A random drive led to Mark Richardson and Joyce Burns buying Bag End.
“We were visiting friends in Ceres and went for a random countryside drive on the way home,” Mark explains. “We passed a ‘For Sale’ sign in Chance Inn and stopped the car to have a look.
“It was an old ploughman’s cottage that had been empty for several years and was ready to collapse.”
Negotiating the sale took 18 months. Getting permission to demolish the old ruin and build their dream house took several architects and at least as long again.
After that it was five years of hard work while Mark built the house virtually single handed.
The old cottage was pulled down by hand and its stone used to make new boundary walls in the garden.
Mark used a building firm to install a timber frame and the roof. A plumber fitted the boiler, an electrician did the wiring, and a local master craftsman built the handmade oak stairs.
Everything else Mark did himself – with assistance from Joyce.
Learning the ropes
“My mother renovated houses and I helped her from about the age of 16,” he explains. “I became quite handy then and what I didn’t already know how to do I learned as I went along.”
Mark certainly had some low moments during the build. “One time I was up some scaffolding fitting plasterboard to the ceiling. I slipped and a sheet of plasterboard fell on me. I must have lain there under this sheet of plasterboard for 15 minutes thinking I’d bitten off more than I can chew.”
Nor was that the last of Mark’s misfortunes. He blew out his back carrying stones. He hurt his wrist and broke some ribs.
All the pain and hard work has paid off handsomely, however. Bag End is a beautiful, original and wonderful home.
One of its delights is its shape. Bag End is a house with curves instead of corners, angles instead of straight lines. “I hate square rooms,” Mark explains. “Houses don’t have to be boring and boxy.”
Design and craftmanship
The stairs at Bag End cantilever over a curved outside wall. Stepping through the front door, two hallways diverge in a V-shape. It makes entering the house an exploration, not knowing what’s ahead.
Two furry faces charge towards me. These are Ziggie and Charlie, Mark and Joyce’s dogs. After a quick fuss they settle down at my feet as I ease myself into a chair.
The main lounge is a glorious double height space with a galleried landing above. There are windows on three sides, including glazed doors into the garden.
A huge bookcase is filled with reading material. Among them are several copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Bag End is, of course, the name of Bilbo Baggins’ home in the Shire.
“We’re both big Tolkien fans,” Joyce says. “We named the house before the films came out, when only people who had read the book would get the reference.”
An additional living room on the ground floor also has glazed doors and views across the countryside. The wedge-shaped kitchen also has a glazed door to the patio. There is a downstairs bedroom that looks out to the front and side of the house.
Through from the main lounge is an exercise room. “This was originally an indoor swimming pool but the pool developed a fault so I had to remove it,” Mark continues. “We turned it into a gym instead.”
From the gym a corridor with a workspace built into an alcove leads to the beautiful master bedroom. It has a huge window that looks up the back garden to fields and hills beyond. There’s also a large en suite shower room.
To the front of the house at first floor level are three double bedrooms that share a family bathroom. A spacious landing has a wonderful little window looking to the front of the house and is a fantastic spot to read or work from home.
Occupying the rear of the house is a suite of rooms belonging to the couple’s 14-year old daughter Ruby. There is a playroom, a work space, a bedroom and an en suite bathroom. There’s even a little secret room that was a favourite hidey hole when Ruby was younger.
The handmade main staircase features a beautiful curved balustrade. A second set of stairs descends from outside Ruby’s rooms down to the gym.
Attention to detail
The level of thought and attention to detail that has gone into Bag End is extraordinary. Mark continues: “I wanted low windows so we make the most of the views and get lots of light inside. There are no door treads– the flooring flows from one room to the next. There are lots of other features like rounded walls that builders would never do.”
The bathroom sink is embedded in a slice of a huge timber beam. “I got that from the Rosyth Dockyards,” Mark explains. “It would once have held up the Ark Royal.”
Much of the material in Bag End has been reclaimed or sourced locally. The doors are all made from cherrywood, while the house itself is clad in larch.
There are gardens to the front, side and rear. A shipping container offers plenty of storage. Decking and a stone patio are suntraps, while there is a summerhouse and a large workshop with a wood burning stove. Behind the garden is a paddock that stretches to a couple of acres and would be suitable for keeping horses.
Chance Inn is lovely little hamlet nestled in the hills a few miles from Cupar. “There’s a great feeling of community here,” Mark says. “We get along so well with our neighbours we even have a gate into each other’s garden. If we’re away on holiday they’ll take our bins out.”
Bag End is a fantastic house for working from home and Chance Inn recently got superfast broadband.
“The village campaigned hard for better internet and we now have superfast fibreoptic. I get 80mbps download speeds.”
If Bag End was the couple’s dream home why are they selling up? The answer lies in Mark’s line of work. “I’m a mid-century design dealer,” Mark explains. “Art, furniture, glass, ceramics. It’s always been my dream to have my own gallery. With everything that’s happened over the past 18 months we decided that if you don’t pursue your dreams now they might never happen.
“So we decided to put this place up for sale. We’re hoping to buy a commercial building where we can have a gallery on the ground floor and a home for us above it.”