Holden House

‘We injected some LA cool into our Scottish bungalow’

May 3, 2023

In 2020, freelance interior and graphic designer Fran Holden and her husband Martin, who works for a technology and telecommunications firm, bought and set about transforming a Scottish bungalow.

Together with their children, Bailey and Esmé, they took a gamble during lockdown having outgrown their previous Victorian house in the town of Broxburn in West Lothian. They set their sights on Linlithgow, a favourite town of theirs 20 miles west of Edinburgh, where they had found a four-bedroom detached mid-century home.

‘It was quite tricky during lockdown and houses were selling fast,’ recalls Fran. ‘I’d seen this property lots of times online, but Martin always said it looked like a 1970s primary school! However, I finally convinced him to go and view it and, like me, he instantly loved the setting in its own grounds, and the amount of light coming through all the big windows.’

transforming a Scottish bungalow with sunken living room, retro bar area and grey sofa

A railing previously divided the living room from the raised hallway, with just three tiny steps at one end. Extending the steps all the way along now give the space a sunken lounge feel. The sofa is from Sofa.com; bird cushion from Scatter Box; mirror from Melody Maison. Photo: Katie Lee

A great deal

Since the property was too large for downsizers and a big leap up the ladder for families, it had languished on the market for a year. ‘A property developer had acquired it in a part-exchange deal, and they just wanted to shift it, so we got it for less than the home report valuation,’ explains Fran.

‘However, they gave us a tight deadline to complete the sale, then our initial buyer pulled out, so it was a race against the clock. We eventually moved in three days before Christmas in 2020, which was stressful to say the least.’

In Scotland, once an offer is accepted you can’t re-enter the property, so the couple’s memory of their half-hour viewing had begun to fade. ‘In my head, the living room was on the other side,’ says Fran. ‘So living in the space first to see how we used it before committing to a plan made sense.’

original bar found in a Scottish bungalow reinstated and modernised with blue colour blocking and terrazzo worktop

The original bar was built in 1972, as the couple found the date and joiners names written inside it. ‘It seemed a bit ostentatious, but when we stripped it out we realised there wasn’t anything else you would do with that space, so decided to re-build and colour-block it to suit our style’. Photo: Katie Lee

Modernising from the ground up

The first major task was taking up the flooring in the living room, kitchen-diner and hall before adding underfloor heating and new engineered oak flooring. Although there was original hardwood parquet under the living room carpet, it couldn’t be salvaged since newer boards had been glued and nailed to it, says Fran.

‘Esmé was just learning to walk, and as the floor was stripped back to the joists with a four-feet drop in the dining room, we had to barricade the area to stop her getting in!’

The 1970s bar with mock panelling was another feature that needed some serious thought. ‘It was huge and looked like the Fawlty Towers reception,’ recalls Fran. ‘So we re-built a smaller, more contemporary version and clad the original canopy, so now it feels like a really cool thing to have.’

transforming a Scottish bungalow: white kitchen with gloss cabinets and terrazzo-effect LVT flooring leading on to dining room and garden

As the kitchen was installed by the previous owners within the last ten years, Fran and Martin just replaced the brown vinyl flooring with a terrazzo-effect LVT from Topps Tiles. Future plans include vinyl-wrapping the cupboard doors and adding a micro-cement worktop. Photo: Katie Lee

Transforming the bungalow into a family home

Turning a shower room into a bathroom, increasing the utility and creating built-in storage in the bedrooms, playroom and pantry have all made the bungalow more family-friendly. Part of the garage was also converted into an office so the couple can both work from home.

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‘I always add in as much functionality and storage where I can,’ explains Fran. ‘Adding a proper loft hatch was invaluable and the concealed pantry has been a godsend. It’s like a whole kitchen’s worth of storage, so whenever a room has been decorated, everything goes in there.’

As Fran is an interior designer and accountant Martin is adept at negotiating prices, the pair made a great team. They were also lucky to have several tradespeople in the family. Fran’s brother James is a decorator, her cousin Bryan a joiner and uncle Bryan a plumber, so all they needed to find was an electrician and a tiler.

dining area with yellow arch feature wall, vintage g-plan sideboard and yellow wall art

The dining area’s arch is painted in Light Gold by Little Greene, providing the perfect backdrop for the G-plan sideboard Fran sourced on Vinterior. A lamp from Dunelm completes the look. Photo: Katie Lee

Bold, playful and thoughtful

Style-wise, Fran describes her look as bold, playful and thoughtful, finding inspiration from her travels as well as Pinterest and Instagram where she posts as @forever_bungalow. ‘I like to use colour a lot and love to mix materials, surfaces and texture,’ she says.

‘I feel like interior design is about understanding the functionality you need, coupled with the capabilities of the material you’re working with – as well as making it look good. I like to go bespoke wherever possible, so you know that you’re getting a one-off.’

Tackling the garden, which extends to just under an acre and includes several fruit trees, has also taken a lot of energy. ‘It was wild and overgrown, so we’ve cleared quite a bit of it,’ says Fran. ‘There was a lot of shrubbery growing right in front of the windows, so we’ve opened up the views a little. It’s so nice to open up the doors now on a sunny day.’

bedroom with forest green feature wall and pendant lights with long brass fixtures

The couple wanted a grown-up, uncluttered space, so painted a feature canopy on the wall and ceiling in Mid Azure Green by Little Greene. The spherical House Doctor pendants are from Amara, and the colourful throw is from Stray Studio. Photo: Katie Lee

Some unforeseen costs, but no regrets

Next on the agenda is decorating the new utility room and guest bedroom, while longer term, the pair hope to revamp their beige en suite and give the kitchen a makeover by wrapping the existing units.

‘I like the functional, open layout of the kitchen, but the wall cupboards are too bulky, and I don’t like the lights underneath or the splashback tiles,’ admits Fran. ‘Eventually I’d like some open shelving and definitely more colour.’

Despite several unforeseen costs, such as having to hire 14 skips and needing the septic tank fixed, the couple have no regrets about moving. ‘When the sun hits the living room at a certain time of day, there’s just this wonderful orange glow,’ says Fran.

‘Everyday Martin and I say how lucky we are to live here, and thanks to my family, we’ve been able to put our own stamp on it quite quickly. Now we can take some time to rest and enjoy the space we’ve created.’

black and white bathroom with white metro tiles laid vertically

Fran went with a monochrome scheme in the bathroom. ‘There’s something really luxe about a fully tiled room, so I asked the tiler to cover the existing drawers under the sink too but sideways, as they wouldn’t have lined up well enough vertically’. Photo: Katie Lee


A message from the editor:

Let us help you create the home of your dreams! Get ideas & inspiration from Good Homes every month, delivered direct to your door. Visit goodhomesmagazine.com/newsletter to sign up for the weekly Good Homes newsletter. Meet the Good Homes team at Ideal Home Show and be inspired by our on-trend roomsets.

~ Karen Walker, Editor, Good Homes