A Black House with an Italian soul
The Isle of Skye is the most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides, the archipelago located off the northwest coast of Scotland. Home to more than two hundred species of birds, the landscape consists of wild moorland dotted with lakes and waterfalls, mountains covered with snow until spring, and deep, irregular sea lochs where the sea is buffeted by the force of the wind. National Geographic has ranked Skye as the fourth most beautiful island in the world and those who arrive filled with expectations are never disappointed. Large numbers of Britons leave the large cities – especially London – to spend their holidays on the island or move here permanently in search of unspoiled nature and a more authentic lifestyle. One notable example was guitarist George Harrison, who came here in search of peace and tranquillity when the Beatles broke up.
The owners of this Black House, who undertook a similar journey, enlisted the help of Mary Arnold-Forster for their interior design project. The London-born architect has lived on Skye since 1999, running the practice Dualchas Architects together with twins Neil and Alasdair Stephen, who instead were born on the island. All aged under forty, the three architects got on so well it seemed perfectly natural to start up a practice here on Skye, where they enjoyed immediate success thanks to their ideas and working methods. Commissioned to design many houses and holiday homes on the island, they have helped transform the quality of local architecture while maintaining traditions and preserving the landscape.
This is reflected in the name of the practice, Dualchas, which in Gaelic means “cultural heritage”.
This house is a good example. Perfectly integrated into the natural setting (it appears to perch as if by magic on a cliff overlooking the sea), the building is inspired by the local Black Houses, the traditional dark wood farm buildings that are dotted around the island. It also follows the established distribution of volumes.
Rather than a single house, it is a kind of miniature village consisting of three separate low and unobtrusive buildings positioned around a courtyard sheltered from the wind (two are interconnected and used by the family, while the third is separate and houses the boiler and wood store).
The predominant construction material is wood, painted black to mimic the dark brown colour of the mountains, while the slate roof helps the house blend into the barren landscape.
The interiors combine simple and functional furnishings with elegant design solutions, notably the Italian ceramic tiles chosen for the interior floors and for some of the exterior spaces.
The tiles, chosen from Ceramiche Keope’s Life collection in a Lava finish, combine high technical quality and durability with aesthetic qualities and colours that fully meet the project specifications.
Light and nature take centre stage thanks to large windows and skylights, which offer splendid views of the landscape overlooking the Bay of Dunvegan in the north of the island.