My Home: Richard Murphy, architect

Richard Murphy has turned a small, dark mews house near Edinburgh Castle into a New York-style home. Tessa Williams-Akoto steps inside
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The Independent Online

The architect Richard Murphy lives in Calton Hill, Edinburgh.

It's quite unusual to live in a flat you've designed yourself. It has to be one of the biggest luxuries. One of the best things is that you know why things are the way they are, and how everything should work in your home. One of the strongest influences for me in designing this house was in creating light.

It is quite a small and dark type of traditional mews, but I have brought in a great deal of light by adding complete skylights at the top, as well as many windows. Now it feels more like a loft apartment in New York rather than a small mews in a cobbled street overlooking Edinburgh Castle.

Quite a few people have been surprised by the fact that I live in a building I have designed. When I was buying it, the lawyer couldn't get his head around the fact that I was already living there - he kept on talking about "completion dates" and things.

But I really love this place, despite the fact that it is quite small. It is a traditional, old mews flat which I have given a completely modern overhaul. It has some quite unusual features. I put in fluorescent lighting underneath the bath to give it a real glow; I really liked the idea of having the water lit up.

There are no rooms, as such. It is just one big space that is separated by stairs, and it can be closed off with a selection of sliding doors if necessary.

I love living in Edinburgh. When I lived in London, I always felt it was very claustrophobic.

The only thing I don't like about living here is that the people can be pretty conservative, and sometimes it can be hard to get new work approved, as people round here are quite set in their ways.

One of the most treasured pieces in my flat is an easel designed by Carlos Scarpa that was manufactured by the craftsmen he collaborated with in Venice. I wrote a book about Scarpa a few years ago, and lived for a short time in Venice while I was researching it, which has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world to live.

That easel is probably the most valuable thing in my flat. The other things I love are the artworks and wall-hangings by my friend, the artist Linda Green. I also have some old black- and-white prints of Paris, which, although slightly mainstream-looking, have been with me for a long time, so I put them up around the kitchen table and they make the place look quite homely.

After I finally bought the flat, I was so financially broke that I never had a chance to buy any decent furniture. So most things are just cheap finds from Ikea and places like that. I have decided that this year I am going to invest in a few key designer pieces.

I have a huge collection of National Geographic magazines - I must have around 400 of them. I tend to get the other magazines like Wallpaper* and Domus at the office and don't tend to bring them home.

Books are the only thing that I collect. They are my luxury, and I have as many as I can buy on architecture, art and travel. I would but more art if I had time - mostly I go around the degree shows of the art schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow. My other great love is flying and I have pictures of me in my Microlight plane dotted around the flat. I have flown it to Ireland and back recently, which was an exciting trip. Another great feature of the flat is the way it can be completely closed by rollers. There's no need for either curtains or blinds, as it can be completely closed like a box, with wooden shutters and a lever.

I always think, as the Dutch architect Aldo Van Eyck said, that a house needs to be a cave as well a bird's nest, and this place combines the two.

One of my favourite places to sit is beside the wood-burning stove in my lounge. I've become a bit of a pyromaniac and just adore the fire.

I don't believe in labels, like being a minimalist or maximalist, but I am certainly not a hoarder, and I live pretty simply. I love cooking and having people come round to dinner.

If I was to live anywhere else, I think it would definitely be another city like Barcelona, where they really appreciate architects and the resulting architecture is a joy and beauty to live with.

I'd love to have a little terrace or outside garden, although I'm definitely not a gardener. It would just be nice to have a bit of space.

I don't tend to buy an awful lot when I travel, but I did pick up some rather beautiful bright cotton and silk throws from Sri Lanka when I was there recently working on the embassy building, which my firm is handling.

My next dream project is to design my own free-standing house. It might take a bit longer to get there, but it will be great to live in an even bigger space.

www.richardmurphyarchitects.com

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