Renovating a historic house: Traditional interiors restored for modern living

The Duke and Duchess of Fife, David and Caroline are the owners of Elsick House which has been in David’s family since the 1300’s. Here, Caroline talks about the restoration of the house and what inspired them to create an ideal space for entertaining and modern living whilst still retaining traditional features.

“Elsick House has been in the family since the 1300s, and it was where David was brought up. There’s a huge amount of history within these walls. Sadly, David’s dad passed away in 2015 leaving the house and estate to us. We have frequented here with our family over the years so the house truly holds a lot of cherished memories.”

The Restoration

“We rescued the house and restored it with a lot of love and it has certainly come alive again! We re-wired, re-plumbed and added more bathrooms. Making the most of the 11 bedrooms, en-suites added more modern living to the house.

Alexandra bedroom
The Alexandra Bedroom
Ensuite bathroom with roll top bath and freestanding shower
En suite added to The Alexandra Bedroom

It was important to us to have a lot of open living and entertaining space, which I think we’ve achieved. We didn’t want a fussy formal atmosphere. We tried to keep the house old with a modern twist, so the traditional features have been kept but perhaps updated. A fresh colour palette was used, with some flair and personality given to each room through accents.

Drawing room through to the dining room
View from The Drawing Room to The Dining Room

The MacDuff bedroom is my favourite, most probably because it was actually David’s bedroom/nursery growing up. It’s just timeless, I love the quirky old panelling that isn’t straight, but why would one mend this feature? It’s the cosiest part of the house and will always remain the ‘nursery’ to me.

MacDuff bedroom in Elsick House
The Macduff Bedroom was David’s childhood bedroom and ‘The Nursery.”

I also love the study, I love the masculine, non-feminine feel to it with its vintage leather sofas and natural fabrics, again this room is simply timeless.”

The study room at Elsick House with Chesterfield sofa and fireplace
The Study

The Furnishings

“We bought everything from scratch. Taylor’s Auctions were a fabulous source as was Coach House, which I absolutely love! I’d say our biggest splash out was our dining table which seats 16 people. Our best buys were the two large art pieces in the main foyer which were only £50 for both from Taylor’s Auctions. David came up with the genius idea of taking pictures of our original art from our home in Angus, and having them made into large canvases then mounted and framed in a traditional way fitting for the house – so although they are not originals, they are loved pieces from our home, many pieces are of family through the generations!

The Dining Room features family portraits from through the generations

I have a love of the Edwardian period and Downton Abbey, I find it very romantic. I would say that there is always something good in every era though. I love natural, vintage fabrics with fresh neutral pallets. Soft corals and petrol blues are amongst some of my favourite colours, but I hugely dislike navy carpets – which we had running through the house, but I’m happy to say, I gained permission to change these!”

Inside the drawing room at Elsick House with fresh flowers and red cushions

Originally published by No. 1 Magazine. June 7, 2017. Interview by Robyn Lang-Shankland. Main image by Firefly & Embers Photography.