Angelique and Gavin Robb live in this converted cowshed in Kingswell, Aberdeen. Angelique owns Papillon Design & Landscapes (papillonlandscape.co.uk) and Gavin is a consultant for Shell.
It was spur of the moment, but after seeing the building for sale in the paper we decided to buy it in 2007. Before any building work started, we hosed down the muck off the walls and floors, cleaned it up and got married in our very own “coo shed”. It was amazing!
The building initially came with planning permission to convert into a small skinny house which, to be honest, wasn’t using the space to its full potential. We worked with Glasgow-based architect Andy McAvoy and the planning department for one-and-a-half years to eventually gain permission to build our dream home. Whilst this was happening we lived in a static caravan on our land. Although it was crazy because we had a toddler and I was pregnant with our second child, it really was the best decision as it meant I was on site to project manage and make any quick decisions that needed made.
Due to planning regulations we had to knock the existing stone building down segment by segment and rebuild in the same order, which was a lengthy process. We then added on the house’s new building. Gavin clad the exterior in Corten steel which is mainly used in shipbuilding and gives an amazing rusted, weathered look. Having the house light and bright and an outdoor-indoor feel was extremely important to us, so the use of windows and glass was at the forefront of the design.
Our glass walkway was a fight with the planning department but we eventually won consent. It was worth it as it gives us so much light. We decided on a glass floor that connects the new building to the old building upstairs – this was at a huge expense and was our biggest splash out – but it really lets the light flow down into the kitchen. Our stair balustrade is made from glass sheets as well as our mezzanine area which again lets all the light in.
Our orange Togo sofa in the mezzanine lounge is my favourite piece in the house. When the kids are off to bed we have ‘togo time’ and lounge on the sofa and enjoy our views outside. I love bright colours especially in furniture and retro styles, whereas Gavin prefers more neutral palettes with colourful accents so our compromise is bright cushions with a slight retro pattern.
Being in the know about landscaping we built a sunken garden which is a great shelter. It really protects us from the winds and is a wonderful sun-trap. Spring/summer is fabulous, we really capitalise the outdoor-indoor living: we hose down the slide; the sprinklers are on and the paving feels like it’s heated, as a family we love our garden areas.
We have tried to keep the interior simple and contemporary, mixing in natural aspects and keeping the garden seamless to the interior. We love the marrying of steel and oak, and the concrete floor looks great, but was quite the ordeal – it gave us the biggest headache. It was so polished the kids were falling and slipping, we could only walk barefooted, and it stained easily. We researched this and found a company that could wax the concrete floor, which helped immensely.
Our best budget buy was our Canadian maple gym flooring from a local school which was being demolished. We had it polished and restored, taking away all the coloured markings of a typical school gym, and is now laid in our mezzanine lounge. Another canny budget design idea was our kitchen splash-back which was off cuts of the Corten steel used outside. We treated this to give it a more polished look.
Coming from the States, I would never have thought I’d live in a house like this, let alone make roots in Scotland. But I couldn’t be happier and we all love our “coo shed” home!
Words by Robyn Lang-Shankland @rlsinteriors. Photos by Eve Conroy.