By Joyce Reid

When you need the help of a professional, it is always reassuring to see that they practice what they preach. So it is with Ben and Rosemary Scrimgeour, who run their architectural practice from their fabulously cool home. And you don't need to take my word for it - it has won both the Best New House and the Supreme Award at the Dundee Institute of Architects Awards.

Humpty House (named after the track behind it) sits in a clearing in the woods overlooking Loch of Lintrathen, and while it echoes local farm buildings and fits superbly into its setting, its interior is modern and bright, with long wide oak floor boards, exposed agricultural steel and lots of natural daylight. Through the glass roof in the office, the couple can watch the geese fly overhead and through the windows they can see squirrels playing in the trees.

Having broth grown up on Angus farms – Rosemary, just down the road in Lintrathen, and Ben at Memus – their passion for the countryside is at the heart of everything they do. Though they started working together in London, they gravitated back to their roots. Ben said: "This gives me the best of both worlds, design and agriculture."

Taking part in Scottish Enterprise's Rural Leadership programme has further encouraged them to consider how the next generation of people in the countryside can be helped to think differently and so to improve their rural businesses. Rosemary said: "We have so many resources in Scotland, the scenery, buildings, amazing produce, so we must find ways to celebrate it and share it. There's a world of opportunities and innovation is key."

The bulk of their work is now breathing new life into old steadings, barns and dilapidated farm buildings, and is always done with an eye on good design. Rosemary explained: "People now want bright, inspiring places, with a focus on good design."

They often come in when their clients have realised change is necessary. It could be the need to diversify, or seeing a building reach the end of its life and realising that if they don't act a beautiful old building will be lost. Sometimes a new generation wants to make changes, perhaps the farm is growing.

Ben and Rosemary love doing anything that will bring more people into the countryside, or keep people there, so are always pleased to renovate farm shops and holiday lets and always aim to do something creative and interesting. They are there when two generations of farming families are swapping houses. Young people want their home to be bright and open plan. Farm buildings have always been adapted over the generations, typically with extensions, but Ben and Rosemary prefer to make the overall building work and, in fact, sometimes take away ugly and unnecessary add-ons.

You can see Ben's enthusiasm when he talks of spending a whole day on a farm or estate, looking at all the buildings, including those that are falling down or could benefit from a change of use.

"We can help owners to make a plan for the future to maximise their income," said Ben. "Sometimes flattening a building and starting again is a better option than spending money on maintenance."

Their neighbours at

Peel Farm in Lintrathen

are a good example of looking at the bigger picture. Claire Fleming was so delighted with the four star luxury holiday accommodation that Ben created from their 17th century steading, and with the consensual way they work, that she went on to ask him to convert two more houses.

"They joined two cottages together to make a home for my brother," she said, "then renovated a house for my father and his partner. They are very forward-thinking, with a lot of get up and go, and very easy to work with."

One of Rosemary's favourite projects was Guardswell Farm, in Perthshire, now a top wedding and events venue.

She said: "Functions that were previously held in the city, can now go there." When discussing a project she often looks at the family's particular skills. At Guardswell she found they were really into food and cooking, so events was an obvious way to go.

She also speaks fondly of

Ashintully Castle

, where they put in a lot of effort to make the castle work for the next generation. "It looks exactly the same on the outside, but inside it is brighter, with internal links making it flow better," she said.

All projects begin with a conversation (often over a cup of tea and slice of cake), but for all the talk of old buildings and the nostalgic feelings they inspire, this is a very up-to-date business that uses the latest technology.

Once initial decisions have been made, "Measuring Mike" goes out with the latest surveying equipment and gets all the measurements for Ben, who puts them into his computer programme and comes up with a 3D representation of the project. The couple feel it is important to keep design projects as simple and straightforward as possible for clients, and to allow them to visualise exactly how their 'new' building will look.

"We always work in 3D," said Rosemary. "People understand models, they can experience the change before the building is built, see how it is going to look from every angle, take a 'virtual tour' through the front door, take off the roof to see the new building from the top down."

Ben's computing wizardry will show you the landscaping around the new building so you know how it fits in with the tracks and hedges. He will even make a model of the new building that you can hold in your hand. How cool is that. Ben admits that while, "A picture tells a thousand words," it is also a fun way to work.

Each building that they convert retains its beauty and agricultural character, while being adapted for the modern lifestyle. They really understand how attached people can feel to those old farm buildings that provide a tangible link to the past and to the generations of farmers gone by.

While Ben said: "There is nothing better than bringing new light and new life into a farm again", I think it is Rosemary who best summed up the couple's attitude to their projects. "You can do a mediocre version or you can do a spectacular one."

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