GAZING out to sea, Karin Spalter is in her happy place on the Inner Hebridean island of Lismore, off the west coast of Scotland, a place she and her broadcaster husband Tony Currie can now call their forever home.

Having spent annual staycations on the island since the 1980s, when the time came to downsize from the family’s substantial detached Victorian villa in Glasgow’s Pollokshields, Lismore was the obvious choice, particularly as the couple had bought a croft in 1988, which came with planning permission for a house. 

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“We installed a caravan until we could see our way to building a house – fortunately, 30 years later, when we were ready to build, modular construction offered an easier and quicker build solution for rural and island locations.”
Karin and Tony wanted a home traditional in style but which used innovative sustainable materials, underfloor heating (from a heat exchanger), and construction techniques to echo the character of older existing homes on the island and be firmly grounded in the landscape.

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Karin has Parkinson’s and uses a wheelchair, therefore the accommodation had to be all on one level and easily accessible.
As Tony regularly broadcasts his Radio Six International programmes to a worldwide audience both online and to 54 affiliate stations, their new home had to incorporate a radio broadcasting studio. The solution was a bespoke, modular home, constructed off-site in Ayrshire by the award-winning Wee House Company then transported by road and ferry to the island where it was erected in a matter of days.

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“We were attracted by the company’s high-quality specification and unique take on the use of space and proportion,” explains Karin. “Being able to adapt the modules to our own requirements within the basic design format has been paramount for me, living in a wheelchair as I do. And as the design options were always envisaged for countryside dwellings, we saw them as complementary to the local vernacular.”
Flexibility at the design stage meant Karin and Tony were able to enlarge the central living space more along European “salon” lines, and upsize the kitchen and both the main bathroom and separate wet room, without detriment to the overall amenity or compatibility. 

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“Not being restricted to a specific footprint or template was a major advantage – and all this came within precisely detailed cost parameters,” she adds.
Spanning a floor area of approximately 95 square metres, this wee house turns out to be deceptively spacious, with a layout comprising vestibule/hall, salon-style living/dining space with wood-burning stove, French doors to the garden, and a broad open archway through to a large library/second reception/bedroom. There is also a shower/wet room, two double bedrooms (one with French doors), bathroom, and fully-fitted kitchen. The design features two front-facing gables with an adjoining covered veranda, while the rear elevation incorporates a double-glazed window.

The layout is particularly well-suited to the site, nestled amid the backdrop of a steep embankment and trees which hug the house at the rear, leading up to a fenced, wild, three-acre field, while the grassy stretch in front of the lower shoreline boundary gives a ha-ha effect, making for an uninterrupted view across the water to the hills of Morvern. 
Plans are now under way for more native planting with scope for fruit and vegetables.
The house also has copious parking space – with room for a fire engine in accordance with planning regulations – and there is easy access to the utility room entrance where muddy boots and shoes can be removed before entering the house.

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Tony’s broadcasting station is based in a Wee House special addition: a detached studio in identical colours and finishes, notably larch cladding – a highly durable and sustainable timber painted in Dulux Heritage Invisible Green to blend in with the landscape. There are also additional timber windows and doors, painted in Dulux Heritage Cornish Clay, an earthy tone that blends well with the Invisible Green walls, and a pitched roof clad in Brick Red recyclable metal sheeting, a traditional colour used on the island and surrounding rural areas. 
Being timber, the windows are more sustainable and can be repaired if the need arises, unlike UPVC windows which need to be replaced in their entirety.

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The studio initially presented Tony with a major problem. “The broadband on the island was not ‘broad’ at all – the down-speed was about three,” he says, nowhere even close to being able to support online radio broadcasting to 208 countries around the world as a not-for-profit service run by a team of broadcasters from different areas.
Tony and the couple’s son Leo, who works in the BBC research and design department, put up an antenna, found a “sweet” spot, and installed 4G, which is used purely for broadcasting – they make do with the island broadband (“now up to four”) for their personal use. 

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“Leo has a similar computer set-up at his home in Gourock, which automatically takes over in case of breakdown, as the power supply here occasionally goes off,” adds Tony, who began his radio career in Los Angeles in 1972. 
“Far from retiring from the business, I seem to have retired into it.”
The family’s love of Lismore began in 1980 and continued as holidays and short breaks for several years until their eldest child, Julia, said she would love to go to school for a summer term on the island, which Karin says struck her at the time as a great way-of-life experience in contrast to city living.
She continues: “We rented a cottage and my mother acted in loco parentis, looking after the children during the weekdays – and it was a huge success for both Julia and younger brother, Leo. 
“Gaelic was being reintroduced and they both took to it enthusiastically, so much so, on our return to Glasgow they transferred from Pollokshields Primary to the embryonic bilingual unit being set up in Sir John Maxwell primary school and returned to the Lismore school the following summer term.”
Living in a Wee House is everything the couple hoped for and more.
“Strangely, it felt like a seamless transition between two very different houses, perhaps because we were already so familiar with the island, much of the local hugely supportive community, and with Wee House construction in advance of moving. Scaling down our possessions was the only real challenge,” says Karin. 
“Our location is magical. Can you be on an island on the west coast of Scotland and not be captivated by the ever-changing landscapes, seascapes, and skyscapes?
“Now we are blissfully ensconced on an Inner Hebridean island with a rich Gaelic history, our wee house surely merits a Gaelic name, something akin to ‘tranquillity’ or ‘serenity’. "I’m sure we will find something appropriate.”