Scotland’s architectural taste in homes in the 18th to the 20th century is hugely varied; from symmetrical, rational Classical buildings to the exuberant Scottish Baronial style with its turrets and crow-stepped gables. Below is a brief overview of some of the most well-known.
From Kinross House in Perth & Kinross (Scotland’s first wholly Classical country house built in the late 17th century) to Edinburgh’s New Town - begun in the 18th century - the Classical style is all around us. With its origins in antiquity it remained enduringly popular for centuries. The Classical style is characterised by references to ancient Greek or Roman architecture – think rational and symmetrical buildings, square or round-headed openings, columns and pilasters and simple rooflines.
Begun in the 12th century, Gothic architecture was constructed all over Europe. It later fell out of favour but was rediscovered and reinterpreted in the 18th century as the Gothic Revival style. Gothic novels and the Romantic movement spurred on the craze for this style. Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute and Taymouth Castle in Perthshire are good examples. Imagine pointed arches, ecclesiastical motifs, turrets, towers, battlemented walls and complex tracery glazing patterns.
Pioneered by the likes of Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish Baronial style began in the 19th century and lasted into the early part of the 20th century. Taking its inspiration from medieval castles and tower houses, Baronial architecture has a profusion of architectural detailing from corner towers, battlements and crow-stepped gables to busy multi-gabled rooflines and machicolation. It was hugely popular and elements from the Baronial style appeared not only on grand country houses but on more modest buildings such as tenements. Scott’s Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders is a good example of the style as is Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.
Arts and Crafts
The ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement date back to the 1860s when exponents such as William Morris reacted against the machine age and advocated a return to traditional craftsmanship. In architectural terms this translated into using traditional building skills and local materials with an emphasis on detailed craftsmanship and a more informal approach to planning interior spaces. The influence of the Arts and Crafts movement can be seen in many of our suburban villas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Think overhanging eaves, red tiled roofs, white-painted harled walls, multi-pane windows, large hallways and inglenook fireplaces. The 1898 Melsetter House on Hoy in the Orkney Islands and Greywalls in East Lothian of 1901 are exceptional examples of this style.
Art Nouveau’s origins lie in the Arts and Crafts movement, but in Art Nouveau the emphasis was on looking forward, not backwards. Flowing lines and an interest in nature inspired the style which balanced slender curves with white crispness. It became increasingly fashionable from the 1890s onwards. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is internationally recognised for his designs which drew on Art Nouveau themes, such as his 1902-04 Hill House in Helensburgh.
The 1930s Art Deco house is typically rendered with a bright white finish and has large metal-framed windows and a flat roof. The glazing might be curved around a wide, bowed bay window or even wrapped around a corner. Roof terraces or balconies with horizontal railings were popular and in the interior the kitchen was given new prominence as a room in its own right, carefully designed for a housewife who would now have less reliance on servants. Bathrooms were smartly finished with hygienic decorative tiling and combinations of black, white and green were popular, along with stylish, streamlined sanitaryware. Gribloch House near Kippen by Basil Spence is one of Scotland’s finest Art Deco houses. The former Beresford Hotel of 1938 (now flats) in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow is also a striking example of the style.