An earl's pleasingly domestic country house in the Scottish Borders

Eildon Hall, a 19th-century house belonging to the Buccleuch family, has long been cherished for its relaxed conviviality. Now, current custodians Walter and Elizabeth Dalkeith, with designer Olivia Emery, have retained its charmingly domestic feel, but with a considered contemporary twist
Image may contain Living Room Room Indoors Furniture Couch Interior Design and Fireplace
Paul Massey

Adding a pair of double doors between the entrance hall and the drawing room on the ground floor was perhaps the most controversial change, but one that hugely improved the flow of the house. ‘It was a big thing to get consent from Historic Environment Scotland for, but it does feel as if it should have always been this way,’ explains Elizabeth. Off the entrance hall, a former service corridor that eventually leads to the kitchen, became a smart boot room.

Joinery designed by Olivia is painted in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Newburg Green’

Paul Massey

Creating a house that could stand up to the rigours of family life was key to Walter and Elizabeth’s vision, as was bringing in a contemporary twist. Since the Fifties decoration scheme was very much of its time, Elizabeth explains, they felt ‘liberated to decorate it in a way that is appropriate for now’. Other than the cornices, chimneypieces – a couple of which were moved from Dalkeith Palace, a former Buccleuch residence, after the First World War – and a chinoiserie wallpaper in the dining room thought to have been installed in the mid 19th century, there was little else to preserve decoratively.

‘It felt a bit like a jigsaw puzzle,’ says Olivia, whose starting point was to comb through the furniture and art the Buccleuch family had in storage. Other pieces, including throws and rugs, came from their lifestyle store, Restoration Yard, in Dalkeith Country Park near Edinburgh. ‘It was a case of respecting the 19th-century architecture and choosing new contemporary pieces that would slot in to create a harmonious whole,’ she adds. The dining room required the most exacting approach. Though a vast table original to the house remained in place, she explains that ‘we had to choose pieces that would distract from the fact that the wallpaper had rather a lot of fire damage’. A giltwood mirror, found in storage, does a good job of this and is balanced by a pair of bespoke chinoiserie-inspired cabinets and a contemporary blue Julian Chichester sideboard.

A chair in ‘Mughal Marigold’ linen by Bombay Sprout is next to a Chelsea Textiles ‘Demi-Lune Table’. Fritz Fryer’s ‘Hereford Globe Pendant Lights’ hang from the ceiling in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Babouche

Paul Massey

Blue, in fact, is at the heart of the jigsaw. Olivia painted all the doors in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Newburg Green’, which ties in with the spectrum of blues throughout the house, from blue units in the DeVol kitchen to the blue cornicing in the first floor hallway and the top-to-toe blue bathroom leading off it. Elizabeth and Walter decided early on to opt for soothing blues and pale pinks for the interconnected drawing room and library, which Olivia complemented with clean-lined sofas from David Seyfried in subtle plains.

There are punchier tones, too – egg-yolk-yellow ceilings on the first-floor landing and spare-room walls in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Sudbury Yellow’, which ties in with a playful frieze around the top of the room, added in the early 20th century. Equally joyful is the Scalamandré wallpaper in Elizabeth’s study, where zebras prance across the walls. ‘Though one of the smallest rooms, it is my favourite,’ she admits.

Quite clearly, every inch of this house is to be enjoyed. And as the children run up and down the hall, it is obvious that its ‘charmingly domestic air’ is set to remain.

Olivia Emery is a member of The List by House & Garden, our essential directory of design professionals. Visit The List by House & Garden here.

Restoration Yard: | Walter Dalkeith: | Olivia Emery: