WT Architecture

The White House, Isle of Coll

The original house on the Hebridean Isle of Coll was built in the mid 1700’s by Maclean of Coll for his Tac man, or Factor. It was the first lime-built square-cornered house on the island and took on the informal name ‘The White House’ distinguishing it from the basic ‘black houses’ which were the norm on the island.

When the clients acquired the building 150 years later some of the cracks in the roofless ruin were more than a foot wide but the basic structure remained miraculously intact. It was therefore proposed to partially occupy the ruin and create new accommodation alongside which would be visually separate but physically connected to the ruin. The consolidation work to the ruin was carefully undertaken by a local island builder prior to the main works starting.

The existing stone walls extending from the ruin led to the responsive architectural forms for the new house. Original tumble-down walls were built up and new enclosures created, against which the new accommodation could nestle. The new stone walls recycled rubble from the site and existing stone from the Isle of Coll.

To the rear of the original building new living and bedroom spaces stretch out into the landscape with expanses of glazing to capture the landscape and sea views. The new structures shelter between the new thick dry stone enclosure walls which pick up on and extend an original lattice of enclosure walls around the house. An H-shaped plan provides pockets of external shelter on the very exposed site.

A three storey high entrance hall and stairway was created in the main ruin, with half of the ruin left as a roofless courtyard, following stabilisation and consolidation of the walls. A kitchen and master bedroom occupy the remainder of the original building with stores, larder, WC, shower room and study at its core, all connected with a glass and steel stair. The main hallway in the ruin connects through to a living dining room with glazed walls and a sedum covered roof.

A wing of new rooms to the west provides four further bedrooms, utility spaces, and a panelled snug space, which is separated from the main living room by a wall of shelves. Heating was provided by a heat exchange unit and water from a bore hole above the site.