Unlike many Kilmacolm properties which are deliberately designed to stand out from the crowd, The Pond House impresses by melding into the natural landscape, writes Beverley Brown

Invariably, the catalyst for a house move is necessity – and when acclaimed Scottish artist Rosemary Beaton and her husband Paul Doherty were looking to move on from their three-bedroomed home in the village of Kilmacolm, the driving need was to acquire a studio where Rosemary could paint. 

“We had been actively looking when we found a detached, run-down 1970s bungalow in the village with an elevated position and secluded garden complete with pond and amazing far-reaching views – the setting and views were so exceptional nothing else mattered, so we bought it with the intention of upgrading and extending the property to suit our needs,” recalls Rosemary. 

“And then we met with architect Jamie Ross of Technique architecture and design studio in Glasgow, who having thoroughly assessed the condition and performance of the bungalow, advised it was not compatible with what we wanted to achieve. At that point the only realistic recourse was demolition and a new build.”

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Having sold their previous home by then the couple – whose four children Simon, Samantha, Josie, and Daisy are grown up but like to come back periodically – managed to secure a rented property in the village, which meant they would be close at hand during the project, which property developer Paul planned to manage.” 

The garden is truly extraordinary, with paths and stone steps winding through mature trees and shrubs. The sense of discovery and unveiling of the garden, which extends to around three-quarters of an acre, was one of the critical qualities of the site that initially appealed to Paul and Rosemary and became an integral part of the design, which resulted in a remarkable low-lying, single storey house – initially perceived as the solid wall of a secret garden, behind which is a long gallery hallway linking the main living area, three bedrooms and studio space. 

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From the entrance driveway, the design and seemingly impenetrable ‘wall’ is initially intriguing, but as you move into and around the house the views of the garden and beyond are gradually revealed and framed though a series of carefully positioned openings – the sitting room offering the most dramatic panorama with full-heights glass walls only interrupted by a brick feature fireplace and wood-burning stove. 

The kitchen and living spaces connect to two, east and west-facing terraces which receive morning and evening sun, while the studio opens onto a more sheltered terrace, which separates the house and studio. Roof lights enhance the natural light and are an integral feature in the gallery hall and the studio, which also has bi-fold doors opening to the courtyard and garden beyond.

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The garden pond, which in its heyday had been a deep swimming pond, was made shallower and safer infilled with bricks and rubble from the demolished house, while the trees and most of the garden survived the build intact. However, initial ground works revealed the presence of an underground stream, which ruled out digging a deep bore hole for a ground source heat pump, hence an air source pump powers underfloor heating beneath stone floor tiles. The house also has photovoltaic solar panels. 

Robust natural materials were chosen to ensure the new Pond House would age gracefully, most notably coal-fired brick, which echoes the red tones of the site’s igneous rock, while the coal-fired process results in a variegated finish with no two bricks the same.

“Everything went smoothly until the brickies let us down and work paused until we found another bricklayer,” says Rosemary. “It also took a while to determine a suitable balustrade material for the three terraces, as we didn’t want glass. Jamie eventually solved it with a black metal system.”

A graduate of Glasgow School of Art, Rosemary became the first Scot and the youngest person to win the prestigious John Player National Portrait Award in 1984. Exhibited widely at home and abroad, her ever-evolving work has become synonymous with colour – therefore it was always going to be a key element of the new house.

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“I always say we don’t do interiors, but I do like a bit of colour – one dynamic coloured wall I can put paintings on to offset white gallery-style backdrops,” she says.

“My love of colour goes back to childhood and my first memory of ‘magic’ paint books whereby water brushed on a page would magically reveal colours – no skill or paint involved! 

“Then in high school I began to draw and during a summer stint as a volunteer in Erskine Hospital, I used to sketch portraits of the elderly male patients to display on their lockers. Ultimately, I think that convinced me to apply to Art School. 

“However, I did struggle with colours here, perhaps because it was so very precious, and we were seeing the house every day. Some spaces were easier than others – for instance, having seen a yellow Corian kitchen island on display in Burndale Workshop in Bridge of Weir, I had to have it, and used a lighter shade underneath together with pale aqua units and walls. 

“The kitchen is the heart of this house and I find it a very calm space.”

Off the kitchen to one side, is an office used by both Paul and Rosemary, while a few steps down from the kitchen, the sitting room is a truly mesmerising space – in fact, were it not for the brick fireplace, the partially glass-walled room would appear to be suspended over the garden. 

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Closer inspection reveals an ingenious window screening solution for times when a cosier ambience is called for: a concealed channel at ceiling height houses Silent Gliss blinds.

Unlike the majority of Kilmacolm’s traditional period properties that were deliberately designed to stand out and impress, the Pond House does the exact opposite and complements the surrounding landscape, a triumph of Technique Studio’s architectural artistry and Rosemary’s painterly palette – and a collaboration that recently won the Best Luxury Home category at the 2022 Herald Property Awards. In turn, the landscape is inspiring 

Rosemary is now working towards an exhibition next Easter in Gullane, East Lothian. An award-winner in every respect.