Perched on a hillside in Perthshire, Ardlebank both fits into and complements the wooded landscape around it.
Cleverly designed by architect John Manning, the bulk of the house flows down the hillside, and from a distance it looks like a modest bungalow.
It’s far from modest, however. Owners Steve Shay and his wife Shirley spared no expense creating their dream home. The result is a unique house that is beautiful inside and out.
I drive up the private track that leads from the road between Bridge of Cally and Kirkmichael.
Steve, 62, invites me into the ground floor reception where a magnificent spiral staircase wraps around a glass-and-steel lift – which makes the house a proposition for elderly people with reduced mobility.
The ground floor contains the gubbins of the house: utility, plant room and double garage. Up we trudge, past the first floor where the bedrooms are, to the top floor living area.
This is a magnificent space. An oak frame leaps upward to a double height vaulted ceiling. At one end is a living area, with sofas, wood burner and a fully-glass gable end giving outstanding views across the valley. Move past the dining area and you’re into the kitchen. At first glance, the room seems straight but in actual fact it kinks slightly, following the contour of the hillside it’s built on.
Behind the living area is the study/library, again with vaulted ceiling, and traditional steading-style skylights.
Doors from the living room open onto a living roof with grass, trees and a patio area.
All four of the first-floor bedrooms are en suite – the middle two with light tunnels to allow natural daylight in.
“The builders said not to bother with the oak frame down here to save costs but we really wanted it to continue the flow from the living areas,” Steve explains.
The master bedroom and largest guest bedroom both have dual aspect windows and excellent views.
Technology and renewable energy were top of Steve and Shirley’s agenda when they built the house. An app lets you control the temperature of every room, cameras keep an eye on the exterior, and speakers are wired into living room and bedrooms. Five boreholes were drilled for a ground source heat pump, while solar panels provide the marjority of the house’s hot water and the gutters recycle rainwater for toilets.
Despite its £1.3 million price tag, Steve says he won’t recoup the money Ardlebank cost to build. “It’s our own fault really,” he admits.
“We decided to put in a Peter Thomson kitchen, Stonewood bathrooms, full smarthome wiring and so on. We could have done it for less but we wanted to make it as perfect as possible.”