Four years ago, an unusual building appeared on the rugged Fife coastline. Tucked between a lighthouse and a harbour, it is just feet away from the shoreline, and takes full advantage of the big sky and the open seas. It is in fact two buildings joined by a glass walkway. With their zinc roofs and timber exteriors, they are reminiscent of the many boathouses dotted along the Scottish coastline, but the similarities end there. ‘We were keen for the house not to stand out when seen from the water or the beach, but to blend into the environment,’ explains David Weir of the holiday home he shares with his wife Tibi and their two children. ‘But we also wanted it to stand alone as a stunning piece of architecture.’
The couple purchased the plot, which is in the seaside town of Elie, in 2011, when it had a Seventies bungalow at the back of the site with a long garden stretching down to the water. ‘Initially, we thought we could alter the existing house, so we called upon architect Wil Tunnell from WT Architecture to help us,’ says David. ‘But we realised that whatever we did to the little house, it would always be a compromise.’
Wil drew up plans for a new house that would sit nearer the water, with two buildings side by side, positioned in a slight arc to draw in the view. Using the beach, harbour walls and boathouses for inspiration, he chose zinc, glass, larch and whitewashed masonry as the materials.
‘It was important that the new design knitted the landscape with the inside of the building,’ says Tibi. ‘We wanted it to be one space visually.’ This has been achieved to great effect. A limestone outdoor terrace links with the polished concrete flooring inside, made more seamless by the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that divide the two spaces. The raised concrete hearth that covers the width of the open-plan living area extends out through the glass wall, to serve as an outdoor bench. Upstairs, the four bedrooms look out over a sedum green roof, bringing the landscape right up to the windows.
Next door, in the bothy, a double-height window floods the playroom and loft bedroom with light. The chipboard-lined walls give the space a warm feel while being reminiscent of the tin-and-timber boathouses on the beach. ‘As this is a holiday home, we wanted to create a beautiful space, but also a practical one that could cope with sandy feet and wetsuits,’ Tibi says. The bothy also allows their children, Saskia, 21, and Theo, 19, to have their own area to enjoy with their friends.
David and Tibi both have strong design backgrounds (he was the director of the Dovecot Tapestry Studio for 17 years; she is currently converting a derelict steading near Tyninghame beach), and so were involved in every aspect of the design and build. This was not the first time they had taken on a large project: previous renovations include converting a toy factory in the Alps into a ski chalet and fitting a glass extension onto a Thirties house in Edinburgh.
‘The house is not just about the design: it’s about how we use the space,’ says Tibi. ‘It has to be as comfortable for two people as it is for 12.’ To achieve this, the couple have decorated the interior simply. A fitted plywood kitchen designed by Tibi and WT Architecture works well with the polished concrete flooring throughout the ground floor. The furniture is hard-wearing, as befits beach living, and the walls are whitewashed. Simple lighting on tracks allows the mood to be set according to the natural light or time of year and a wood-burning stove gives the house a true heart. Upstairs, the four bedrooms are plainly decorated, with bamboo floors and white walls. Everywhere you look, the outside landscape is the focus, as all the windows are positioned to frame the view.
‘In the summer, the doors are slid back to take advantage of the beach,’ says David, ‘but in winter it is equally wonderful to sit inside, warm and comfortable, and watch a storm come up from the south.’
For more information, you can find Wil Tunnell at WT Architecture: 0131-331 2813; . Mid Rock House is also available for holiday rental.