New Home Building and Property Renovation

Article featured in Scotland on Sunday At Home Magazine


Name Bob and Elaine Templeman

Occupations Company directors of The Scottish Antiques & Arts Centres

Location Rait, Perthshire

Type of build New Build

Style of house Detached two storey

Method of construction Double breeze block with triple insulation, clad in stone

House size 294 m2

Plot size 1.25 acres

Land Cost £80,000 for existing cottage and orchard with outline planning permission

Build Cost £260,000

Total cost £340,000

Cost per m2 £885

Work started September 1999

Construction time 13 months

Current value £700,000 for cottage and new house

Build Diary

Bought in November 1998
Plans drawn up and submitted January – July 1999
Started work September 1999
Moved in October 2000

Build Costs

General Build £250,000
Water connection £403
Electricity connection £215
Exterior house painting £1400
Digger hire and gravel £2696

Lawson Developments tel: 01837 851436
The Scottish Antique & Arts Centres are at Abernyte and Doune,


Use professionals at every stage, they speak the same language as the planning officers and that’s crucial.

“When it’s your own home I think you have to pay time and line and not a cost for the job,” says Bob.  “If you pay for the job, there’ll be a rush at the end and things will be omitted.”

Be aware how much personal time a self build will take up.  Even if you have someone else managing the job, it’s very time consuming.

There are many people who are blessed with the ability to mix old and new designs but it’s a far more complex process to successfully age a new build property to blend in with its country surroundings.  However, Bob and Elaine Templeman have managed just that.

The Templemans didn’t have a burning desire to embark on a self build project but they had been keeping their eyes and ears open for a number of years just in case an opportunity should present itself.  When a cottage came up for sale in the village of Rait in Perthshire where they were already living and said cottage also had a plot of land with planning permission granted, the idea became a reality.

“We saw the cottage and plot advertised in the local paper and we thought our relationship was solid enough to tackle it!” says Bob laughing.  “The location was perfect.  It was close to our work, had easy access to the dual carriageway but was still in the country and it was quite an unusual site as well.  It was 70 feet higher than the flood plain in front of us so it had great long vision – approximately 15 miles on two aspects.  However, despite having these wonderful views it’s quite a secure plot.  We didn’t want to be up a single track road with no neighbours, here we’re just at the edge of the village.

“The house and orchard were being sold separately and we put in an offer for both.  As we’d lost out on a few plots previously we put a 48 hour limit on the offer which I think what is what clinched it for us.” 

The couple’s offer was accepted and Elaine’s mum moved into Eastview Cottage whilst Bob and Elaine continued to live in their house in the village as they finalised the plans for their new home.  Fortunately the couple already had someone in mind to help them design their house, builder/designer, Ulrik Lawson.

Elaine and Bob had met Ulrik through his wife when she became a customer of theirs at the Scottish Antique & Arts Centre which the Templemans opened ten years ago at Abernyte.  “Ulrik had started renovating properties and soon built up a good reputation for his work,” Elaine remembers.  “Over the years we’d seen some of the houses that he had built or renovated and they were beautiful, just lovely.  We thought if we ever had the land we would ask Ulrik to build the house.  When the cottage came up for sale with planning permission, Bob thought now would be the chance to build that house.” 

“We worked together with Ulrik on the design to achieve what we wanted,” Elaine continues.  “We were trying to create a country house feel but without all of the bits of the country house that you never go into – the wasted areas.  Extra bedrooms or a dining room that never gets used, or very rarely.  There are only two of us, so we wanted large living areas, a spacious master bedroom and after that, all that was really important to us was that it felt comfortable.  If we were going to be having a guest or two, there are rooms for them but we didn’t want acres of corridors to get lost in.”

Bob continues: “We wanted an individuality of style reflecting our interests which are antiques and traditional architecture and our aim was to try and combine antique design with the practicality of modern living.”

The design that was agreed on offered a spacious but practical home over two levels.  On the ground floor there’s an open plan kitchen and dining room with adjoining lounge and library area, a cloakroom WC, utility room and a guest bedroom with en suite.  Upstairs there’s a substantial master bedroom with separate dressing room, a further two double bedrooms and a large family bathroom.

Although the layout is flexible and has been well thought out the real appeal of this house is the unique design touches.  Gothic windows inside and out give it an ecclesiastical feel which Elaine explains: “was influenced by the nearby church.  The house is called Netherkirk House and there’s a very old church ruin just across the road. It did have an influence on the design as did the building’s requirement to blend in with the existing landscape.  Rait is a conservation village so the design had to be in the Scottish vernacular as well so it’s traditional in a quirky sort of way.  We had to tick a lot of boxes but our aim was to make it different whilst still ticking the boxes.”

“It took us about four months to get our plans through,” Bob recalls.  “There was already outline planning for the site but the design was for a conventional house and we wanted something quite different.  Planning was concerned about the windows in the gable and initially we’d planned to have a fireplace in the hall and an additional one upstairs which were both knocked back.  We were allowed just one fireplace in the sitting room and the flue for the AGA in the kitchen.

“The fireplaces and single glazing were the main problems that we had with planning.  They wanted the property to be double glazed and Ulrik was against it.  He convinced us that if the house was built properly then the air flow through the house would ensure that it was warm but still well ventilated and his theory has held out.  It’s a slightly more expensive way to do it but you eliminate the stuffiness that you get in a double glazed house with central heating.  The house always feels fresh but warm as well and the insulation is perfect.” 

Glazing has played an important part in this build both internally and externally and the inspiration for the design has come from many avenues as Bob explains: “Upstairs the windows have been made in the Breton style and downstairs they’re gothic.  The ideas for these came from a selection of books on architecture.  However, I didn’t realise how difficult it is to create that gothic splay design.  The science behind it is really complex and it’s incredibly difficult to get the glass cut to the same shape. 

“Other parts of the design were inspired by our travels abroad.  For instance the glass and stone framed archway between the dining room and drawing room is inspired by a building in Italy as are the pillars at the back of the house. I’d seen something similar by an Italian architect who worked near Florence and I’d always wanted to incorporate his idea that when you have a view if you want to look at the view try and frame it.  Our view is framed by the archways and the pillars and it’s like a picture.” 

When it came to materials for the build, the couple’s real ethos was quality as Elaine explains: “We chose traditional wood, quality stone, travertine tiles, materials that we felt comfortable with.  We laid an oak floor in the kitchen but we purposefully chose wide boards as they’re more traditional.  The staircase is craftsman-made created from Dunkeld Elm and the kitchen is hand crafted and hand painted in Farrow & Ball American Confederate colours. 

“The stone fireplace is a good example of Ulrik’s design style,” she continues.  “His designs are generally oversized and he pays amazing attention to detail.  He even included a nick in the wall in the entrance hall so that the curved front door will open fully – it’s a feature you see in old Scottish castles.

“However, my favourite feature in the house is the cornices.  The cornices in the hall are really special – the curves downstairs and the oversized detailing upstairs - the craftsmanship is stunning, they’re all hand run and I love the sheer quality of them.” 

The attention to detail in the build is impressive but the finishing touches have come from Bob and Elaine’s very own shop window – The Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre.  As both Templemans partake in buying trips for the Centre they’d already amassed quite a collection before they’d even built the house.  We already had a selection of old fittings such as the brass box locks for the doors,” says Bob.  “And I had a number of pieces that I had bought at fairs and wanted to incorporate but I was unaware that I was building up quite such a collection.  I think it was a subconscious thing that one day we would have the opportunity to use all these things.”

Having now lived in their opportunity for the last ten years do Bob and Elaine have any regrets?  Bob replies: “We suffered on the build by not having a permanent clerk of works and as result the build time increased by five months and the budget by another £80,000.  Although you’re prepared for an excess in the costs you’re never prepared for how much.  One of the challenges was convincing the bank that the overrun was justified.  However, that was one of the highlights of the build when the loan extension was agreed and the second was moving in and realising the house lived up to our expectations.

“The main thing we’ve learned is that we wouldn’t do it again.  We didn’t have any doubts about embarking on the project and we enjoyed getting it right but it’s an awful lot of work and aggravation.  It was worth it but I think once is enough!”