Central Line

Finding a home in the centre of Edinburgh, with a front and back garden was a lucky moment for food writer and publicist, Hilary Sturzaker and her husband, branding professionale, Graham.

‘We met 10 years ago and had bought this place and moved in together, within a year’ Hilary recalls. ‘We both had smaller flats to sell, so were able to afford somewhere this spacious.’ The flat was in good condition, but had been untouched since the 1970’s so it was a bit of a time warp. ‘We wanted to update it and personalize the place. As we were in the early days of our relationship, evenings spent stripping wallpaper and sharing pizza and a few beers seemed fun’ she laughs.

‘I am a food writer and passionate about food trends, local foods and cooking, I write a blog called My Monkfish and publicise lots of eateries in Edinburgh and the Lothians, so the kitchen was our priority. We installed an extensive, new kitchen into what had been the back sitting room, and we created a dining area from the original small, internal kitchen, that we opened up. It is a study and a sitting area, now, where our son Archie plays and we have added patio doors that lead into the garden at the back.’

Hilary and Graham’s offer was not the highest, but the previous owner, a widow, took a liking to them and knew that they wanted to live here and start a family. She had brought her own family up here and wished to sell the flat to a couple rather than the higher bidder who clearly only wanted to rent the flat out as a landlord.

The couple had a further fortuitous moment on the day they got the keys. Hilary remembers, ‘we lifted the fitted orange carpet that lined the hall and realized that the original Victorian floor tiles were all still in tact throughout the whole length of the hall. We put the carpet straight back and left it in place while all the work was being done to the rest of the flat, to protect them. Then, finally, we employed a specialist to repair them back to their original perfect condition. A guy called Valentine Jeffries came up from the south coast, because we had sent him a photo of the floor and he felt compelled to undertake the job.’

Graham’s best friend renovates bathrooms, so they employed him and got that done first. A bathroom is always a major undertaking because it involves all trades and there was a water tank above, housed in a false ceiling that had to come down. ‘It was good to get this out of the way, and update the central heating and boiler before starting the more cosmetic improvements’ Hilary feels. ‘We ended up with a great team of tradesmen, by largely using people we know.’

Together Hilary and Graham stripped the whole flat of woodchip wallpaper, ‘I ended up doing the ceiling, because I am small, I seemed to fit better at the top of a ladder’ she rues. Every wall and ceiling was then plastered and then Hilary and Graham decorated together, ‘the intricate Victorian cornicing was hard work to paint’ she recalls.

Hilary studied endless interiors magazines throughout the project, looking for inspiration and followed the ‘paint it dark’ trend quite closely, enjoying putting together a palette of dramatic greys with vintage finds, retro furniture and collections of graphic posters from their travels.

Hilary has gone for an urban, sophisticated look to her home, and since having Archie 4 years ago she has resisted ‘child proofing’ the apartment. ‘We were determined to continue living in the centre of town: Edinburgh is an extremely child friendly city, we felt no urge to move to the suburbs and put up stair gates everywhere. Our son does have lots of toys, of course, but is happy to keep them tidy, so they do not overwhelm the place and we have chosen original art works and classic books for his room rather than Disney cartoons.’

Graham and Hilary share the same eye, which makes decisions quite easy. ‘We bought a lot online during the renovation, because we wanted unique things rather than High street buys. A graphic designer and branding professional, by trade, Graham is a perfectionist and has taken a lot of trouble to future proof the flat and conceal wiring, which I really appreciate. Details are important to us both; we replaced all the radiators with either retro style or original vintage and we have chosen chrome for all the switches and sockets for instance. I believe that contemporary touches like that prevent a period home from seeming gloomy.’

A fun finishing touch were the gardens. ‘We employed a garden designer who encouraged us to use a good quality AstroTurf on a shady spot and to invest in some decent sized pots around the front door. The previous owner walked past recently, visiting a friend and knocked on the door to say how nice it looked.’

Read Hilary’s blog www.mymonkfish.com. TC
Published: January 2018