23rd November 2017

Back in September I posted about Williamstone Farm Steadings – a steading conversion on the edge of North Berwick, where the interiors of the three steadings were designed by DecorAir – and this flat in Edinburgh is another project from the same design duo of Rachel Richmond and Xanthe Weir. Rachel and Xanthe launched DecorAir earlier this year with the aim of offering tailored design packages to the buy-to-let market, calling on their years of experience working on interior projects – Rachel is the Design Director of the Edinburgh-based interior design company Hen&Crask while Xanthe is the founder of the online store Lair specialising in midcentury furniture, lighting and curios.

A few years ago, whenever friends were visiting Edinburgh, I’d have been focussed on finding a stylish B&B, but these days the Airbnb app is my first port of call when looking for accommodation. There’s the benefit of staying some place self-contained, where you can cook your own meals if you want to (this is so important to us whenever we travel) and enjoy some home comforts, and you can often find a space with a more individual interior.

So you can see why this flat on Gilmore Place in Edinburgh caught my eye. Situated on the edge of Bruntsfield and within walking distance of the city centre, the location is great if you want to explore the city on foot while also having cafés and restaurants on your doorstep. This garden apartment – with beautiful photography by Exposure –  has one bedroom, with a sofa bed too, so it’s perfect for a weekend stay. I caught up with Rachel and Xanthe to ask about this design project.

What was the interior like when you first came to this project?

Rachel: It was very tired. The whole flat had been painted green and was furnished with very tired furniture. The previous owner had left everything. The floors were scratched laminate – it literally needed a full makeover and new kitchen.

Xanthe: The bathroom was in okay condition, so we decided to paint it and accessorise it.

What was your brief?

Rachel: Our clients were a young couple who lived in Mexico. They wanted to create something that was a little different, but working with a small budget.

Xanthe: They were open to ideas, so we just ran with it.

As the flat is an Airbnb, how did this guide your approach to the design?

Rachel:  With buy-to-let properties the main remit is to make them attractive yet practical. The days of magnolia walls and all Ikea furniture have gone. The Airbnb market is extremely competitive, especially in a city like Edinburgh with events like the Edinburgh Festival.

Xanthe:  People flood to the city and for most it’s for a few days, surrounding themselves with entertainment and great food. Staying somewhere funky and design savvy just tops the whole experience off!

How did you go about the redesign – did you have to reconfigure the spaces for e.g.?

Rachel:  No, to keep costs down we kept everything where it was, but redesigned the kitchen and chose a cool colour scheme to keep things interesting.

Xanthe: You can achieve a lot on a small budget – it’s all about keeping it simple and layering where necessary.

Did the project raise any specific challenges?

Rachel: Unfortunately we had a flooring company who let us down. We had never used them before, but the client wanted to use them.

Xanthe: It was a lesson learned – always use tried and tested or highly recommended tradespeople.

How did you decide on the monochromatic colour palette and the materials used?

Rachel: I have worked with Farrow & Ball colours for the last ten years and know them like the back of my hand! I have a monochromatic kitchen at home, so I know it works well! The tough bit was trying to get the client to take the plunge and go two-tone, but they are very forward thinking and embraced it.

Xanthe: Going monochromatic was an easy choice, but a leap for the client. I think the black and white is softened by using pink in the bedroom, but there is a good design thread throughout.

I love the eclectic mix with a little bit of vintage and midcentury styling alongside the contemporary elements – was this an instinctive response to this space?

Rachel: All of our schemes are pretty eclectic and layered. We love mixing industrial with other styles. It’s all about letting individual pieces speak for themselves, rather than cluttering.

Xanthe: My background in midcentury furniture and styling naturally leads me to work in this way.

How did you go about redesigning the garden and terrace areas?

Rachel: We didn’t! It was just a clever use of colour. We tidied up the garden and painted the decking, bench and walls and then put up some bamboo screening.

Xanthe: The garden was done for under £100.

Do you have any favourite design details from the finished project?

Rachel: I just love the bedroom! It’s fun and serene at the same time.

Xanthe: I love the Ikea kitchen. It’s a very clever way of upcycling Ikea units for under £100. We’ve become quite inspired by ash and laminate!

With thanks to Rachel and Xanthe of DecorAir.

For more information, see this Edinburgh apartment’s listing on Airbnb.

All photography by Exposure.