Inspired by simple Scottish and Swedish structures in remote locations, Annie and Lachlan Stewart have created an ‘instant’ hideaway. Amelia Thorpe takes a look.
The Scottish Highlands are dotted with bothies, the simple huts that once provided accommodation for itinerant workers and remain a treasured part of its more remote landscape. For Lachlan and Annie Stewart, the husband-and-wife founders of Scottish architecture and design firm Anta, these traditional structures provided the inspiration for a new version, complete with modern creature comforts.
‘During lockdown, we realised the potential of creating a separate space in which to go to work or study — somewhere quiet and not in the house, so you don’t have to pore over books in your bedroom,’ says Annie. The result was a compact and self-contained home-working or accommodation space, designed for year-round use and appropriately called The Bothy, as it is built in the Highlands where Anta is based. Of course, the cabin’s potential does not stop at office or study: Mrs Stewart says they have also supplied The Bothy for use as an extra bedroom in the garden, somewhere to home school children, and several for use as holiday rentals.
Mrs Stewart was also motivated to begin work on the design after attending a lecture by Scottish journalist Lesley Riddoch. ‘Lesley described the Swedish notion of a wooden hut in the forest, where families would be able to down tools after a week in the city and spend the weekend outside,’ she explains. ‘The idea made a big impression, because the huts are a community project, with everyone helping each other, clearing snow, cutting down timber and cooking outside together. It sounded fun, like glorified camping.’ The opportunity to create a similar style of structure, well suited to a countryside location, was tempting.
As a conservation architect, Mr Stewart has extensive experience of traditional and sustainable building materials and of what it takes to make all kinds of structures warm and comfortable, not least because he restored their own home, a ruined 16th-century castle overlooking the Moray Firth, north of Inverness. Indeed, The Bothy is a development of a timber-frame building he designed in 2010. Its design benefited from his growing understanding of how to create low-impact structures that sit sympathetically within the Highlands landscape. Conceived as a ‘floating structure’, it can sit on either timber-pile or concrete-spot foundations, depending on ground conditions. It measures a compact 5.21m by 2.25m (17ft by 7½ft), so it can be transported to its destination on a lorry.
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The exterior of The Bothy is clad in sustainably sourced Scottish larch, panelled in a traditional ‘hit-and-miss’ style, with boards alternately fixed on the front and back of each panel with an overlap for good insulation. ‘Larch doesn’t need to be treated and will turn a beautiful grey, like driftwood, over time,’ says Mr Stewart. The cabin is topped with a galvanised corrugated-steel roof and finished with high-performance double-glazed windows and an external door, the frames painted in Anta Newhailes Green. To complete the exterior, larch hurdles shelter the deck.
Each cabin comes with a fully kitted-out interior, designed by Mrs Stewart. She heads the home-furnishings side of their company, which is known for its tweeds and tartans and handmade pottery, made at the Anta studio and factory in Ross-shire, north of the Black Isle. To ensure The Bothy is cosy year round and to provide natural insulation, walls are upholstered in tweed woven in the Borders. A double sofa bed with sprung mattress is covered in the same tweed, with storage below, or there is the option to include a built-in desk instead.
Functional elements are hidden: the kitchen is concealed in two cupboards, one to contain the hob and fridge, the other the sink and storage, both featuring hand-painted tartan tiles by Anta. A Douglas fir door leads to a shower room with loo and basin, with a loft above, useful as an extra sleeping space. Mrs Stewart notes: ‘The Bothy is about the same size as a cabin on an ocean liner and feels surprisingly luxurious and very comfortable.’
The Bothy costs £36,000 from Anta — www.anta.co.uk. In September, Anta will open a new store in an early-18th-century townhouse, Crocket’s Land, 91, West Bow, Edinburgh.