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.