Before Wendy and Maurice Inkster decided to build their modern home in Granny Smith green, right on the water in East Burra, they fell in love with this unspoiled corner of Shetland. “We’d been visiting friends, and just didn’t want to leave,” recalls Wendy, who has been making her much-loved Burra Bears teddies out of discarded Fair Isle jumpers since 1997. “We managed to track down the owner of the land to see if he was prepared to sell any of it. He said to us: You see that horse and that sheep, you can have the land between those. So that’s where we live.”
The couple drew up the plans for the house themselves, with the help of a draughtsman friend, with an emphasis on light and space. “We’d been living in a stone cottage in Hamnavoe with these long, dark corridors, so just wanted something open-plan and light, with lots of my favourite green,” says Shetland-born Wendy, who also added a studio to work on her bears. “We put in skylights and a lot of windows, including some to the floor so that the dogs could see the view too.” Having done a lot of the building work themselves (Maurice is an electrician) with the help of local building firm E&H and builder-joiner Brian Anderson, they moved into their airy new 350sqm home in 2010, having spent around £220,000.
Similar stories aren’t uncommon in Shetland, where plots of land are available for reasonable prices compared to much of the Mainland UK, especially those with sea views. With a good selection of quality architects on the islands, and plentiful space, many people have taken the opportunity to build their dream home from scratch. “I used to work in Aberfeldy,” says Iain Malcolmson, now a Shetland-based architect. “It was only the very wealthy that were coming to have houses designed. In Shetland, it’s a possibility for a lot more people.”