Project Name: 1800’s Watermill Conversion

Date Completed: May 2016

Location: Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

Company: Decodence Ltd

Interior Designer: Elina Helenius, Decodence Ltd

The restoration and conversion of a 1800’s water mill to a private single residential dwelling was completed by Decodence Ltd. This derelict old water mill had been sitting idle since it stopped operating in the 1950’s. Unlike an earlier development application, which proposed to turn this enormous building into eight flats and two townhouses, the client wanted to create a large modern home, which would reflect and respect the building’s history. The regeneration project did not just save the building destined to debilitate, but completely refurbished it turning it into the magnificent 1,200 sqm family home it now is.

Ensuring that the four existing levels would seamlessly flow tighter was the primary focus of the design. Achieving the correct layout involved close planning together with the client to ensure the building would cater to all their requirements. Joining the main mill building with the adjacent tower, which had functioned as the furnace of the mill, provided new sitting rooms whilst the new top-level extension on the former flat roof would serve as the main living area. A central staircase was formed out of one of the old grain silos to connect the levels and bring in natural light. What once was a dark cold industrial space, is now a beautiful contemporary luxury home. The result is a fine balance of modern living spaces and retained original features, such as the large water wheels housed in the basement of the building.

The wheel room has been converted into a wine cellar which is accessed from the cigar room above. The bottom level also houses a large billiards room and office space. The level above consists of the kitchen and a dining room for twenty people along with a reception room and two en-suite guest bedrooms. The entry level above is an open plan space with another home office in the tower building. Above this, there is a level solely dedicated to guest accommodation with a further five en-suite bedrooms and a cinema for entertainment. The newly built extension on the top level houses a sitting room, the master bedroom suite with two walk-in dressing rooms, a kitchenette, a bathroom and a fully equipped gym. A large balcony offers views across the beautiful river and rolling hills.

Decodence’s favourite aspect of this project is the stairwell which plays a key role in achieving the correct flow throughout the residence and provides much needed natural light. This is important as like in other industrial buildings windows are quite small and available light therefore limited. Vast spaces can be difficult to integrate but here the use of well selected materials brings the areas together. Micro-cement flooring is key to the design as it is a contemporary reflection of the building’s past. The micro-cement finishes are key to the design – these are present in the floors and walls as well as the basins of the guest bathrooms.

The design scheme respectfully honours the building’s past constantly making subtle references to the industrial heritage. The building was once one of the most important mills of the area and remains a desired local landmark. The exterior of the building was carefully restored and material choices were based on how well they would fit in with the surroundings. The top level is cladded in natural larch and windows and doors are black aluminium to respect the original features. Protecting and restoring historical buildings provides an unusual challenge to the designer as the past use of the building often limits the possibilities of restricting the space. Achieving such a well-functioning space has been very rewarding for all involved from the client to the designer, to the public and the locals.