How a Swedish wife and Danish husband have brought a fresh contemporary look to an old estate house in Angus
Integrating a contemporary Scandinavian interior into a traditional Scottish estate house is a task that few people could achieve but, the Nissens have done it with ease and aplomb.
The Scandinavian part may have something to do with the fact that Ingela is Swedish and her husband Christian is Danish! However, they’re also the owners of the award-winning fine food company, Highland Game, and they’re used to persevering to get everything exactly right.
Christian and Ingela Nissen’s Angus home.
Twelve years ago, Christian launched Highland Game and set about re-educating Scotland and the world that venison was for everyone to enjoy, not just the rich. Ingela had moved over from Copenhagen where she had been working as the Scandinavian Sales Manager for interiors company Mulberry Home and for a while the couple stayed in an apartment in Kinnaird Castle on the Southesk Estate.
During her first week in Scotland, Ingela dined at an old estate house in the small village of Farnell. It was a house she fell in love with – going so far as to say ‘if it comes on the market or we have a chance to live here….’
Two and half years ago, the opportunity arose and Christian, Ingela and their daughter Cecilia (now 3½) moved in. The couple weren’t able to purchase the property, but they were granted a long lease and a chance to influence and oversee the renovations. On the ground floor, the rear of the property has been completely redesigned. The small kitchen, pantries and larder have been knocked into one to create a spacious kitchen/diner and the hallway leading to the stables now houses a boot room, utility room, Ingela’s office and the gardener’s WC.
‘The pièce de résistance on the ground floor is the renovation of the old stables.’
‘If we owned the house we would have gone a little further with the design and knocked the kitchen right through to the drawing room and created a huge entertaining space. We also suggested the office in the hallway as the original plan was for a luxury bathroom for guests, but we didn’t think that was necessary on the ground floor,’ Ingela explains. The pièce de résistance on the ground floor is the renovation of the old stables into a fabulous and rather unusual office for Christian. A keen country sportsman, the room is used for work, rest and play, and as Ingela says: ‘With two small children in the house I can throw the boys in there to have their whisky after a shoot and keep them out of my way!’
Christian’s office and entertaining suite.
Elsewhere on the ground floor, the couple have retained the original drawing room and dining room but added a distinct Scandinavian slant. Whilst still having an ambience of grace and grandeur, the drawing room feels remarkably contemporary. ‘When I first saw this drawing room it was bursting at the seams,’ Ingela recalls. ‘Just putting less in made a huge difference to the look of the room.
I painted the pine fireplace, painted the walls in Dulux’s Honeysuckle, which is a lovely warm shade and imported a very high capacity fire from Denmark. It gets very cold in this house as there is nothing under the floorboards except earth, so we need the heat.’ Upstairs, the house splits in two with the family living on one side and a separate guest wing and attic accommodation on the other. Heavy drapes separate the areas, making the house more intimate and cosy when only the family are at home. In the master bedroom, there’s a memento from Ingela’s time at Mulberry Home, with a stunning wooden bed that she purchased before she left. ‘There weren’t a lot of these ones made as they were really just for the showrooms and few were sold. We bought a lot from the showroom and we have lots of Mulberry lamps and throws.’
The bed dictated a more traditional look for the master bedroom, but across the hallway the children’s nurseries have been influenced by a more romantic idea, as Ingela recalls: ‘I wanted the nurseries to look like the ones in the film ‘Fanny & Alexander’ and I think Karolina’s (the couple’s second daughter) room is my favourite in the house. Both the girls play in here all the time. It’s just a beautiful room; I love the light in it.’ The room is indeed pretty, with dual aspect views over the gardens and surrounding countryside and with a colour scheme that appeals to toddlers and adults alike. With her interior background (Ingela also worked for an interior agency for five years and trained in fabrics), Ingela is happy to buy off the shelf or create from scratch, but she always adds her own twist.
‘In the master bedroom, there’s a memento from Ingela’s time at Mulberry Home, with a stunning wooden bed that she purchased before she left.’
These particular curtains are ready made but Ingela lined them, folded over the tops and added tie backs. Just a little customisation makes all the difference. It’s details such as these that tie this house together. It needs to work as a family home and as a family business as Ingela juggles motherhood with her role as PR and marketing co-ordinator at Highland Game. The office in the hallway is a perfect example – access to the PC, but still on hand to see what the children are up to. The guest suite that can be closed off and Christian’s office/den that works on a corporate and friend level are equally practical solutions.
It’s not easy bringing your work into your home, but it was never going to be easy to bring venison to the masses, and the Nissens are managing that exceptionally well. Scandinavia in a traditional Scottish estate house – no problem!
The Mulberry bed takes centre stage in the master bedroom.
The full range of Highland Game venison can be found at www. highlandgame. com or for more information tel: 01382 827088.
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