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A Scottish Fisherman’s Cottage Gets an Update, With Make-Do-And-Mend Spirit

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A Scottish Fisherman’s Cottage Gets an Update, With Make-Do-And-Mend Spirit

On the rugged coast of Scotland’s Isle of Mull, a small stone cottage sits just feet from the chilly water. The old bothy was a fisherman’s refuge and a sheep pen before it was purchased by Peter Harford-Cross’s family, who used it as a camping-style accommodation for years. Recently, though, the architect and his partner Rachel turned the semi-derelict structure into a cozy seaside getaway—while maintaining its original charm.

The duo, also known as Harford-Cross Architects, were careful to preserve the existing windows and pitched roof that Peter’s uncle installed in the 1980s—then infused the interior with modest contemporary comforts. “Our approach was fairly minimal,” says Rachel. “We needed surfaces that were hard-wearing and robust because of the location. There’s an element of the stone that we’ve kept and painted, but we’ve lined out the walls in durable plywood where it was necessary to provide improved thermal quality. Hopefully it has longevity and visual warmth, too.”

When it came to furniture and fittings, the couple reused and recycled as much as possible, reflecting the make-do-and-mend spirit of the island and of Peter’s grandmother, who once lived there. Nearly everything was bought on eBay or from local vintage shops. “Even though it was all secondhand and relatively inexpensive, we sourced the pieces quite carefully,” Rachel says. “It was about having a little bit of respect for the property. We chose fine pieces with their own inherent character.”

Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Alexander Baxter, courtesy of Harford-Cross Architects.

made of basalt stone found on the surrounding landscape, the cottage was just a 17
Above: Made of basalt stone found on the surrounding landscape, the cottage was just a shell when Peter and Rachel began their renovation. They kept its open layout to maximize the stunning natural views.
into the stone cottage. 18
Above: Into the stone cottage.
the architects added engineered timber floors and painted the ceiling sage gree 19
Above: The architects added engineered timber floors and painted the ceiling sage green as nods to traditional Irish and Scottish blackhouses, which had earthen floors and dark heather roofs. “The people who lived in them were quite poor, but they would have been very house proud,” says Peter. “They’d have kept their places spick and span. They would’ve treasured nice furniture in a humble, simple building. That drove our aesthetic.”
a wood burning stove—the sole source of heat and cooking—anchors  20
Above: A wood-burning stove—the sole source of heat and cooking—anchors the living area, while the petite kitchen is concealed behind the folding doors at left.
&#8\2\20;on an evening, it&#8\2\17;s quite nice not to have to sit with 21
Above: “On an evening, it’s quite nice not to have to sit within your kitchen,” says Peter. “We’re able to shut the doors and just be sitting around the fire. It is a comfortable, calm place to be.”
the doors open to reveal an efficient kitchenette–and tuck compactly aga 22
Above: The doors open to reveal an efficient kitchenette–and tuck compactly against the wall, out of the way.
the plywood kitchen has a sink skirt and wall mounted taps. 23
Above: The plywood kitchen has a sink skirt and wall-mounted taps.
Above: A woven basket holds kindling, a cubby in the millwork stores logs, and a paneled closet door hides away hanging clothes and games. The brass light fixtures were salvaged from merchant ships.
the duo refurbished an old ladder to reach their tiny loft. &#8\2\20;it was 26
Above: The duo refurbished an old ladder to reach their tiny loft. “It was covered in paint and years of dirt because it’d been used for general work, but it was rather well made,” Peter explains. “When we sanded it down, the quality of the wood really came through. We waxed it for a lovely, rich, polished feel. You get that sense of age and time as well.”
inset peg rails help keep the entryway neat and tidy. 27
Above: Inset peg rails help keep the entryway neat and tidy.
for the adults, there&#8\2\17;s a bright bedroom, which can be closed off w 28
Above: For the adults, there’s a bright bedroom, which can be closed off with two ticking stripe curtains. The rail is cleverly inset into the plasterboard ceiling.
peter&#8\2\17;s mother requested as much built in storage as possible. & 29
Above: Peter’s mother requested as much built-in storage as possible. “She wanted it to be like a boat, that everything could be fitted away and put in its place,” he says.
a skylight illuminates the bathroom, making it a luxurious spot for a soak. &am 30
Above: A skylight illuminates the bathroom, making it a luxurious spot for a soak. “It was one of the more major interventions we did to the outside of the building, putting that in, but it makes a huge difference,” says Peter. “Even though it’s a very small bathroom, it feels much more spacious because of the amount of light that bounces around.”
Above: Peter hand-crafted all the brass latches and pulls himself because he couldn’t find a discreet mechanism that would allow the doors to lay flush, as he imagined.
the architects created a sweet loft above the roof ties, up the ladder. &#8 33
Above: The architects created a sweet loft above the roof ties, up the ladder. “There was just enough space to make a cozy nook that can fit two small people comfortably,” Peter says. “It’s just like being in a tent when you’re up there. You can crawl in and you’ve got two little mattresses and bedside lights. For children, it’s a very exciting place to be.”

For more on the project, head to The Modern House.

And for a look inside similar efficient, rugged cottages, see:

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