A SLEEK, contemporary clifftop home near Dalbeattie, a lovingly restored former Victorian girls' school in Kelso and a stylishly converted Eyemouth grain mill are among the contenders as the search for Scotland's Home of the Year gets under way this week.

The BBC Scotland series will criss-cross the nation to find a worthy successor to The White House, a stunning property overlooking Kirkcudbright Bay, which clinched top spot for owner Lesley Smith in 2019.

Among those hoping to impress the judges is Cathy Copson, who spent six months taking a derelict, crumbling Victorian building with sagging ceilings, dodgy electrics and rotting woodwork back to its former glory and adding in a few extra flourishes.

Copson relocated to the Borders from London three years ago seeking a change of scenery, career and lifestyle. From the moment she clapped eyes on the former schoolhouse, she knew it would make the perfect home to raise her five-year-old son Jude and their cockapoo Betty.

"It is unusual for properties to come up on this street in Kelso," she says. "They are all Victorian houses and each different. When I was looking, there were actually four properties for sale.

"This one wasn't advertised online. I came up to look at the other three and saw it. Even though it was a complete wreck, it felt like fate. I couldn't stop thinking about it afterwards."

The renovations required were not for the faint-hearted. "It had been uninhabited for quite some time and was standing empty – the roof had gone, the windows were rotten, and previous tenants had ripped out the original marble fireplace with a sledgehammer," recalls Copson.

"There had been decades of neglect. Roof, windows, wiring, plumbing, stonework – that all had to be done before I even started thinking about interiors.

"It was stripped right back and fully rewired. There were wires in the loft that were 100 years old attached to wires from 10 years ago. I had to pull ceilings down in some rooms because you could see they were dipping.

READ MORE: Teddy Jamieson on the meaning of home

"A lot of the stone at the front had been rendered and that all crumbled away. A stonemason who had worked on Floors Castle came in and the render was replaced with proper stone. The local tradespeople were amazing – some of them came to my house-warming."

The interiors remain true to the period character of the property with some tweaks to make it compatible with 21st-century living.

Was a blank canvas exciting or overwhelming? "I loved it," enthuses Copson. "This project was great to get my teeth into. I had brought furniture from my old property, which was a Victorian terrace and a lot smaller-scale – this house is three times the size.

"I'm a big fan of grey – you can always use an accent colour. I love old buildings and period properties, but like most people who live in older properties, they have to be relevant to how we live today.

"I don't want to live in a cold, draughty house. I wanted to pay tribute to the beautiful features that period properties come with, such as the cornicing, but with a modern take and timeless feel because I don't want to be buying new furniture or repainting in five years."

Copson had no hesitation about rolling up her sleeves to get stuck in. "It was a learning process," she says. "I'm not an interior designer. Nowhere near. But I think I have an eye for what looks good.

"The great thing about this house is it has lots of light. I kept the original floorboards, sanded them down and whitewashed them, which I think is lovely because it feels a lot lighter and contemporary – it was a very dark wood floor before. I got a Carrara marble fireplace from a reclamation yard."

As for her favourite room in the house? It's a toss-up between Jude's eye-catching bedroom and the sprawling basement kitchen. "To be honest, we don't really use the ground floor," she says. "We live in the kitchen – we have a TV, sofa, dining table – and that is the happy place."

Since moving to Kelso, Copson has swapped a long-term career in recruitment to work as a consultant, house doctor and relocation advisor for a property firm, and is overseeing new business for a restaurant in nearby Melrose.

"I love living here and I'm passionate about the area," she says. "It could be the most beautiful house in the world, but if you don't feel accepted or part of the community, then it won't feel like home. The people in the Borders are amazing. Everyone has been super-friendly and welcoming."

READ MORE: Teddy Jamieson on the meaning of home

Copson's home will be up against two other properties – a clifftop home near Dalbeattie and a converted grain mill in Eyemouth – in the opening episode, covering the Borders and southern Scotland, to see who makes it to the final.

Scoring each home is a trio of judges: architect Michael Angus, interior designer Anna Campbell-Jones and lifestyle blogger Kate Spiers. It's a tough job, as Angus – who learned his craft at the Glasgow School of Art and is now a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde – will attest.

"This series we will see houses that are gobsmacking and stunning for all sorts of different reasons," he says. "The things people have done, the incredible investment and how they have transformed the interiors and exteriors.

"The homes are individual, full of character, rich and bold. The judging got tight because we were looking at so many amazing homes."

Yet, the judges are looking beyond merely bricks and mortar. "The show is very much about the idea of home: it is not about simply the house," says Angus. "My expertise is architecture, spaces and construction, Anna's is interiors and Kate's is lifestyle – although it is impossible for those lines not to blur sometimes."

The coronavirus pandemic has seen many of us spending more time at home than usual. Angus agrees that being transported into the homes of others – via our televisions – is ideal escapism.

"We are suddenly looking at our own homes and thinking: 'If I'm going to be stuck here for months, I do want it to be a paradise.'" In his case, that's meant opting for enhanced greenery. "I'm seriously looking after my plants. They are blossoming. It is incredible. I have a little jungle," he laughs.

As an architect, what makes his heart sing? "I love all architecture. I don't have a particular idiom. I am able to discern something that is crafted and cared for. Those things matter. How much investment, love, imagination and individuality has gone into it.

"I have a thing about how the spaces correlate. I'm always interested when a wall has been taken down, a window enlarged, or a room knocked through into another room – when people have interfered with the fabric of an existing building.

READ MORE: Teddy Jamieson on the meaning of home

"I look for things that are interesting or innovative architecturally. It is about the quality of the spaces and how the proportions are composed. Homes should be magical."

Scotland's Home of the Year returns to BBC Scotland, Wednesday, 8pm

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