South Scotland

Step inside Scotland's Home of the Year

Image caption The house was built around the view of Kirkcudbright bay

When Mike and Lesley Smith were living in Northern Ireland they would regularly "fly past the lovely scenery" of south west Scotland.

It was only when they came for a holiday in 2002 that they stopped and found the spot where they thought they could build a new home.

Eight years later and The White House - their property looking out over Kirkcudbright Bay - was complete.

However, fate would not allow them much time to enjoy their new home together.

The White House
Image caption It took eight years from finding the site to complete the build

Mr Smith died of a heart attack following complex surgery in 2011 - a little more than 12 months after the couple had moved in.

However, his wife says the memories of building the property and that "very, very happy" year are an integral part of the premises.

Lesley Smith
Image caption Lesley Smith said her late husband would have smiled at the thought of winning the honour

And now it has won over three judges - architect Michael Angus, interior designer Anna Campbell-Jones and lifestyle blogger Kate Spiers - to be unanimously crowned Scotland's Home of the Year.

It saw off 20 other houses to triumph in the series screened on BBC Scotland.

Image caption Judge Kate Spiers said it was the library which had blown her away

Ms Campbell-Jones said: "Everything in the house had been given thoughtful consideration, from the big architectural vision to the tactile details.

"The whole home exuded personality, the furniture and artworks clearly demonstrated many years of collecting with love and discernment and the way that incredible view is revealed as you enter the house is breathtaking."

Ms Spiers said they had all fallen in love with the building.

"The owners had built the home around the view, but for me, it was the library that blew me away," she said.

"The curved walls were stacked floor to ceiling with books so that they could be read and loved. It was magical."

The house was the completion of a long-held dream for the couple.

"My late husband and I, we knew we wanted to build and so it became a kind of hobby of ours to look for potential sites wherever we were going," said Mrs Smith.

"We lived in Northern Ireland for 10 years and as we were bombing up and down the A75 we realised we were flying past lovely scenery but we were always in a hurry to catch a ferry.

"In 2002 we decided that we would take a holiday in the region.

"We were driving around and we drove into Kirkcudbright and we looked at each other and we thought: 'This is a nice place, we could live here.'"

Room in The White House
Image caption The White House saw off 20 other contenders for the title

When they found the site with a view of the bay they realised, according to Mrs Smith, "if we don't pursue this, we'll regret it".

It wasn't a quick process as they had to buy the site and then find architects Page\Park to oversee the project.

"We started the build in the autumn of 2008 and we moved in in the summer of 2010," said Mrs Smith.

After such a long wait, she told the BBC Scotland news website, the house "more than" lived up to expectations.

Image caption Mrs Smith said the house had "more than" met their expectations

"We just couldn't really believe that we had done it, it was just so good," she said.

"We had to keep pinching ourselves that this wasn't just a dream that we were both accidentally having, this was real."

She describes the house as "built to exploit the view" but also to fit in with the landscape.

"It is curved, it has its own cylindrical form and the house with its cylindrical form kind of echoes the shape of the bay," she said.

The White House
Image caption The design is meant to echo the shape of the nearby bay

However, she admitted she had no idea if it could win the overall award.

"It is Scotland's home of the year, not house of the year," she said.

"I knew that architecturally it was very distinctive and I thought the architect - among the judges - would like it.

"But it is the home of the year so it was very much what we had done with the interior that was going to be important for the interior designer and the lifestyle judge.

"I wasn't entirely certain about that because that is so much a matter of individual taste and I wasn't certain what they might be looking for.

"But, as it turned out they were looking for the sorts of things that they found in the house."

Image caption The property is not only a "striking house" but also a "lovely home"

The items the couple gathered over 30 years ensured the "striking house" was also a "lovely home".

"All the happy memories are built into the house - partly because it took so long to come into being from the first moment that we saw the site," said Mrs Smith.

"So it represents that last period of our life together and then that very, very happy year we had together in the house, just enjoying what we had done.

"I know Mike would be smiling at the idea we've created Scotland's Home of the Year.

"It's made me really happy and reminds me that although we only had a short time here together, it's where we felt most at home because it's a house that's absolutely ours in every sense."

Lesley Smith
Image caption Mrs Smith said that "happy memories" were part of the building

Episodes of Scotland's Home of the Year are available to watch via iPlayer.

All images are copyrighted.

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