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Field of Dreams

Securing the ideal plot on Skye allowed Steph and Peter Rodgerson to self-build a stunning contemporary house with spectacular views
Article published in Scotland on Sunday, 11 December 2016
Words: Fiona Reid; Read article here: 
Field of Dreams - reproduced courtesy of Scotland on Sunday

Turn the clock back 14 years and Steph and Peter Rodgerson were embracing a lifestyle change as they relocated from Cumbria to the Isle of Skye, where Peter's parents lived. They moved to a croft, which Peter renovated, and in time he heard about a plot of land adjacent to the couple's current home, Pennybridge, on the edge of the hamlet of Teangue on the Sleat peninsula. As a builder, Peter had taken on a host of projects over the years but the plot presented him with an opportunity to tackle his first self-build on Skye - Allwood House.
"I loved the house and the location," he says, and the story might have ended there only the opportunity arose to secure this plot. "I built Pennybridge to satisfy my need to build another house, and apart from the zinc roof and the electrics, I've done it all myself," he says. Indeed, Peter was working on designs for this house while building Allwood. "I was doodling away with ideas for this house before we managed to buy the land, thinking 'If we ever get the chance…' and by pure luck we managed to secure this field."

Peter's design responds to the location as this elevated site offers incredible views over the surrounding countryside and to Knock Castle, the Sound of Sleat, and Knoydart on the mainland. "I felt this site commanded a large contemporary house," he says. "I didn't want to build a two-or three-bedroom traditional style property." Instead Peter designed a house that would maximise the light and views, and responded with an "upside down" layout, where the living spaces are on the upper level with the bedrooms below. "Because the site is cut into the hill, I also wanted to introduce the bridge to make a more dramatic entrance to the house," he says, "and I wanted to have this large open-plan space and balcony at the first floor level. All the primary rooms, so both the living spaces and the bedrooms below, have this view south across the water to Mallaig and the mainland, so it's not about the living spaces getting the views while the bedrooms don't. That brief set the shape of the house."

With its zinc roof and timber clad walls, the palette of materials grounds this house within the landscape. Arriving at Pennybridge, you enter across the bridge to the upper level, which has a large dining-kitchen and a sitting room, with doors opening between these spaces so that this whole light-filled area can be open plan. There's a study area at the rear of the sitting room - open to the seating area - while the utility room and shower room are arranged along the rear of this level.

Downstairs, the four bedrooms are along the front of the house, with two shower rooms (both en-suites) and the main bathroom at the rear along with another utility room. It's a logical layout where the spaces that will benefit most from the views and light are positioned accordingly.

From the outset, Peter was determined that this house should be thermally efficient, and he used a Scotframe Val-U-Therm® kit - a closed-panel building system that delivers exceptional thermal insulation. The house benefits from passive solar gain thanks to the glazing and orientation, and there is underfloor heating throughout. Peter says: "I wouldn't consider building a house without underfloor heating now, and anything I build from now on will be thermally efficient. I advise all my clients to go down this route of thermally efficient building methods."

Although it sounds challenging to build in such an exposed location, the initial work was fast - it took only five days to get the building wind and watertight. "Once the building was up in that first week, it was very thermally efficient from day one, so when I was inside it was comfortable to be finishing and fitting out the property," says Peter.

While Peter built Pennybridge with the intention of eventually selling it, this house was never merely a development project. Peter is passionate about the quality and the details, and added in a few features that you might not expect to find, from the TV built into the wall in the master en-suite to the "bubble wall" in the dining end of the kitchen, which has integrated coloured lighting.

The balcony on the first floor has turned into a great feature. At 15 metres long and three metres wide with a glass balcony ensuring that the views remain uninterrupted, this space works as another room, and because the balcony is covered you can sit outside and stay dry and sheltered from the elements - and this elevated spot also remains midge-free.
When designing the interior Peter opted for a clean palette of neutral walls against timber finishes, with splashes of colour reserved for artworks and accessories. "Simply by moving a picture, you can change the dynamic of a room," he says. And with the ever evolving landscape and skyscape drawing your eye outside, Peter didn't want to fight with that when considering the interior.

So what next? Peter has managed to secure a site between Pennybridge and Allwood House, and is now planning to build a smaller home for himself and Steph and their two cocker spaniels, which will be called Halfpenny - as it will be around half the size of this property.

"We've designed the next house so that it mirrors this one and reads as being part of the same development, again with the timber cladding and the zinc roof," says Peter. Asked what he'll miss about Pennybridge, Peter cites the space itself. "The kitchen-diner is a fantastic entertaining space; we have the luxury of all this space when we have family and friends around," he says.

"When we first moved here to renovate the old croft house, every day spent on Skye just got better and better. It was the right move for us. There's so much wildlife here. We have dolphins in the bay and minke whales coming up through the Sound. We have deer running through the garden, and a pair of golden eagles that soar in the thermal lift behind the house. And we have these spectacular views."
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