Picture the wildest of nights in the Scottish Highlands – wind and pelting rain, a deep chill in the air, a dampness in the ground and mist gathering at the door. For centuries people living in rural Scotland designed their homes to offer warmth and practical comfort from the often challenging conditions in which they lived and worked. Crofters who populated the Highlands and lived off the land created an interiors style from necessity and what was to hand – low wooden furniture to avoid the rising smoke of the generous fire, cosy beds boxed off within a larger room, decoration added through details of horn, bone and iron to simple spaces where every object had to be useful but was often decorative as well.
At this time of year some of the markers of classic Scottish style – tartan blankets and antlers spring to mind – appear in magazine features about cosy homes, creating a fantasy of a simple life by a warm hearth. For designer Suzy Hoodless, her work on refurbishing a splendid country estate in the highlands meant going deeper into what constitutes Scottish style, reimagining it for a contemporary era while celebrating its unique character.
Suzy has been responsible for the interior design of a number of buildings on the Corrour estate, a handsome 57,000 acre stalking estate close to Fort William, Inverness-shire. One of these was the main lodge, a grand building which had burnt down in the 1940s and which has now been replaced with a dramatic modern building on the shore of the loch. However the owners of the estate also had a vision for some of the smaller surrounding buildings, including The Chapel and the old Cook’s House, and in these spaces Suzy has created creative, cosy interiors that reference some surprising elements of Highland style. In The Chapel, for example, the bathroom is papered in vintage copies of The Scotsman newspaper. What at first glance looks like a quirky modern twist is in fact entirely authentic, as newspaper ‘wallpaper’ was often found as an interior wall and even ceiling covering in many 19th century crofter’s cottages.
Guest rooms – the estate offers self-catering accommodation in a number of its buildings – have been designed with hand-crafted wooden bunk beds, reminiscent of the very basic beds still found in Highland bothies (empty rural cottages left unfurnished and unlocked offering shelter to hikers). Kitchen shelves have been made out of apple crates in a nod to the very necessary principal of repurposing what was to hand that would have informed the decor of many a remote home in the area. Black sheepskin rugs were sourced from a local man and the interior walls in the main space have been clad in sooty pine boards reclaimed from the roof of St Pancras Station, subtly referencing the wood-cladding so typical of many crofter’s cottages.
The intense practicality of typical Highland homes – places where the floors were kept bare to mitigate the dirt and damp from outside and where a porch was essential for boots, coats and to provide an extra layer of protection from the wind – has been retained, but as this is a 21st century holiday let a more modern level of comfort has also been added, with underfloor heating throughout and the highest quality mattresses making those wooden box beds a dream. Finished with vintage linen and patchwork pieces, The Chapel wears its Scottish heritage with a touch that is at once light and pleasingly authentic.
For more information about all the buildings on the estate, and for rental availability, visit Corrour.co.uk.