or a barn yes, but this is a very beautiful and elegant building with lots of glass and clean lines, and to me going deliberately quirky would have jarred. So we kept a lightness of touch throughout as we felt the building deserved that.
Where did you source the furnishings from?
Clare: We bought quite a few pieces from Catalog Ltd and every time we went into the shop we’d see something else. Dixie (Mirowski) and Ralf (Farthing) really helped us choose some key elements like the minimal Sushi Honeycomb dining table by Kristalia and the Sail chairs by Andreu World. We also sourced all the curtain fabrics from them, including the Zon fabric by De Ploeg that we used in the sitting and dining spaces as it combines the green, grey and yellow tones, and we picked up some great accessories like the coat rack from Authentics.
We chose other pieces from BoConcept, including the reclining chairs and footstools, and the grey sofas and the coffee table. We love mixing modern European and Scandi style – I picked up some of the accessories on a visit to Stockholm, while other Scandinavian pieces came from Spektaculär in Edinburgh. The Woods wallpaper by Cole & Son was a must-have; I’ve always really liked that wallpaper and it’s perfect here, looking out to the trees.
Simon: We included artworks by the Edinburgh-based artist Anna Constantinou – the pieces we used in the dining space in particular look as if they were made for this spot. It was also important to include elements that were local. We commissioned a local craftsman, Rab Gorrie, to make solid oak bunk beds and we asked him to echo the square newel post detailing on the staircase. And we’ve discovered artists at the annual Pittenweem Arts Festival like Lovely Pigeon – we bought some of her work for the house.
What’s it like staying here, and how have visitors responded to the house?
Simon: Even on a dull day, the light is fantastic. I get a real sense of well-being. We’ve been very careful in choosing restful, elegant pieces for the house. The soft furnishings are muted, with bursts of colour – and a bit of funk – coming from accessories like beanbags, lamps and kitchen equipment. And, of course, Anna’s artworks really tie it all together. Our guests have made some lovely comments and picked up on the things that we think make all the difference, like the Tempur mattresses, high thread count linen and discreet technology.
Clare: I’d always hoped that we would have a place by the sea, but we have parkland here instead. The last time we were here we looked outside and saw deer on the lawn. It’s just so peaceful.
You can find details for booking Treescape here.
Photography by Graham Carnie.