Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Love of a House

The drawing room of interior designer Penny Morrison's 1790 Welsh home 

Whenever I read an article about someone finding the perfect house because it speaks to them and they feel connected, I always think of E.M. Forster's 1910 novel Howards End. At the heart of that book is the love a house. Ruth Wilcox deeply loves Howards End, her family home in the English countryside, and instinctively knows that her friend Margaret Schlegel shares her connection to it. She subsequently scribbles a note leaving the house to Miss Schlegel. Of course, upon her death the family tears up the note, ignoring her wishes. But, in the end, Margaret Schlegel gets the house. Somehow it was meant to be hers and she is its spiritual heir. Many of us have had the experience of finding a house that we love. We sense a certain something, a quality that is hard to define. We feel a connection and we are at home. I recently read about two very inspiring instances of this happening, one in Wales and the other in Scotland.


At the border between England and Wales sits one of the prettiest houses you will ever see, owned by English interior decorator Penny Morrison. After reading a bit about this talented designer, I learned that "prettiness" is one of the hallmarks of her design style. The story of how she came to own and restore her house in Wales is in the most recent issue of Elle Decor. The story is fascinating and the photos definitely fall into the category of "eye candy." I got the feeling that this house spoke to her and she instinctively knew it was meant to be hers.

The boxwood-lined front drive leading to the front of the house

Penny and her husband stumbled upon the house by accident 26 years ago and, although everything needed to be done, they fell in love with the building and its setting. It was basically uninhabitable, but they were thrilled that it was an historic property unspoiled by renovation. They set about restoring the house while retaining its basic structure. Their goal was for every ground-floor room to open onto the garden. Lovely idea! They furnished the entire house, using Penny's beautiful fabric and wallpaper line. The result is a very pretty home that embraces nature.  

The library with curtains made out of fabric designed by Penny Morrison

The dining room with french doors leading out to the garden

The upstairs landing

The guest bath

A guest bedroom with headboard and canopy covered in a linen by Penny Morrison

And the beautiful views. Don't you love a house that feels at one with its setting?
Go here to read more.


Even more romantic in terms of falling in love with a house is when the property is a ruin and someone sets out to save it. In this case the ruin was a sixteenth-century castle in Scotland, definitely raising the enchantment factor up a couple of notches. The intrepid couple who bought it could see the promise and were not daunted by the task ahead. They had always dreamt of living in a castle. 

Ballone Castle, a sixteenth-century tower house overlooking Moray Firth in Scotland

 This is what happened when Lachlan and Annie Stewart, the founders of Anta, discovered a dilapidated castle that hadn't been lived in for 125 years and set about restoring it. Anta is the Scottish design and architecture firm known for its silk and woolen tweeds and tartans, handmade pottery, and architecture celebrating Scottish vernacular. I found their story here and was fascinated by the scope of what this couple did.

Construction underway

The corner of the castle, which now houses the kitchen, had no roof and one part of the building was propped up on a single stone. The couple lived in a large hut adjoining the ruin while construction took place. They puzzled out how to rebuild what was originally there by finding clues throughout the building. There was one piece of each architectural feature left which showed them how it would have looked. They also studied the history of Scottish castles and their patterns in order to come up with architectural plans.

The project took four years

One of six bedrooms, all of which are accessed by steep and narrow staircases

 The dining area with its thick walls and distinctive windows. The light is gorgeous and I love the touch of tartan plaid, undoubtedly made by Anta.

The finished castle and its magnificent setting, just magical
Go here to read more

The 1992 film of Howards End

There's always a touch of magic that goes into any love affair with a house. Somehow the heart gets involved and all bets are off. I'm always inspired when I read about someone taking on such a labor of love. Especially when they do the research to keep it authentic, preserve a sense of history, and create the house of their dreams.


  1. A well-loved, or rescued, house is as much a living, breathing thing as the people who live there as it absorbs their spirits into its own. Don't you feel that?

    1. Pamela, yes I agree. I think there's something intangible about a well-loved house that you can feel and there is a sense of well-being that comes across.
      xx Sunday

  2. I loved Howard's End and I'd never want to leave the home in Wales. I can't believe they were able to restore that ruin of a castle. What a beauty.

    1. Donna, I couldn't agree with you more. I'd never want to leave that home in Wales. And the restoration of that castle is just amazing. So nice to know you're a fellow fan of Howards End!

  3. Howards END..........I need to watch that again.........
    Both these homes speak to me!!!Can you imagine re-building that castle!!!!!What a DREAM that would be.
    Oh, Europe it calls to me.........Must get myself back over the pond!
    The homes here are just NOT the same!!!Although,a few of us try!!!!

    1. I agree about the homes. I am always so inspired when I go to Europe, especially by the old homes I see. They have such ambiance and patina.

  4. Sunday,

    Each of these stories and houses are magical! I am partial to the Scottish castle as I felt "at home" from the very first time I visited there. I dream of one day living there although as my husbands keeps reminding me I would need to win the lottery as the exchange are is not favorable.

    I cannot wait to go read more about these two lovely homes. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elizabeth, I am going to Scotland soon and I can't wait to get to know it better. I have a feeling I will feel "at home" there as well.
      xx Sunday

  5. Such a beautiful and magical post. Wow - what gorgeous homes. I love the way the British are not afraid of lots of color in their homes, and the restoration of the Scottish castle is amazing, and the setting couldn't be more romantic and stunning.

  6. Sunday, Howard's End is one of my favorite books. I dream of finding "that" house. One I connect with. These homes above are beautiful. I don't think I could choose; both are a work of love. Thank you for sharing! Enjoy the weekend.