The last decade has seen many changes for top hairdresser Rita Rusk.

Ann Donald meets her in her Ayrshire mansion and finds a collection of

treasures gathered from around the world

THE number of people who can boast of their home's inclusion in the

lush coffee-table book Mansions and Castles of Ayrshire would be a

rather exclusive circle, one imagines. From this elite group, the number

of hairdressers who can pride themselves on a write-up in said book must

be a rare species indeed, but that's exactly the category top Scottish

hairdresser Rita Rusk falls into.

After leaving school in the sixties, the ambitious Rusk launched

herself into the world of hairdressing, eventually setting up her own

successful partnership with first husband Irvine in their West Nile

Street salon in Glasgow. The last decade -- or ''my second life'' as the

stylish and genial businesswoman puts it -- has witnessed the

establishment of Rita Rusk International Hairdressing School, a new

partnership with her sister, a new husband, worldwide seminars and

exhibitions, and a change of address from deepest Lanarkshire to deepest


It is in the latter spot we find ourselves, trundling, albeit very

comfortably, in her sturdy Range Rover, up the half-mile-long muddy

driveway paved in autumn leaves to Chez Rusk. Surrounded by 17 acres of

awe-inspiring pastoral land and views that photographer Colin Baxter

would crawl on hands and knees to capture, is the eighteenth-century

mansion replete with Greek Doric columns framing the front door. This is

home sweet home to the extended Rusk family of stepsons, mother-in-law,

and a steady stream of house guests who inhabit the 14-room abode on a

regular basis.

With the gardener busy trimming and pruning outside and the

housekeeper bustling about in the kitchen, we head into the sitting room

to discover ''The Rusk Collection''. A self-confessed magpie and

lifelong collector who finds it impossible to throw anything out, Rusk's

home, and specifically this vast sitting room, has become an incredible

repository of objets d'art that testify to her inveterate yen for

travel. If they continue to accumulate at their present rate, the

Ayrshire mansion could well find itself on the cultural map as a

satellite branch of the Burrell Collection.

Framed against the dusky-pink painted walls and three large windows

and fettered by blinds or curtains are a fascinating collection of

paintings, sculptures, books, and objects that embrace every style from

art deco to avant-garde and originate it seems, from any country you

care to stick a pin into on Bartholomew's world map. Here is where a

collection of six little models of Barbados river police share the same

space as an original art-deco lamp from New York, a wooden warrior from

Kenya and an original Craig Mulholland chalk drawing.

Qualifying her eclectic taste, Rusk says: ''I've got a very strong

idea of what I like. What I was going for with this room is a mix of

both the modern and antique because I love both but would never have

solely one or the other.''

So, nursing a bad cold and in between sips of coffee and cough

mixture, our ''curator'' talks me through some of her favourite pieces.

Pointing to the open box of antique jade beside her on the velvet mini

chais-longue, Rusk explains how she managed to acquire such beautiful

pieces for a bargain price.

''I was in Taiwan with my agent Sam Chen and he took me to this jade

market which is like the Barras, only it's absolutely massive with

hundreds of stalls,'' she recalls. ''Anyway, some pieces Taiwanese

people don't like to sell to foreigners because they don't want the jade

to leave the country for some kind of spiritual reason and therefore

price it completely out of the usual league.''

As a canny shopper Rusk was told to disappear by her companion Chen

and he bargained on her behalf which finally resulted in the exquisite

carved sea and mythical creatures in delicately coloured hues of blue,

green and orange ending up in a secluded Ayrshire home.

The oriental theme continues with the ornate Chinese vases and bulging

Buddha figurines that adorn the original eighteenth century black marble

mantelpiece together with the rest of the eastern collection that is

housed in the glass art-deco display cabinet.

Here is where a valuable ancient Chinese tea-set replete with

miniature cups and saucers rests alongside another box of jade pieces

and luminous green soap stone models of Chinese dragons. As for the

''anachronistic cabinet'' the ultra style-conscious Rusk initially had

major reservations. ''I always thought that display cabinets were the

sort of thing you used to laugh at your granny for having,'' she

chuckles. ''But I was collecting more and more stuff so I needed

somewhere to put it. So I thought oh, to hell with it, and got this.''

In complete contrast to these graceful Chinese pieces and bounding on

a few centuries in the style stakes is Rusk's favourite avant-garde

piece of art. By London-based sculptor Nigel Reid-Foster, this

intriguing rusty mesh of steel overlaid with chains emerges from a cream

coloured board and stands about six feet tall. ''I love the whole

simplicity of line in his,'' enthuses Rusk, before highlighting the tiny

biblical passages that have been wrapped around each chain. ''I find it

an incredible piece of work,'' and she adds laughing, ''it just looks

like part of the wall.''

It is to the credit of Rusk's clear eye that she has succeeded in

blending in numerous disparate objects displayed in the sitting room

without visitors ever feeling they are in the midst of any pseudo

antiques roadshow raggle-taggle of clashing cultures and centuries.

Given her own line of work it is not surprising when she reveals a

sideline hobby in advising friends on their home interiors. ''I adore

anything arty'', she laughs. ''So I suppose it all comes out in your

home. I still love hairdressing but when I stop enjoying it I'll get out

and do something else.''

''Who knows?'' she adds with a philosophical shrug. ''It could be

interior design.''

Watch and wait for Rita Rusk International could well be adding

another artistic feather to its cap before the decade is out.