The Black shed is built in Heaste, a linear crafting township lying to the south of Broadford, accessed by a single track road and culminating at the head of a loch with a small number of creel boats and fish farm pontoon. It is a working village with a variety of old and late 20c houses with a number of corrugated farm buildings and a corrugated derelict chapel. It is not particularly picturesque nor are the views that special but partly because of that it is thriving and there are many permanent residents.
The site contained a ruin and some old walls long since fallen down. It is about 1/3 of an acre and unremarkable but with high level views east Beinn Sgrialth on the mainland and views south to the sea and west to the hills over a wooded burn. The studio lies along the road and the house perpendicular and the 2 buildings protect an entrance space with raised beds and a covered entrance and a larger ‘garden’ left to regenerate as a meadow.
The house is tucked low in the landscape and the left over stone Helena and Judith have used in the garden to form retaining and boundary walls. Helena and Judith asked for a single volume, they didn’t want or need rooms and for the house have the feel and warmth of a blackhouse. It is clad in black corrugated sheet to reflect and is lined entirely in douglas fir with a grey resin floor. Apart from a few grey tiles in the shower room there are no other materials used. Traditionally houses were not built to exploit the views. People worked outside and the houses were there for shelter against the wind and rain. The Black shed is not flooded with daylight but there are a few carefully chosen windows and the passage of the sun can be traced from the morning window into the upstairs bedroom and the long entrance corridor through to the south facing dining room doors to the fixed pane on the west gable. Helena and Judith can be found working outdoors when the weather allows for it and retreating into the warmth of the douglas fir lined house when the weather comes in. They love being outside and early on said that they ‘loved any chance to put their Over trousers on” but they were still struck by how much the weather affects your life on Skye. They use the house in the way the traditional houses were used. They are pulled outside in good weather and inside when the rain and wind defeat them.
The timber interior is very powerful and because the daylight is carefully controlled when the sun hits particular points on the walls and ceiling at different times of the day or year, it simply glows.
Both Judith and Helena are serious, academic, extremely widely read but fabulous company. Melancholy is an academic interest of Judith and we all agree that melancholy and reserve are not necessarily bad things. And that being both happy and sad at exactly the same time is human and fine. This house is an expression of that. It is sombre and quiet and restrained and yet full of joy. Just like its owners.