Family of four; Christina, her husband Dean and children Amelie and Chloe, decided to take on the renovation of a lifetime with Manar House; a grand Georgian Manor House set on Manar Hill in the glorious Aberdeenshire countryside. They were handed the keys on 14th February 2020 and at the same time, Christina created an Instagram account she lovingly named @HouseofHorspool (after their surname) as a means of documenting their renovation journey.
Over 23k followers later, they've inspired an army of renovators to follow their dreams and have provided a wealth of inspiration with their not-even-finished-yet home. We chatted to Christina all about the project, how she manages such a large-scale undertaking (with two children, no less!) and how she's used Woodchip & Magnolia within her fabulous home.
Hi Christina! We’re a bit obsessed with your renovation. Please could you tell us more about the beautiful Manar House…
Manar House was built in 1811 and the building has a classic Georgian feel to it; large sash windows, beautiful period details and views of the stunning Scottish countryside within which it sits.
It was designed by acclaimed city architect of Aberdeen and Balmoral Castle, John Smith and was originally commissioned by Hugh Gordon and Elizabeth Gordon (nee Forbes). Interestingly, it is reported that Hugh Gordon found his fortune pearl fishing in the Mannar Straits, which is where the name Manar originates, and is why there are many underwater references within the period details dotted around the house. Through sympathetic restoration and renovation, we aim to continue to acknowledge this within our interior design schemes.
Photo by @apricottreephotography
Could you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Dean and I are childhood sweethearts; we spent our summers and university holidays travelling the world together (mostly in a two-man tent on a shoestring!), often visiting beautiful historic buildings. Our interest in art, nature, architecture and history became a mutual love.
We started from very humble beginnings and worked incredibly hard. Our house and renovation adventures began in a small end terrace in a suburb of Birmingham, just around the corner from our childhood homes and school. We saved every penny we could from our first jobs to buy the best home we could. We learnt how to be handy around the home and do as much of the renovation work ourselves as we could. We had horrendous commutes and worked long hours/weeks/months to get our first home habitable…then we did the same again when work took us to northeast Scotland.
To accommodate our growing family (we welcomed two daughters Amelie and Chloe, or Ame and Coco, whilst living in our second home), we started looking for a slightly bigger house with a safe and welcoming garden. By chance, this beautiful dilapidated house, in desperate need of a lot of love, came on the market at the same time we were looking for our next move.
Many buyers were put off by the scale of the project; you really had to have a vision! We knew that to buy such a huge project was always going to be a massive undertaking but we couldn’t walk away; we needed to bring her back to her former glory. We went through a journey and a half to buy the house, including a very tense auction day, but it really was love at first sight and we couldn’t let her go - we haven’t looked back since.
What drew you to Manar House?
Manar really has a special bit of magic about it, an energy if you like. It's surrounded by nature and completely draws you in. We knew we had to take on this project because we genuinely fell in love with its beauty; everything about it, everything felt right. It was terrifying but we could see there was huge potential if we could look past the horrors. We just needed to have a bit (ok, a lot of) courage and vision!
We always wanted to do something as a family for our family, and this project just happened to come at the right time. We always thought we would end up in a chateau in France but no, here we are in the Scottish countryside on the adventure of a lifetime, making this beautiful house our home and family business; looking to inspire our children and others to go for their dreams.
How much progress have you made so far on the renovations?
We’ve made a lot of structural progress and now have the entire building to make weather and water tight, which must be the first time in more than 30 years! We’ve progressed well in the wing, with most of the top floor now renovated and ready for furnishings/art etc. We’ve also started on the decorating of the middle floors and tackled some of the main house but we still have a huge amount to do! It’s definitely a life long project for sure.
What are your future plans for Manar House?
Manar will always be our family home (that’s our plan anyway!) but we intend to bring more life and soul back to the place with self-catered accommodation and small scale events. Our aim is to create a space where nature, wellbeing and sustainability are intrinsically linked, so that others can enjoy and benefit from the magic that being at Manar brings. We both have a huge focus on wellbeing and sustainability and so are keen to offer Manar as a place for restoring balance, relaxation and rejuvenation; somewhere you can get back to nature and enjoy the simple pleasures that make life beautiful. Longer term we hope to offer Yoga, art, sustainable living and cooking focused retreats with key inspirational and like minded partners.
Image featuring Nidra Ink Mural
How did you come to the decision to use Woodchip & Magnolia on your walls?
We love the ethos of Woodchip & Magnolia, including the focus on sustainability, and nature, and the creativity. The family behind the business are also wonderful and we were immediately drawn to your designs. As such we have used Woodchip & Magnolia murals in the hallways of the main house as a key design addition, within the cloakroom off the Billiard room and have plans for the Billiard room ceiling, the huge staircase in the wing and the beautiful cloakroom under the sweeping stairs in the main house. Although I am sure we will find many more homes for your designs as we progress through the renovations!
With so much to chat about, we've split our interview into two parts. Part two of our conversation with Christina coming soon...