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Lamb’s House: A Masterful Restoration of a 17th Century Home (Once Visited by Mary Queen of Scots)

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Lamb’s House: A Masterful Restoration of a 17th Century Home (Once Visited by Mary Queen of Scots)

December 23, 2020

Here are the CliffsNotes version of what you need to know about Lamb’s House, located in Edinburgh’s port of Leith: The home was built in 1610 for a wealthy merchant (Andrew Lamb); Mary Queen of Scots was rumored to have once been a guest there; its restoration more than 400 years later by Groves-Raines Architects has won a load of awards.

While those facts communicate the importance of the building, they don’t convey its soul, which had nearly perished due to neglect over the centuries before being masterfully brought back to life by its current owners, architects Kristin Hannesdottir and Nick Groves-Raines. The two, partners in life and work, couldn’t be more qualified or devoted custodians. Their firm is responsible for resuscitating some of Scotland’s most notable architectural treasures, including many of the lavish guesthouses and inns owned by Wildland Limited.

Restoring the historical four-story building was a giant undertaking. It required removing all the “inappropriate” alterations (including an ill-advised elevator, installed in the 1960s), conserving what they could (e.g., the stone stairs, the wooden ceiling beams), then meticulously adding back in period details like leaded glass windows and handmade ironmongery. The biggest challenge? “Probably cost,” replies Kristin. “We knew what we wanted to do and how to do it.”

Indeed. Today, Lamb’s House is once again the spirited and elegant building it once was. It’s the couple’s home base—for everything. The two live there; work there (a new addition houses their firm); and share their love for conservation there, via a newly built guesthouse (available for short-term rentals) they call the Pavilion at Lamb’s House.

Below, Kristin takes us on a tour of their private home. (Go here to tour the guesthouse.)

Photography by Murdo McDermid.

Handmade th-century Swedish pantiles, found in a nearby barn, make up the roof. The couple live in the top floors of the main building; on the first floor, the Icelandic consulate has taken up residence (Kristin is originally from Iceland), and Groves-Raines Architects is headquartered in the adjoining addition. The Pavilion at Lamb&#8
Above: Handmade 18th-century Swedish pantiles, found in a nearby barn, make up the roof. The couple live in the top floors of the main building; on the first floor, the Icelandic consulate has taken up residence (Kristin is originally from Iceland), and Groves-Raines Architects is headquartered in the adjoining addition. The Pavilion at Lamb’s House is to the left.
The kitchen, Kristin&#8
Above: The kitchen, Kristin’s favorite room of the house. A plate rack holds her collection of blue and white china. (See 10 Easy Pieces: Wall-Mounted Plate Racks.)
The antique dining table was originally used in the ironing room of a laundry facility.
Above: The antique dining table was originally used in the ironing room of a laundry facility.
&#8
Above: “There were no original floors or ceilings,” says Kristin. “All floors and ceilings as well as some missing beams were replaced with Siberian larch.”
Kristin decorated the home with mostly family heirlooms and antique pieces bought at auctions, but she wasn&#8
Above: Kristin decorated the home with mostly family heirlooms and antique pieces bought at auctions, but she wasn’t slavish to period authenticity.
An antique Knole loveseat, covered in velvet brocade, is paired with a simple, white slip-covered sofa.
Above: An antique Knole loveseat, covered in velvet brocade, is paired with a simple, white slip-covered sofa.
The new leaded windows were handmade, sourced from Hungary. The bottom shutters are original to the building (because glass was once heavily taxed, many windows had half shutters that opened to the outside); the couple had upper shutters made to match.
Above: The new leaded windows were handmade, sourced from Hungary. The bottom shutters are original to the building (because glass was once heavily taxed, many windows had half shutters that opened to the outside); the couple had upper shutters made to match.
Above: Examples of the period-appropriate knobs and handles. All the ironmongery was fabricated by a local blacksmith.
All the walls in Kristin and Nick&#8
Above: All the walls in Kristin and Nick’s home were painted white to accentuate natural light.
The main bedroom features an antique bed and colorful kilims.
Above: The main bedroom features an antique bed and colorful kilims.
An antique double-sink vanity in the bath.
Above: An antique double-sink vanity in the bath.
Kristin and Nick installed a Renaissance garden in  and enclosed it with high walls to create a compound.
Above: Kristin and Nick installed a Renaissance garden in 2015 and enclosed it with high walls to create a compound.

For more inspired restoration projects, see:

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