Stronvar Farm is the major part of a steading complex of the style typical of the great estates of the rural Highlands. Now B Listed, it was originally the service building for nearby Stronvar House, itself the centre of the old Carnegie estate. Stronvar Farm included hay lofts, a byre and stables, the dairy, coach house and coachman’s accommodation.
During the 20th century, the building has been subdivided by block work partitions and false ceilings to create bedrooms in the former hay loft – the old hay loft door was bricked up at the same time. The whole however became increasing derelict, especially following the sale and breakup of the Carnegie estate in 1954 – the byre was used until about 1973 as the toilet block for an adjacent campsite. The building was eventually saved from complete ruin in the late 1970s by a local builder who bought it and converted it to his family home, with the old byre turned into a self-contained holiday flat – still retaining the sloping byre floor. At the same time the dairy was divided to create a bathroom and two bedrooms.
So Stronvar is currently a 6-bedroom property, having effectively not been touched since the original conversion, is uninsulated and, as we’ve discovered, is partially and ineffectively heated by a system that would be somewhat cheaper to run of we fuelled it by burning £10 notes.
The Big Job then is to renovate and update the building in a way that restores its original character, is sympathetic to its history and importance and makes it into a comfortable and modern living and working environment for ourselves, our businesses and our assorted animals. So we’re about to:
- Fully insulate the property to as close to current best practice as was possible whilst revealing and enhancing the character of the building.
- Install modern renewable energy systems and heating in as unobtrusive a way as possible.
- Minimise overall power consumption and carbon footprint.
- Restore the original spaces as far as was practicable – we wanted fewer, larger, multi-purpose spaces and didn’t need the existing six-bedroom layout.
- Make full use of the original attic space/hayloft, which had been sealed off by the 20th century false ceilings
- Equip it with all the network, communication and control systems needed for modern living. Well, actually, for our modern living – we entirely accept that not everyone is a sad geek…
And we need to do all that within the constraints of its listed status and the existing building footprint – as part of a larger complex, any significant external change would be neither appropriate nor allowable.
We’re planning to do the work in two main phases: the first includes getting all the basic infrastructure in and completely renovating downstairs. The idea is that we’ll then move in there whilst upstairs is worked on. We reckon it’s a two to three-year job, a concept that may well come back to haunt us.
The rest of the renovation part of this blog is about how we’ve achieved that.