Sunday, September 23, 2012

Other people's houses

Yesterday was quite interesting: this is Edinburgh's Open Doors weekend, when various buildings and gardens not usually open to the public are made available to visit. We've never had time to take advantage of this before, but yesterday we had no commitments so we devoted the day to visiting six places. The first place we went wasn't the house in the picture above, but a newly-built house quite near us that we've seen under construction and wondered what it was. This area is very posh (we're in the less posh bit that borders it) and this house was built in part of the large garden of a much older, very big house. The new house too looked puzzlingly large. My mum thought it was going to be a block of flats but I didn't think it looked quite big enough for that. Anyway, it turns out to belong to the Christian Science church, and it's an retirement home / administrative centre / study centre, with six beds (and currently three residents). I didn't quite have the nerve to take photos, but in my (uninformed) view, it's a wonderful example of good modern architecture. It has wonderful views over the Pentland Hills from huge picture windows in the sitting rooms on the first floor. There's a very spacious feeling inside with lots of white walls, internal glass - on the sides of the staircases, for example - and various little nooks for armchairs to give a feeling of privacy even in communal spaces. And views from one part of the house to another. What a wonderful place to end one's days. Though our cats were there, all the glass would have little nose-marks along it...
The second place we went to was extremely different: a conversion of what had originally been a shop into a home, done by a young architect for himself and his wife. He'd put in a mezzanine floor for a little studio and done various other space-creating tricks. Again, I didn't like to take photos. It was very different - small and interesting but without the wonderful light and views.
Then we went to the Dower House in Corstorphine, which is shown in the picture above. I've written about this house before, though never been inside. It was built in the 1570s and is now a heritage centre, with lots of photos of Corstorphine - now a district in Edinburgh - as it was when it was a village in a rural area. Interesting but rather sad to see the fields where now there are houses - though I dare say life was pretty hard in those days.

Next we visited the office of Ove Arup, built in the 1960s and recently modernised and extended. This is the picture with the coloured chairs.  It's light and airy and uses the latest environmentally sound techology, such as lots of small light wells with lenses (is that right?) that throw light into the room. It was a sunny day, but according to the young man who showed us round, there's a lot of light even on a dull day.
Next, we visited this lovely house above - alas, we didn't get into the house, just the garden - that turned out to be the home of the Governer of Edinburgh Castle. I suggested to Mr Life that he might like to apply for the job when it became vacant, because I would like to live there if I don't become a Christian Scientist and get a room in that new house - but he pointed out that the current occupant is a Major General in the army. Mr Life felt he might not qualify for such a post. Ah well.
Here's the walled garden. Wouldn't you love that? - shades of "The Secret Garden". Yearn...
 It has a river flowing through it, with the wall becoming a bridge.
Then today we visited another house - just someone's home - which backs on to the beach (thus) and has had an extension built to take advantage of the views. One can see why. Again, I didn't like to take photos of the actual house.
I have to say that for a nosy person like me, it's such fun to go and visit people's houses! It's very noble of them to allow people in.
And then we came home to our house, which is considerably less impressive than some of the above but has the advantage of being ours. And I took a photo of some of my pots. It's getting chilly at night now and one of these days, the frost will kill these plants off it I don't bring them inside. Such a pity about winter.


  1. Lovely pictures - thank you! Having a stickybeak into other peoples' spaces is always interesting, isn't it?

  2. I think my favourite pic in this post is the one of your lovely flowers. Too bad about Old Man Winter.....

  3. You are so lucky that Mr Life went with mister would rather poke his eye out with a stick than accommpany me on such a lovely day of visits to others houses. Your pots put mine to have colour and prettiness...I have dead bits and green bits and sad and sorry looking pots......and your home is beautiful.

  4. I rather like that stone house too!

  5. I love the walled garden, but I would want a few more flowers in it ( if it were mine ).

  6. Well, that's one up on browsing on Zoopla! I must say, I didn't realise that Christian Science was still going. I've always associated with the 1930s for some reason. (Sorry if my ignorance offends anyone.)

  7. One of my favourite activities is going to the Doors Open events. I actually plan my weekends around them all and travel to various towns within a 1 1/2 hour radius. Yes, I am that nosy.

  8. Next year, hopefully, you must lose your inhibitions and get snapping!!!

    Doors Open sounds like a brilliant idea and kudos to you and Mr Life for actually doing some of the things that retirement allows rather than, well, not much at all!

    Lesley xx

  9. Ooh, I do like a good neb at other people's houses and gardens. We found the newly restored walled garden at our local park the other day....and then were told off for being there as it isn't yet open to the public.

  10. What a fun weekend! I love going to open houses -- such fun to see how other people live. I must say though, reading your descriptions and having been to your preference is definitely with you. I've shown pictures of your home to several friends and they all exclaim "What a perfect cottage!" and they're green with envy that we were lucky enough to stay there!

  11. I loved reading this post and meandering with you through the houses and gardens via your lovely photos. It looks like a perfect day to do that, too.
    In my part of the world, our shire have Artists studio open days twice a year, and these are the artists' homes as well as their studios, so we get the opportunity to peek into their 'other life' as well as their professional one. Fascinating....