A Lord & Lady's Georgian Mansion in Perthshire
A welcoming sense of family, community and creativity run through Lord and Lady Inchyra’s beautiful home. Feature Sara Bird. Photographs Dan Duchars / GAP Interiors / The Contented Nest
The challenge for anyone inheriting a family home is how to bring it into the modern age without sacrificing its heritage or precious family memories. And the more substantial the house, the greater the challenge. James and Caroline Inchyra are third-generation owners of Inchyra, a beautiful nine-bedroom Georgian property on an estate in Perthshire. It had been bought by James’s grandparents to retire to in the 1950s and remained his grandmother’s home until her death in 1999, so it was very much a formal house when he and Caroline arrived in 2003.
‘We were lucky in that it had been well-maintained and was in good nick,’ explains Caroline. James’s parents felt the house needed a family and, as far as Caroline has been able to trace back, their children are the first to have been raised at Inchyra. Their presence has been a big influence she says: ‘They’ve definitely made it more relaxed.’
Caroline admits that it took quite a long time to get her head around decorating the house and more still to pluck up the courage to start. ‘Eventually, you come to the realisation that this is your home and you’ve got to make it work for you,’ she says. ‘Our day-to-day life is very different from what has gone before. I am probably the first owner to cook, and my children all lie on the sofas – I don’t think anyone lay on sofas 50 years ago!’
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The move to modernisation included installing heating on the top floor where the children’s bedrooms are, as well as a new kitchen kindly installed by James’s parents for the family. ‘The kitchen was a wonderful hand-me-down that I had input on,’ says Caroline. ‘That room is all about those wonderful windows so I didn’t want wall cabinets. And I didn’t want modern, which we had before in London,’ she adds.
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With its traditional Welsh dresser, a Victorian pine cabinet, and a vast larder at one end – a clever mash-up of two cupboards, one from a church and the other Victorian wall storage – the kitchen is an inviting space, very much the heart of the home, and Caroline takes great pleasure in not having to continually tidy things away.
The renovations also included the hallways but the programme halted when the house suffered a flood in 2010. It was an unusually bitter winter and a sudden spike saw overnight temperatures of -15°C soar to +8°C, causing two feet of snow on the roof to melt. With the downpipes still frozen, the water went under the flashings and poured down through the house. ‘It was heartbreaking,’ admits Caroline. ‘It took a year to dry out and a further year to get back to a decent starting point, but it was also liberating in a way – it allowed me to recreate the rooms as I wanted them to be.’
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As a consequence, the drawing room and dining room are now less formal. ‘Before the flood, the drawing room was used for opening Christmas presents and that was about it,’ says Caroline. ‘The new design includes comfortable George Smith sofas in dark fabrics and now we all gravitate to that room, which is fabulous.’
The house has not evolved in isolation, however. On moving to Perthshire, Caroline set up an antiques business out of which grew a second career in fabric design. She launched her first Inchyra fabric collection in 2012, featuring linens and wools inspired by antique fabrics. It has been hugely successful and the latest ranges mark a move towards bigger and bolder prints, in many ways influenced by the way Caroline has used pattern at home.
‘The designs have always worked brilliantly well in the cottages but it can be daunting putting pattern of any kind into rooms of a size,’ she says. ‘The new collections have much bigger patterns that won’t get swallowed up – I have tried them all over the house and they work,’ she adds.
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Previous collections have been inspired by Caroline’s love of antiques, notably china, of which she has several cases. ‘I am definitely a collector,’ she says, whether that be ephemera, chairs or china. ‘I have never had a matching dinner service. I’m not very good at spending lots of money on things, so I would far rather buy something gorgeous that’s also a bargain,’ she says, adding that she likes things to be built to last.
‘I’ve got a lovely old Howard sofa that I am about to re-cover for a second time. It came out of the library here and is probably on its fourth cover in 50 years and yet it’s still a really beautiful sofa.’
Caroline admits that she has probably introduced things to the house that wouldn’t have been there 100 years ago, but it all works. ‘There is something incredibly special about rooms that evolve with the family,’ she says, which is apt as both house and business are all about family. Alongside the Inchyra fabric collection and sister company Inchyra Home, the couple run two further businesses on the estate, aided by Caroline’s brother Tim and his family. The Byre is an award-winning weddings and events business and the popular Inchyra Arts Club attracts an eclectic mix of high-profile musicians to the area. ‘
A house like this creates a sense of community and it’s always incredibly busy,’ says Caroline. ‘But I wouldn’t want it any other way… it feels very alive.’
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