Eilean Liath

Location: Caolas, Isle of Tiree

Type: New Build House

Client: David Henriques & Family

Completed: July 2017


Contractor: CKR Island Construction (Graeme MacColl, Tiree)

Structural Engineer: Cowal Design Consultants (Oban)

Photography: Sebb Hathaway

Eilean Liath is a much-loved sanctuary for family life on a remote, wind-beaten island. 

The Gaelic name translates as ‘Grey Island’ a name given to this particular site on the Isle of Tiree, perhaps in reference to the numerous outcrops of Lewisian Gneiss, although this also seems to be a description applicable to the weathered timber of the original house that preceded this new build.  The original house was innovative for its day- a log cabin that was imported as a kit of parts in the 1960s from Norway, travelling by barge across the sea before being deposited on the adjacent beach for construction by a local builder. A log cabin is a highly unusual building for a Hebridean island without trees and that is probably why it became something of a local landmark. 

The original building was in need of a radical overhaul to bring it up to modern standards for living and the decision was made to clear the site and develop a new bespoke design that met the needs of the family. The new log cabin was built using reinforced concrete cast into polystyrene formwork as a robust, cost-effective alternative to traditional methods.  The thick logs that previously formed the walls of the original house were lovingly reclaimed and processed into boards that now clad the exterior of the building.  The timber cladding remains untreated so that the cabin will return to silvery grey as the wood weathers once again.

The new ‘Grey Island’ goes further to blend in with the surrounding landscape through the choice of roofing materials.  A mottled grey/green slate imitates the changing colours of the sea beyond.  Below the timber cladding, walls and window cills are faced with local stone that helps the house bed down into the land.

Inside the building a massive timber glulam structure is expressed as a striking show of strength and security that also serves to define thresholds between free-flowing spaces. The local stone, used as a visual anchor for the timber house on the exterior, forms an axis mundi at the heart of the home by way of a stone hearth and fireplace that extends from floor to double height ridge and chimney beyond.

An expansive overhead space and steps that lead occupants down from an elevated view at entrance level into a sunken sunroom seating area all serve to enhance immersive vista out to sea. 

 

Taking the decision to completely redesign and rebuild our holiday house on Tiree after nearly 50 years was not the easiest, our wider family had such special memories of the old house that any new replacement was always going to be a poorer substitute.

Graeme [MacColl, CKR Island Construction] and Micheal [Holliday, Roots] worked patiently with us over 2 years whilst we moulded the new house and persuaded the next generation that we were creating a worthy successor.

Graeme & Micheal’s relationship and deep understanding of the Hebridean environment were completely invaluable throughout the process. The environment dictates so much in terms of what is possible or indeed practical on Tiree…that we simply wouldn’t have started this project without them.

We couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. They have created a house where future generations will be able to enjoy this very special part of the world, they achieved the impossible…….they made the best….better!
— David Henriques, Client, Eilean Liath