The Old Train House in Edinburgh, a Victorian renovation that was once a train station, has been crowned the winner of Scotland’s Home of the Year 2023 (SHotY). The announcement was made during the finale of the popular BBC Scotland series, which was filmed at Glasgow’s House for an Art Lover.
The Old Train House, owned by Christina and Ben Blundell, their daughter Vesper, and their dog Watson, had been boarded up and abandoned for a decade before the couple decided to transform it into a warm and inviting family home. The three-level house showcases the couple’s eclectic tastes and their commitment to sustainability, with second-hand furnishings adorning the interior.
Apart from the extensive renovations, The Old Train House also pays homage to its past as a train station. Graffiti on the exterior garden walls adds a unique touch to the overall style of the house.
The judging panel for SHotY, consisting of interior designers Anna Campbell-Jones and Banjo Beale, and architect and lecturer Michael Angus, selected The Old Train House as the winner from a shortlist of six finalists from across Scotland. The finalists represented various home styles, including quirky conversions, grand designs, period renovations, environmentally-friendly homes, and bijou pads, spanning locations such as Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire, Auchterarder, Peebles, the Isle of Skye, and Glasgow.
Christina Blundell, the proud homeowner of The Old Train House, expressed her delight at winning the coveted title. She admitted that winning came as a genuine shock, considering the other fabulous finalists. As the winner was announced last summer during the filming of the show, the SHotY trophy had been kept secret until now. Christina mentioned that the trophy might find its place in the hallway or possibly outside.
Being a part of SHotY brought unexpected surprises for Christina and Ben. After their episode aired, they were contacted by a gentleman who had sold them some of their favorite furniture pieces. He had seen the show and wrote to express how happy he and his family were to see those pieces, which had belonged to his late mother, showcased on SHotY. Christina and Ben are grateful for the opportunity to be the guardians of these cherished items.
Anna Campbell Jones, one of the SHotY judges and an interior designer, believes that The Old Train House is a deserving winner of the prestigious title. She commended the adaptive reuse of the building, its respect for history, and the clever use of vintage finds and appropriate materials. Anna particularly loved the upside-down living arrangement, with light spaces for daytime activities and private, darker spaces for sleeping. However, the highlight for her was the transformation of the old railway platform into a magical terrace filled with plants and tree canopies.
Banjo Beale, another interior designer on the judging panel, echoed Anna’s sentiments, stating that The Old Train House felt like a sanctuary in the city, bursting with plants, light, and life. She found it challenging to pinpoint a single unique aspect of the house, as it exuded the elusive feeling of “home.” Banjo specifically mentioned feeling at home in the platform bedroom, a moody and cozy space bathed in inky blue hues.
Architect and lecturer Michael Angus emphasised the intangible qualities that set The Old Train House apart from the rest. He described it as a place where the echoes of its previous service could still be felt, and where a vision for an extended future had taken root. Michael believed that the building itself might have faced redundancy if not for the transformative efforts of Christina and Ben.
Christina and Ben poured their hearts into renovating The Old Train House, and winning SHotY serves as validation for their hard work. Despite not having professional backgrounds in design, construction, or architecture, they had a vision for what the building could become. Christina expressed pride in their achievements, particularly as they obtained the building warrant for the alterations just before the 2020 lockdown. The couple persevered through challenging times to turn the initially dismal and depressing house into a true home.
Christina was overwhelmed by the judges’ comments about The Old Train House. She felt humbled by the fact that each judge independently considered their home worthy of a perfect score. Anna’s comment about the house being “accessible” resonated with Christina, as it captured the inviting and achievable nature of their home. Christina also playfully mentioned the abundance of train puns throughout the experience, which she found “choo-choo-riffic.”
Participating in SHotY has been a meaningful experience for Christina, as she initially hesitated to apply, thinking her home wasn’t grand or designed enough. However, she realised that the essence of SHotY lies in the feeling, comfort, and sense of home, which the judges were seeking.
The full seven-part fifth series of Scotland’s Home of the Year, produced by IWC Media (a Banijay UK company) for BBC Scotland, can be viewed on BBC iPlayer.
The other five finalists for Scotland’s Home of the Year 2023 were Snowdrop House in Aberdeenshire, The Old Manse in Auchterarder, Manor House in Peebles, Lochbay in the Isle of Skye, and Kirklee Mansion in Glasgow.