The Househunter: A Manse in the rolling Hills of the Scottish Borders

To Scotland this week. It’s a while since we’ve been and frankly when you look at this view who wouldn’t fancy a little trip up there? And while I appreciate that you can have too much weather, the colours under this moody sky are rather fabulous. It’s also a direct contrast to last week which went down like a multi-coloured balloon as I half suspected it might.

Which gives me a point to ponder. Firstly it was lovely to see a house in Scotland that wasn’t chock full of tartan. Secondly, how much of an influence should your environment be on your decor? You will see this house is full of pale yellows and muted blues and greens that echo the landscape and it works beautifully. But I live in a city and I’m not going to paint my house in 50 shades of grey. I mean I did in 2012 and my new house is about 27 shades of grey but I’m looking at a warmer palette now.

And while the muted muddy shades of Farrow & Ball and Paint & Paper Library work so well in our rain-washed climate, there is also the idea that using bright colours inside will cheer up those dull grey skies outside. And surely we don’t have to stick to English roses, and Scottish thistles just because we live in Britain when there are so many tropical botanical prints around.

I don’t have the answer – it will be one of balance of course, but it struck me forcibly with this house as there is no clashing tartan but instead the inside so beautifully mirrors the landscape the house sits in and the colours inside draw your eye to the windows and the view outside.

This kitchen is a case in point. We don’t see many blue kitchens about and yet, in this pale blue it’s definitely a cheerful colour without being, for me at least, too bright. Mind you, the digital content creator and influencer Lucy Williams, used exactly this mix of blue and dark wood in her own, recently finished kitchen, blending it with a darker shade in the rest of her house to remind her of the skies of her favourite Greek islands. So that’s another point – obviously your decor should make you happy and if a brightly coloured palette reminds you of holidays and happy times when you live in a cold, grey city, then that should be your scheme.

There is just a hint of that blue in the fringing of these curtains. And there’s another point to note. Fashion is cyclical and these pelmets and swags are coming back. Two years ago I looked at them with horror. Now I find I’m contemplating curtains in my new bedrooms and not only that but they might be plain curtains with a fringe along the edge. I haven’t reached pelmets yet but I’m not ruling anything out.

On the other hand pelmets don’t have to be frilly. I think these fixed ones are elegant and hide any fixtures and fittings. More of that pale blue again, and you can see how well it works with antique wood. Before we leave curtains – if you want full length (and I’m going to say you do) try and get them to stop about 1cm above the floor. This means they will hang well, you will hardly notice the gap between them and the floor and also they will draw really well as they will skim over the surface. That puddle is all very well if you’ve got ten minutes to arrange it every day but otherwise it’s just annoying. And I speak as one who has to open shutters every morning. Some need fully opening, some need the slats adjusting and most are broken so it has to be done by hand. You do not need to give yourself extra work by hanging curtains that need their own personal fluffer every day.

Then, of course, there is the third way. A fixed pelmet, a business-like curtain and a hint of fringe along the pelmet. So it’s a clear choice of one, two or three and all of them are in the soft muted colours of the landscape beyond the windows they frame.

Above, there are no obvious window dressings although I suspect original shutters are folded back to the sides. This picture perfectly sums up what I was talking about at the top. The relationship between inside and outside – you don’t need massive bifold glass doors to make that link. the cushion on the bed draws the eye to the window outside, which leads you to the painting on the wall and back to the bed again. The soft pebble colour walls are the perfect backdrop to the stronger colours outside.

We’ll end in this room, although you can visit the whole house, which is on for £895,000 with Inigo, and see for yourself. But I wanted to stop here as the blues and yellows from the rest of the house are brought together in this bedroom. The walls are similar to the new Dulux Colour of the Year, Wild Wonder, a sort of straw-like shade which is very restful.

And, if you want something for the weekend, as it were, Sophie and I are discussing the new colours and paint launches along with a bunch of other things over on The Great Indoors podcast. We have now gone weekly and we have recorded the recording on YouTube so you can watch as well as listen.

Let me know what you think.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I live in Scotland – I’m yet to come across a house that’s ‘chock full of tartan’ though. Agree that ANTA is a beautiful Scottish brand if you’re looking for a gentle nod to tartan.

  2. This is lovely. I can’t say I would embrace the swags but the box pelmets I could live with and I take the point of the earlier commenter that they have practical purposes. As for the colours – I feel the owners of this home have pitched it just right , with easy to live with muted shades that allow the landscape outside to shine. They have used colour in artwork to great effect. And they haven’t turned their books around – the spines are outwards- hooray!

  3. What beautiful bones this house has. I especially love the archways between rooms, both in plasterwork on the ground floor and fashioned from the beams on the top floor.

    I have to take slight issue with the sentiment “it was lovely to see a house in Scotland that wasn’t chock full of tartan”, though – guesthouses and hotels may go all out with tartan, but in almost 20 years in Scotland I have yet to see it as a decorative motif in anyone’s home!

  4. This brightened up my Friday morning. Thanks so much for the share. It’s perfect. Where do I sign??

  5. Thank goodness ultra long curtains puddling on the floor are out! I never understood the appeal… I’m also not at pelmets yet, or ever I suspect! But a good curtain I can get behind. Having moved into a very old house not that long ago, which has (relatively) low ceilings and short curtains I have realised again their value. Long curtains just wouldn’t work here even though I couldn’t countenance anything else in my old high-ceilinged Victorian terrace. Blues and greens bring me joy though, even more so in our new home linking with the greenery outside. And a pop of chartreuse in the kitchen to add something more!

  6. The wend of the Southern sun is beginning to make purchase in your consideration of light and colour. A great Househunter find this week!

  7. The plain matching pelmet is elegant, the fringe is a little too frou frou for me. I have often wondered about the practice of having a sink in the bedroom. Is this a British custom? I don’t get it. Cheers from Canada!

  8. Pelmets are excellent at keeping out unwanted light at the top of the window. Several years ago neighbours installed harsh security lights at the back of house necessitating cut out blinds, curtains, and then pelmets to our bedroom windows. I picked a pale blue with a small pattern which goes well with our summer and winter curtains. BTW, I am looking forward to the rehang of my cosy, bold winter curtains this week. Earlier than usual as we haven’t turned the heating on yet !

  9. love the colour palette of this house but I have a strong dislike of the sitting room curtains. The boxed pelmets are OK and look good in country houses or very classical city dwellings However, despite having a house in the 80s, I will never ever have a swag anywhere near me without having the impulse to rip it down whether they come back in fashion or not. AND they are a nightmare to keep clean. Each to his own taste though.

  10. Some of your readers may even fancy a trip down to the Borders! I love the changing light and dramatic skies that are framed by those windows in the big, old manse houses. Don’t mind a little tartan if a gorgeous Anta blanket or rug.

  11. My husband has greatly appreciated seeing you on YouTube recording the podcast (love it, by the way). You get quoted a fair bit by me ‘Mad about the House says white ceilings are NOT the default colour darling …’ so he says thank you – nice to put a face to the name!

    Hope the paint chart horror is calming down for you.

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