There is a beauty to the Scottish landscape — a wild, rugged beauty that has long stood the test of time. Once seen, Scotland’s windswept vistas and dramatic coastlines often linger forever in the hearts of those who visit... like the memory of love’s first kiss.
This was the romance that became inspiration when Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, founder of Spencer-Churchill Designs and internationally renowned interior designer, was asked to create a home on the banks of the River Beauly near Inverness. Although her clients had already commissioned one home nearby, they loved the majestic views offered by this riverside location. And while they wanted to retain the most exquisite, intriguing design details from the home Spencer-Churchill had previously created for them, they wanted the Beauly residence to incorporate imaginative, unique elements that would give it a fresh character.
Since the owners were passionate about the local wildflowers and birds, feathered creatures and blossoms make regular, often subtle appearances — beginning with the grand foyer. Here, Spencer-Churchill took a bold step away from the predictability of a traditional marquetry table as the focal point. Instead, she envisioned a circular floor inlay that would be visible both from the foyer itself and when looking down from the gallery above.
“It was important that the design was balanced in both light and dark, dense and airy,” she says. Made from a combination of exotic woods — all but one unstained to allow their natural colour to be the star — the motif intertwines peonies, lilies, trilliums, rose tulips, and birds, while a tiny bumblebee points to “true north.”
Above is a confection of doves, luscious roses, and ornate swirls — the first of the residence’s many, high relief ceiling motifs that were handcrafted in situ. To create a visual anchor for paintings and other art that would ultimately fill the soaring ceiling above, some birds “flew” down carrying flowers that then became wall swags and garlands.
Spencer-Churchill chose mahogany for the staircase that ascends from the foyer to the upper floor. “The wood is so magnificent that I wanted as much of it as possible to be visible, which is why the undersides of the treads are exposed wood,” she says, adding that this also enhances the illusion that the staircase is floating on air. About halfway up, there is a small, curved landing where people can pause to look back over the foyer. The crystal chandelier is a custom design that artfully conceals lights in the metal crown and spotlights just below to illuminate individual paintings.
From the beginning, The Beauly was envisioned as a comfortable, inviting home filled with tranquility and harmony. “Although this is a completely new building, you’d never realize it because the house has a character and quality of workmanship you typically associate with homes that have a long pedigree of excellence,” Spencer-Churchill says.
Often it’s the seemingly small details that have the biggest impact. Patterned area rugs that were sourced specifically to look as if they’ve faded slightly over time grace the floors of both the dining room and formal living room — a light and shimmering alternative to the visual heaviness of Persian carpet. Curtains in a golden peach silk that reappears as wallpaper above the chair railing, adding a textural element to the more durable painted surface below.
The Jacobean revival movement is also given a new twist — literally — in The Beauly’s dining room ceiling, where intertwining motifs have a more contemporary simplicity. Rather than oak, this space features a Canadian pine floor that gives a warmer, richer look while paying subtle homage to the ancestry of the lady of the house. To one side, Spencer-Churchill took an ornately carved table that her clients wished to retain, added luxurious gilt and a marble top that attaches directly to the wall, breathing new life into this exquisite heirloom as a sideboard/buffet.
A focal point of The Beauly residence is its drawing room, where conversation often shifts naturally to the river view just outside. Three furniture groupings visually define different spaces for entertaining or quiet time with the family while keeping a fluid connectivity throughout. Here, one of the home’s 21 fireplaces features a mantle with two Grecian columns spanned by a high-relief section showing a family playing together in the centre and deer watching from either side — much like the reality found just outside.
In more private moments, the owners often retire to a secret garden room located just off the kitchen — perhaps with a steaming cup of coffee and the morning paper. Herringbone brick flooring, a stone wall, and cottage-style rattan furniture, with the family plaid used as cushions, give a casual elegance to this sun-drenched, family-only space. Spencer-Churchill notes that because of its secluded location, she purposely left the windows unadorned by curtains to preserve the uninhibited view of the garden just beyond.
One of Spencer-Churchill’s favourite memories of designing The Beauly residence is of the many skilled artisans who contributed to the project. “There were almost 40 craftsmen involved in creating this house so that everything worked together,” she says. “It was such a delight to work with experts of this calibre. It proves that you can create a wonderful, warm environment in a newly built house.”
English Text by Susan M Boyce Translated by Cherry Chen Produced by Peggy Liu
Photo courtesy of Spencer-Churchill Designs Ltd, T/A Woodstock Designs