WHEN dinner party chatter falls to interior designers, Sam Forrest can hush a room with his claim that Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed the interior of his home. Robinsfield, a B-listed mansion on the edge of Bardowie, in Stirlingshire, was planned by Robert MacAuley Stevenson. The Glasgow architect and painter was a close friend of Mackintosh and enlisted his help to create the unique flourishes that still grace this converted building.
Stevenson originally followed in his father's footsteps and trained as an engineer before enrolling in evening classes at Glasgow School of Design. He was closely associated with the Glasgow Boys and spent much of his adult life living in Robinsfield, which dates from 1895. In 1907, he flexed his own architectural muscles and added his own distinctive designs, including the tower studio, to the original building. Its stone rubble walls, crow step gables and dormers are topped with a slate roof to form an impressive frontage.
Approaching the house by the winding lane from Balmore Road feels more akin to arriving at an exclusive country hotel than an actual residence. It's a sensation that lingers well into the pristine communal lobby.
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Robinsfield was developed in 1985 and converted into five dwellings, four of which share this impressive front door. The scent of fresh flowers pervades the entrance hall and the pristine walls are offset by dark wooden doors adorned with Mackintosh-style lattice patterns. An original stone fireplace forms an imposing centrepiece.
Upstairs, a neat, padded bench has been worked into the banister, presumably to provide a place for visitors to catch their breath. The glass panels above create an attractive light-filled atrium and Mackintosh-style touches are again evident in the intricate metalwork of the lampshades dangling in the stairwell.
The dwelling also has an internal hall that leads into the lounge. While most of the rooms in the house are modestly-sized, the lounge - where the family spend most of their time - is a bright and expansive room. It is dominated by two huge windows that look out on to the communal garden and beyond to a lush meadow leading down to Bardowie Loch. "The window is like a magnet, " says Sam. "Everyone who comes into this room for the first time is drawn to it. That fabulous view is the reason we bought the house."
Sam has lived in the property for the last seven years with his wife Anne and his daughter. After spending all their married life living in Bishopbriggs, the couple wanted to try rural living. The small hamlet of Bardowie provides a feeling of being in the middle of the countryside thanks to the expanse of surrounding green fields, yet is only a few minutes' drive from Milngavie and its many facilities. The cluster of houses on its main street are a short stroll from the loch from which the village takes its name. Would-be seamen can learn how to sail at the Clyde Cruising Club, which is based on the loch.
"We came across the house by accident. We had been to view another house in Kippen and we were driving home when we saw this one. We thought it deserved a revisit. You can't compare it with anything, " says Sam. While the building itself was exactly to the family's taste, the decoration wasn't. "The previous owner rented the house out a lot so the decor was a little tired. But that was right up Anne's street, because she wanted somewhere we could really put our stamp on."
From the hallway, a couple of steps lead to the dining room, which is characterised by a medley of small windows peeping out on to different corners of the garden. Next door, the cream Shaker-style kitchen is where Sam rustles up his culinary creations. The neat cupboards that line opposite walls conceal a wealth of modern appliances. Anne even installed an extra worktop, that is concealed behind a drawer front and can be extended when it is required.
The rooms are laid out in a charming, rambling fashion that ensure you are never quite convinced of what level you are on. There is a double bedroom half-way up the staircase and a couple of steps higher stands a single bedroom that also doubles up as a study. This landing also has a compact utility room and down a few steps on the opposite side is a family bathroom decorated in shades of gold and cream. A deep, inviting bath with old-fashioned brass fittings is nestled under a sloped ceiling.
The T-shaped master bedroom on the upper level is divided into a roomy sleeping area and a dressing area with stunning views across the loch to Bardowie Castle and the Campsie Fells beyond. The views are not the only treats this room has in store. An unassuming narrow glass door leads out on to a small parapet, from where the garden can be surveyed. From here, a tiny but sturdy staircase leads to the top of the turret, where - yet again - there are uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside with Cumbernauld and Glasgow in the distance as well as the Drumgoyne hills . The re-decked sun roof provides a private, elevated family area. Here Sam has installed a barbecue and a dining set that are put to good use on warm days. "It's lovely to come up here with the papers and just enjoy the peace, " he says.
Despite the idyllic location, the couple now have itchy feet to move on. "We're both coming up to retirement age and we've always had a notion to live somewhere by the sea, so we've been looking at places on the Ayrshire coast. My parents lived in Troon in the 1960s and it became quite familiar to me." The chances are that on a clear day they will probably be able to spy their new house from the turret of Robinsfield.
WHERE IT'S AT BARDOWIE
Place: A hamlet beyond Bearsden and Milngavie. It edges on Bardowie Loch and is surrounded by countryside.
Facilities: The village has a sailing club and a tennis club. Other leisure facilities are available in nearby Milngavie and Bearsden.
Shops: Bardowie itself has no shops but there is a large Asda supermarket in Bearsden and various independent shops and a Marks and Spencer in Milngavie.
Schools: The nearest primary school is Baldernock Primary. St Joseph's Primary is just over a mile away, as is Douglas Academy.
Transport: The nearest train station is in Milngavie which is two miles away. The area is a 30-40 minute drive from Glasgow city centre.
What: A converted dwelling within a country mansion build by Robert MacAuley Stevenson and set in three acres of grounds. Three bedrooms, two reception rooms and two bathrooms.
Where: Bardowie, East Dunbartonshire.
Price: Offers over GBP310,000.
Contact: Corum Bearsden on 0141 942 5888.