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Arts / Two local houses to be judged on Scotland’s Home of the Year show

Shona Skinner at her house in Yell. Photo: BBC

TWO Shetland homeowners are preparing to open their front doors to the whole of Scotland next week when they feature on a national TV programme.

New House in Cullivoe, Yell and South Punds in Levenwick have been picked to appear on the BBC show Scotland’s Home of the Year.

The programme’s three judges visited the two properties last year and the owners have been eagerly waiting for their moment in the spotlight – which is this coming Monday.

The homes will go up against a townhouse in Kirkwall in the battle of the Northern Isles, with the judges’ favourite set to progress to the finals.

Despite its name, New House in Cullivoe is the oldest of the two Shetland properties on the programme.

It is owned by Shona and Alan Skinner, and it is thought to have been built in 1860.

It has been in Shona’s family for decades – “my grandmother was actually born in the house” – and it started off as a but and ben before being redeveloped.

Inside New House in Cullivoe. Photo: BBC

Her father took on the restoration around 30 years ago, stripping the croft house back to the walls and “starting all over again”.

Despite visiting Shetland a lot from her youth and into adulthood, Shona had seen herself as a city girl living in London.

“Sadly dad died, and my sister and I inherited the house,” she explained.

“We came up to make a decision whether to sell it or not. I realised when we were in the house it was really important to me. So, we decided to keep it on at that point, thinking of it as a holiday home.”

An extension was later added, and around 11 years ago Shona decided to make it her own home.

“The Easter before it was completed, we came up and I literally cried all the way back to London,” she said.

“We got back to London, and Alan said ‘we could move?’. That was something I hadn’t seriously thought about before, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Some of Shona’s favourite parts of the house include the views – “as an artist, it inspires a lot of my work” – and the warm, friendly feel.

“Whenever people come to the house for the first time, I just love seeing their face,” she said.

So what makes a great home? “I think what makes a great home is a place where people feel happy, where your visitors feel happy to be,” Shona replies.

“The number of people who came back pretty much every year to stay, that gives me great pleasure, because that makes me feel like we’ve created a happy place.”

The Tait clan at their home in Levenwick. Photo: BBC

Meanwhile in Levenwick Caroline Tait jokes that she may end up watching the programme from behind the couch when it is broadcast on TV.

Her bungalow was built by husband John, and it is the fourth new-build her family have lived in.

Instead of applying themselves, the programme’s team actually got in touch with John to ask about properties he has worked on.

Their current home, which was completed in late 2017, ended up being picked for the show.

It is a busy home which plays host to the couple plus two sons, and one of their partners – as well as some dogs.

One of the key features of the home is the large open plan living area.

“That’s where everybody congregates at the end of the day,” Caroline said. “It’s all about the hub of the eating and watching TV and dining altogether.”

Outside there is also a summer house and a polytunnel which, rather unusually, has no plants inside.

Instead there is a hot tub, making for a fine social space for the summer.

So what are some of Caroline’s favourite things about the house? “I think the simplicity of it,” she replies.

“There’s lots of space – it’s a very big floor area for only being three bedrooms. The rooms in it are quite sizeable. But it’s just perfect for us, so I think that’s probably best thing about it.”

The open plan living areas is a key feature of South Punds. Photo: BBC

She feels that a great home is one that is filled with things that are dear to those living in it.

“It needs to be suitable for you, and fill it with all the things you love, and you’ll always love your home.”

Meanwhile Caroline hoped that the programme may inspire people to look into new build homes.

She suggested they may not be as daunting or unrealistic as some people may think.

“I’m sort of nervous about being on, just because you’re looking inside your own home,” Caroline added.

“We love the programme, we’re major fans. So to be able to sit down the night it’s going to be on, it’s going to be quite nerve-racking. But at the same, hopefully it will inspire somebody, even to do a new build.

“I’d recommend anybody to do it [try to go on the programme]. There’s so many beautiful houses in Shetland, so I would highly recommend everybody applies.”

The homes are not the first from Shetland to appear on the programme; houses in Kergord, Burra and Nesting have all appeared in recent years.

The episode of Scotland’s Home of the Year will be broadcast on Monday at 8.30pm on BBC One Scotland.