A Modern Cottage Brings Scandinavian Style to the Hills of Scotland

Responding to its stunning location, this cross-laminated timber home near Edinburgh, Scotland, trades the traditional notion of the stone country cottage for a more contemporary Scandinavian look.

Named Westside Woodshed, this cool cottage—which is now available for holiday rentals—was designed by Edinburgh–based Roxburgh McEwan Architects. The firm worked closely with owners Jenny Cowan and Michael Rummey to create a stylish, cozy retreat on the couple's farmland in the Pentland Hills—a range of scenic hills to the southwest of Edinburgh. 

The home lies at the west end of the couple’s main house, and it takes the form of a traditional gabled roof cottage. However closer inspection reveals an almost imperceptible widening of the building at one end, resulting in more internal space. 

Roxburgh McEwan Architects used cross-laminated timber for the exterior structure and internal divisions. 

"We wanted to move away from the solidity and introversion of traditional stone-built farm buildings to something with a lighter touch, but still as sturdy. This meant views out to the hills, and an awareness of the outside when within. It also meant one main double-height space rather than the more traditional approach of compartmentalizing into smaller spaces," says Cowan. 

 Owner Jenny Cowan says that the cottage was inspired by Scandinavian cabins.  

It was important to the couple that the cottage fit into its rugged, hilly environment, so the architects preserved the existing trees on the site. Kebony wood was used for exterior cladding, which quickly weathered to a natural silver to match the surrounding trees.

Almost all of the cottage's structural elements and internal divisions are made from cross-laminated timber. The only exception is a large wooden beam that runs the length of the apex. The home's windows and doors are by Velfac.

Though cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction is becoming more widely used throughout Scotland and the UK, Cowan says it is still a material that many local architects and contractors aren’t very familiar with. 

The 544-square-foot cottage has a 350-square-foot, double-height ground level with walls and ceilings made of cross-laminated timber. It also has a lofted bedroom that’s about 194 square feet.

"Despite a lack of previous experience with CLT, everyone involved with the project was keen to explore its potential and create something exiting and unique in the process. Of course, this also came with practical challenges. With few wall cavities to work within, wiring and other services within the building had to be cleverly routed. Acoustics with a CLT building should also be carefully considered and some oversights were made. We would also urge caution when considering a concrete floor," says Rummey. 

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Cowan and Rummy took care to ensure that the CLT did not become too domineering. "As it is exposed to sunlight, CLT can become yellow over time, and we felt that this effect could work against the principles of the light and airy spaces we had created. To overcome these concerns, we treated the CLT surfaces with a white oil. The effect is to retain the timber aesthetic, but with a white-washed appearance," says Cowan. 

Light cross-laminated timber panels give the interior, a bright, clean, and contemporary look.

The ground level has polished concrete floors, while the stairs and loft-level floor are made of engineered oak lightly glossed with whitening oil. The subtle silver and white tones of the timber work beautifully with the oak and concrete. 

The living area features a HK Living canvas sofa from Homer Edinburgh and cushions by Bluebell Gray Morar. A wooden staircase leads up to the bedroom. 

Birch plywood window and door jambs, and built-in furniture add warmth to the snug and compact space. 

"Like the interior, we were keen to keep the essential exterior forms uncomplicated and clean—but with enough of a twist to keep the architecture lively and interesting," says Rummey.  

Although its finishes are modern, the home respects the traditional cottage vernacular found throughout the region. By combining a gabled roof with a carefully chosen palette of materials, the architects gave a nod to the cottage's inspiration—the traditional agricultural woodshed. 

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Cowan and Rummy wanted to keep as much of the cross-laminated timber exposed as possible. The team treated the timber with an oil that protects it from UV light and everyday dirt.

"The Westside Woodshed is a sanctuary in the hills that’s uplifting, light, and spacious, yet at the same time snug and protective," says Cowan.

Muted colors and a restrained palette of naturalistic materials combine to create an understated yet confident and beautiful contribution to the hilly landscape.

The Westside Woodshed is available available for rent through Eastside Cottages.

Because the site is exposed to wind and rain at certain times of the year, Cowan and Rummey knew the cottage needed to be not just attractive, but practical too. The corrugated steel roof is a carefully choreographed shade of grey that doesn't draw attention. Traditional dry stone dykes run through the landscaping and along one side of the building to further a sense of ‘belonging’ within the landscape.

Project credits: 

Architecture, and cabinetry design: Roxburgh McEwan Architects

Builder: PJM Joinery 

Structural engineering: AED Consulting

Lighting design: Michael Rummey

Cabinetry builders: ROC Workshops 


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