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The Alternative Blog

Christina Horspool is the proud co-owner of Manar House, a grand Georgian Manor located in Aberdeenshire countryside. On February 14th, 2020 – known as the most romantic day of the year – Christina and her family got their hands on this beautiful home that needed some love and attention. An Instagram account was born named after their surname, House of Horspool (@houseofhorspool) and the renovating journey began. If a young family and this enormous undertaking wasn’t enough, Christina is one of the top 10 females working in innovation and technology for sustainability and climate action.

We caught up with Christina to chat about the project and she shares the story so far.

Can you give us some background on Manar house?

Manar House was built in 1811 for Hugh Gordon designed by renowned local architect John Smith who also designed balmoral Castle for Queen Victoria. The estate and grounds were purchased by Hugh Gordon and renamed Manar as a tribute to where he made his fortune Pearl fishing in the Manar Straits between the south coast of India and Sri Lanka. A well-loved family home and big part of the community for many years unfortunately it had been empty for a few years and in serious disrepair when Dean and I came across it for sale.

What attracted you to Manar House?

We knew on driving up the long tree lined drive this house was magical, the surrounding countryside is spectacular and although the house looked worn and almost sad, we felt an amazing energy here. We knew with love, we could bring her back to life. But we also realised it would be a huge undertaking having renovating properties in the past (much smaller properties) we knew the demands!

The grand entrance, rug in Alternative Sisal Herringbone Hambledon Carpet with Cotton Herringbone Basalt Border

Where did you find inspiration for the reno?

Inspired by our love of architecture, history, nature and art we had always dreamt of being the custodians of a big old historic building so that we could share it with the community. So when we first viewed Manar we realised we could turn our dream into a reality. Even though we had always imagined we would live in a chateau in France and host events, Manar was magical and we fell in love at first sight. I guess it was really all about timing… after having the girls we were keen for less of a city life and started looking for a home in the country with a bigger garden… I guess we found that and some, and well the rest is history.

How did you juggle a huge renovation, jobs and family life?

In all honesty at times it’s been a real struggle. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and suddenly we were running on adrenalin and not a lot of sleep for a very long time. Not sustainable. I had a mental health break from work because it just all got too much, I re-found yoga and the art of mindfulness which is why I’m so passionate about our slow living events we are now hosting at Manar. The only way we managed to get through the renovation was with grit, determination, teamwork and having fun. Whenever we embraced the chaos, remained patient and focussed on making things fun the house was actually therapy. We had to accept that old houses love surprises and you have to sometimes think on your feet and change your approach.

The beautiful sweeping staircase with Alternative’s Iconic Herringbone Newman carpet with Cotton Herringbone Border in thistle

Why did you choose Alternative for your home?

My entire professional career has been in emission reduction and sustainability, our ethos for the house is to intrinsically link nature and sustainability in whatever we do. We’re passionate about reducing our impact and inspiring others wherever possible to do the same. We were looking for a company who could create quality natural carpets ethically and Alternative flooring stood out from the crowd! We love that origins of the company, the focus on sustainability and the beautiful quality and range of natural low impact carpets!
For the hallways and landing we have chosen Alternative’s reimagined tartan designs created by the talented young designer and recent Glasgow School of Art graduate – Sophie Anne Campbell. We wouldn’t want to go anywhere else now. We love working with the alternative team and every carpet we have in our home.

We used local flooring stores and the excellent team at Gillies came on board and did a great job figuring the Quirky Tartan and the guest room carpets. It’s always satisfying to use quality local suppliers, who offer trusted knowledge, backed by trained and accredited skilled flooring fitters. Gillies has provided great advice on material, measurement and installation, delivering an excellent service with minimal fuss. Our carpets have all been beautifully fitted!

What is your favourite space within Manar House?

It has to be our snug. It’s where we relax, where the girls play, where we spend time together after our busy days, where the dog’s cosy by the fire and it’s honestly the heart of the home.

The cosy snug features Alternative’s Wool Pebble carpet

Yours walls are adorned with Woodchip & Magnolia statement wallpaper – is this your usual style?

We always wanted to bring nature into our designs be that through natural materials or prints. We are constantly inspired by our surroundings so when we came across the exquisite Woodchip & Magnolia designs and spoke to Nina who again had a similar ethos to ourselves we knew they were perfect for Manar. A small British design business we wanted our many and often huge walls to showcase the fabulous work they have to offer. We love that we have the mix of calm tranquil murals to big bold and colourful ones. That every design could work in many different types of homes. One of my favourite design decisions in the entire house was when we decided on the busy bee wallpaper for the billiard room… the bee often associated with hard work, commitment and resilience felt like the perfect choice. Especially with where we were at with the renovation.

The tranquil bedroom has a light and airy feel and perfectly suits the Woosie Bouclé Wistful Carpet

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about taking on a project?

Have patience and set realistic timeframes – inevitably there will be delays and things out of your control so best to be patient and enjoy the journey.

It’s amazing what you can learn to do yourself and if you can the unskilled tasks can often be quite expensive, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. We’ve done so much of the hard graft but it’s so rewarding. Little and often helps to keep momentum without burning yourself out, every hour here and there really does add up so be kind to yourself and do what you can when you can.

This Scottish manor house could not go without some tartan. The Horspools chose the Alternative Quirky Tartan Gallant Weaver

Describe your style in three words…

It’s hard to describe our style, we love the feeling that a room evokes when you walk in. We don’t follow trends but instead curate items from furniture to lighting to art to carpets that we love and are ethically sourced. It’s really all about how a colour or fabric makes us feel within the space we have. In some spaces we wanted impact and to be bold to enliven the senses such as the Inidra ink cloakroom in others we wanted the architecture to steal the show whilst still bringing a welcoming feeling of calm. I’d love someone else to describe our style because I find it too hard!! The yogi in me would say It’s a feeling or a vibe!

The Quirky Tartan Gallant Weaver continues down the staircase.

Do you have any future plans for the Manar house?

Mindfulness at Manar. To connect, collaborate and creat collective positive action. We are opening our doors for creative slow living events and luxurious yet sustainably focussed holiday stays. We finally now have three self-catered suites within the west wing all carefully and consciously curated for the perfect holiday, which can be booked individually or together for exclusive use. We’re collaborating with some of the most talented well-being and creatives in Aberdeenshire and beyond to bring art, well-being and culture to Manar. All whilst remaining our much-loved family home!
This year we’ve already started hosting yoga and meditation retreats, have an incredible Scottish art exhibition in collaboration with Gallery Heinzel throughout the house and are working with a local farmer to utilise our agricultural fields for regenerative farming focussed on biodiversity and topsoil regeneration.
We are incredibly excited to be able to now welcome people in to experience the magic of Manar and the Scottish countryside in a low impact way. This year we still have plenty of house renovations to get going with within the main family house but we also have some plans to get into the grounds and gardens.
Photography by Ben Robertson

You can watch the full interview with Christina here.

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The Edit - home style by Alternative