award winning balgownie house receives a second gong

A few days before my birthday in October 2020, an email was delivered to my junk folder. There is sat for the next 7 days, until I went into the junk folder to delete the spam and almost flipped out when I saw it. The double take and obsessive checking of the email would have made a great meme. That email had me grinning and singing like an idiot and Missy yawning and asking me ‘what’s the big deal now?’ I searched the internet for confirmation that indeed what this email was telling me was true. Wait for it though, I sent the link through to my sister, brother and sister-in-law to make sure that it was actually true. Yes, I did that!

Working on the Balgownie House was an incredible experience for me. It pushed me as a designer, as a collaborator, a negotiator and as a human. It strengthened my problem solving skills, my project management skills, and it taught me that expressing sympathy and empathy, to everyone involved, goes a long way. 

The MUSE Design Awards 2020 announced that the Balgownie House was a Silver Winner in the Interior Design Renovation category. This is the second award that the Balgownie House has recieved, already being Shortlisted in the International Design & Architecture Awards 2020. 

When I was first approached by the owners of the Balgownie House to take a look at the ‘back room’, it was a confused and unused space. The room sits at the back of the house and sits as a U-shape connecting the bedrooms to the main living areas. The space is relatively narrow and was being used as a walk-thru space. I could see how the owners had attempted to make sense of the space but it was obvious from the get-go that it was an area they would rather forget existed. 

I remember thinking to myself WTF am I going to do here? The whole room was orientated the wrong way – facing inwards rather than out onto the beautifully landscaped patio, gardens and pool area. It was like the room was trying to ignore its biggest asset. I had to think of a way to spin the entire room around 180° but still keep it functional as a family room. After all, this was an area that the kids would play video games and watch TV. The other problem was the dining table and its position within the room. It felt like it was hard to pass by it without bumping into it. It felt really awkward in the space but we still had to accommodate more than the family of four on a regular basis. I couldn’t opt for a smaller dining table because that just wasn’t going to work for them. How was I going to accommodate a large dining table and chairs and make it work in this long and narrow room? The third problem that I could see was there were so many entry points to this room, it was pretty much beyond crazy. There are two hallways that lead into the room from the rear of the property, another central entry point from the main hall leading from the front door that splits the room in half, another from the living room and two more yet from the study and bathroom. It’s a crazy situation to find yourself in as a designer to deal with that many entry/exit points. This was going to take some impeccible space planning and problem solving to give the family everything they needed, and more.

During the renovation, we had some tricky things to deal with like screeding the existing tile floor in order to lay new flooring over the top. How were we going to remove bay windows from a brick structure and replace them with updated bay windows all without upsetting the building? How in heavens were we going to build that joinery as I’d designed it? This project was a work of collaboration with the builder, joiner and every single tradesperson that worked on it. My expectations are always high on any project I work on, and this project took it to the next level. I’m lucky that the trades I work with are forgiving of my need for perfection. Yet, without that driving me as the designer, I don’t think we would have achieved the result that we did. I do have to give a big shout-out to my electrician – he did an incredible job on the beautiful light fittings we had installed. He was sweating big time on one of the massive pendants and I seriously couldn’t believe his calm tenacity. I on the other hand was acting like a lunatic praying that he wouldn’t drop the thing!

Thinking of the entire project, the rollercoaster of a ride it was personally for me, the exacting standards I demanded from the trades, the stress that the clients went through having their lives disrupted during the renovation, recieving the recognition from this award makes it all worth it in the end.

View the Balgownie House here.

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