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Open any design magazine today and you're bound to find an article or two about the hottest boutique hotel. Like so many other designers, I've always found great inspiration from the grand hotels of yesteryear to the trendiest modern resorts and spas. Every great city of the world has at least two or three of these establishments worthy of any designista's admiration, and I'll feature some of my favorites in upcoming blogs. However, recently my wanderlust has pulled me away from the bustling metropolitan areas and into more remote and isolated parts of the world. It is here where I've found some truly amazing design inspiration ... in places where I would have least expected it.
Off the western coast of Scotland lies a group of islands known as The Outer Hebrides. The islands are truly a destination. You certainly won't stumble upon them during a traditional trek through Scotland on a golfing adventure or whiskey tasting tour. Harris, the most famous of the group - think Harris Tweed - is home to a self accommodating vacation rental called Blacksheep House.
Blacksheep House is the passion of two ex-mainlanders, Pete and Christine Hope. Using the ruins of a traditional Scottish blackhouse (a low stone dwelling that disappears into the landscape, with a thatched roof), Pete and Christine have created one of the most unique structures on the vacation rental market. Pete, a dry stone wall builder by trade, extended the existing one-meter thick walls of the ruin utilizing as much existing stonework as possible with the intention of creating minimal visual impact as not to distract from the beauty of the location. With its turf grass roof and natural stone walls, it is as if the earth erupted this quaint little house onto this remote Scottish island.
With the nearest major shopping center several hours away, Christine furnished the house (with an eye on shipping costs) utilizing online shopping from her dial-up modem. One special space is the hand tiled bathroom featuring large Gaudi-like mosaics and a Japanese soaking tub.
The very spacious open plan living area features vast panoramic windows providing 180 degrees of stunning views of the Sound of Harris.
I was fortunate to be one of Blacksheep House's first visitors. It was then that I knew that Pete and Christine had created something truly magical. Since then, they have received numerous honors and accolades including Channel 4's Grand Designs House of the Year 2008. Blacksheep House inspires me on two different levels. First, I completely admire how the house is seamlessly incorporated into the landscape. Its organic construction is green design at its finest. From a distance, it appears to be little more than an outcropping of rocks jutting from the hillside. Secondly, I commend the Hopes for their creativity in taking the old blackhouse ruins (really little more than a pile of rubble) and revitalizing the structure into a modern dwelling. Blacksheep House truly is a project of vision and passion.
Map courtesy of google maps.