Posted by: christinelaennec | January 29, 2013

The “double-upper”

(That sounds like the name of an angsty American novel to me!)  Well, today has been quite a day.  We’ve had the solicitor (estate agent), the photographer and the surveyor here today.  The house has been very unnaturally tidy – the Dafter says “it looks like someone’s died” – but I thought I would take the opportunity to show you around, and to explain the phenomenon of what in Aberdeen is called a “double-upper”.  It’s a flat that has two floors (double) and is above another flat (upper).  UK readers, you can tell me if this nickname is an Aberdonian phenomenon, or if double-uppers exist in other places here.

So if you’d like a tour, pour yourself a cup of tea, and if not, I do quite understand!  Here then is what you see when you come in our front gate – in the month of May:

Our flat is the top two floors of this house, built in 1884.  Aberdeen.  Photo taken in summer of 2012.

Our flat is the top two floors of this house, built in 1884 in Aberdeen. Photo taken in May 2012.

The house that our flat is in is unusual, because we have a very long shared front garden and also garden at the back.  Most properties in Aberdeen sit much closer to the street than we do.  I know from checking the Post office registers that the flats were built in 1884.  Some people assume it used to be one house, but it’s always been two.  It’s made of good old Aberdeen granite.  The upper bay window is our living room window.  The door is on the side of the building, to the right.

When you come in the door, you find yourself at the bottom of a curving staircase, with a very typical red and blue stained-glass hall window:

The stairs from the front door up to our flat.

The stairs from the front door up to our flat.

There used to be beautiful plasterwork on the walls of the entryway – I’ve seen its twin on the flat on the other side of our house.  But someone ripped the plasterwork out at some point.  Michael redecorated using textured paper, which I think looks great.  As you turn the bend of the stairs, you see the door into the main floor of our flat:

Coming up into the flat.

Coming up into the flat.

Photos of my Grampa, and a cross-stitched (by the Dafter) “Welcome” sign greet you as you come up.  Once inside, you might feel a bit disoriented by finding yourself in a hallway with no less than five doors leading off of it!

The hall.

The hall.

Let’s go through to the kitchen, where Michael, bless him, is making us lunch.  For more on the history of the kitchen, see my post about the Granny Nook.

The kitchen - a "dining kitchen"

The kitchen – a “dining kitchen”

You can see the door open through to the utility room; to the left, the white door is of what’s called an “Aberdeen press” – a cupboard built into the wall where we store crockery.  I find it interesting that they say “press” as cupboard in this context only – Michael’s Irish relatives call any cupboard a press.

Through the kitchen you will come into our lovely utility room.  Before the kitchen was put into the old sitting room, this room would have been a galley kitchen:

The utility room, and beyond it Michael's study.

The utility room, and beyond it Michael’s study.

Let me quickly reassure you that the utility room never, ever actually looks this tidy and empty.  Normally it is full of laundry drying on the lines, laundry waiting to be washed, plant pots drying beside the sink or more likely, waiting and waiting to be washed.

When we first moved into our flat in 2002, our property ended at the wall where the washing machine is.  The room beyond was a drying loft belonging to the lower flat, and accessible by a ramsay ladder.  We exchanged our share of land outside their back door for the room, and made it into Michael’s study.  For a very limited time only, Michael’s study looked like this today:

Michael's study.

Michael’s study.

Normally most of the floor is covered by papers – to the extent that a friend who came while we were on holiday to visit Tilly thought we’d been burgled!  Luckily he realised that’s just how Michael works before he called the police.

Coming back through to the Hall of Many Doors, let’s go into the living room.  Its best feature is the large bay window, which faces south.  (The poor Dafter has had a dreadful day and has pretty much been on the sofa all day long, with various visits from us and foot massages.)

The living room

The living room

And look, the Dutch iris I planted came out!  Don’t they look pretty next to the chair?  You can see the front gate from here – a good lookout when visitors are expected.

Colour-coordinated bay window!

Colour-coordinated bay window!

Here’s the view from the bay window on a summer’s day.  Our half of the garden is the half with the trees.  The previous owner told me that the birch tree came from Glen Tanar.  Notice how the setting sun (in the Northwest in June) makes a shadow line cast by the top of our roof:

Front garden (shared) - our part is the half containing the trees.

Front garden (shared) – our part is the half containing the trees.

Back inside, the other good feature of the living room is the fireplace.  It’s not the original one, but it’s a nice reproduction.  We burn coal and wood, and in the plastic bags to the left are many papers that need a good burn-up!


Next to the living room is one of the best rooms in the house, and a luxury I will probably never have again – my study.  In the days when I was able to focus on my creative writing in a serious way, I spent many happy hours at the desk looking out the window and into worlds of my imagination.  It’s also been a general overflow room for winter boots / presents to be wrapped / stuff there’s no place else for, etc.  But the desk and window have remained a constant.  I particularly love the curtains, which I made myself.  I didn’t have enough money for the yellow print to extend the full width and length, so added some other fabric at the sides.  The rocking chair was my Granny’s.

My study

My study

The last room on the main floor was Our Son’s bedroom.  The previous owners had put in a customised desk at one end.  It looks out over the back garden.

Our Son's old room - now known as Spare Oom.

Our Son’s old room – now known as Spare Oom.

Upstairs now, if you have bothered to come this far!  Halfway up the stairs, there is a tiny but lovely bathroom:

World's smallest bathroom, on the mezzanine landing.

World’s smallest bathroom, on the mezzanine landing.

When the house was first built, this was a coat closet and there were no indoor bathrooms.  Also, the staircase was for the servants to reach their quarters.  No servants live here nowadays, but Tilly is accompanying us up to the top floor.  In this photo you can see the light switch of the mezzanine landing bathroom, to the right of the door.

Coming upstairs with Tilly

Coming upstairs with Tilly

Upstairs there are two large bedrooms and a shower room under the eaves.  First on your left is an L-shaped room, which is the Dafter’s:

Part of the Dafter's room.

Part of the Dafter’s room.

The room continues around to the left, and has a window in the gable wall, and a wee window to the North.  The main window you see here faces south.

Across the hall from the Dafter’s room is a shower room we had installed:

The shower room upstairs.

The shower room upstairs.

I have no idea where the blue light in the window is coming from!  Perhaps it is a holy visitation during this important time for our family?  This room faces North and can be very cold, so we painted it in warm colours.  I remember going to pick up the tiles and overhearing a woman exclaim, “What hideous colours!  Who on earth would want that in their bathroom?”  Well, us, actually.

And next door is our room, with a large window also facing south:

Our bedroom.

Our bedroom.

The trunk was my Great Granny May’s; the top quilt I made, and the starry quilt below it was made by Margery Golden, a friend of our family’s.  There is a very little bit of storage space under the eaves of the house, perhaps twice the size of May’s trunk.  Our only other storage, besides some space in the sheds outside, is the boxroom, which as you can see is built into the corner of the room.  It also has the cold water and the hot water tanks.

The boxroom (behind the door)

The boxroom (behind the door)

The fact that we have no loft means that we haven’t had a huge clearout to do – only a medium one!

Here’s the back garden, in the summer.  You can see Our Son’s bedroom window on the left of the 1st floor, our kitchen window on the right, and the window of Michael’s study over the neighbour’s extension.  We also own the two sheds with white doors (Bike Shed and Other Shed), and the greenhouse.  The drying green is shared between us and the neighbour; the long strip of garden on the left belongs entirely to them; and we own the bit of land between the greenhouse and their garage, as well as the square patch you see the corner of here.  The neighbour and I also created a bit of shared garden between their extension and the drying lines.

The shared garden, summer 2011 I think?

The shared garden, summer 2011 I think?

So that’s our house, but we hope it will soon be bought by a lovely family who will enjoy living here as much as we have.  (Oh and did I mention it’s a twenty-minute walk into town?)  I leave you with this morning’s beautiful sunrise.  Karen was asking about the cast-iron roof ornament.  It sits on top of the pointed bit of the roof over the bay window:

Sunrise from our bedroom window, with the cast-iron decoration that sits on top of the roof over the bay window.  January 29, 2012, about 7:45 a.m.

Sunrise from our bedroom window, with the cast-iron decoration that sits on top of the roof over the bay window. January 29, 2012, about 7:45 a.m.

I hope you’re all having a very good week.  I will let you know how things unfold on this end, and I do hope I get a bit more time to come visit your blogs very soon!



  1. You have a very lovely home !! And I hope you have sold it in no-time 🙂

  2. What a lovely house, I wish I could buy it :)…I hope your Glaswegian house will be just as cosy and warm as this one is…Good luck, I’ll keep my fingers crossed…

  3. Yir hoose if affa bonny!
    I’m sure that you’ll find a super place in Glesga! I am lookin’ forward to learning from you about Glasow, since all this time i have been reminiscing with you about Aberdeen. You must install another ‘Sheila Maid’ tho – see me for a good deal – the company I work for in Angus owns this brand xx Lang may yir lum reek!

  4. Thank you for the tour, I hope the sale goes through quickly. From what I remember of living in Aberdeen there was always a great demand for property, particularly nice old granite buildings like yours. Do you have somewhere lined up to stay in Glasgow yet? It’s all very exciting – big changes ahead!

  5. What a delightful post, Christine! I so enjoyed sitting here with a late lunch and having a visit with you and a tour of your lovely home. You have it decorated so beautifully (and I love those tiles!). It should sell it very quickly. Then it will be onward and upward to a new and exciting venture! 😉

  6. That was enjoyable to see your sweet home — I like seeing other home from people it’s always interesting to see how they have made a comfortable home.. I see memories in every photo..Thanks for sharing..

  7. It was a privilege to tour your home with you. You’ve created beautiful rooms. And nicely furnished with books, too. It always amazes me in home interior magazines – no-one every has any proper books. There might be the ‘books as decoration’, where they are arranged by colour, or the obligatory copy of Nigella in the kitchen (don’t mention Nigella to me after the experience M and I had last year with her Christmas log – or ‘Christmas plank’ as it turned out for us), but never any proper, loved and read and added-to-as-often-as-possible books.

    There are double uppers in Edinburgh too. Oh and in this house we also refer to the ‘Spare Oom’, although we don’t really have one.

    My Buckie forebears referred to every cupboard as a press. Perhaps yours is the refined city version.

  8. what a lovely family home it is, thank you for your guided tour. i felt as if i was there with you. i have the same cushion on my couch in our family room as you have on your couch in your sitting room. i hope your house finds a loving family to take care of it. much love xx

  9. Hi Christine,
    Thank you for the lovely comments you have left over the last couple of months, at last I get to reciprocate. The tour of your double upper was fascinating, and no I do not think they have them quite like that in England.

    Your home is lovely so many nooks and crannies which make it so interesting. And you are like us over flowing with books.

    I look forward to your adventures in moving and your new home. I lived in Paisley for a short while and that was quite an eye opener for an East Anglian girl.

    Wishing you well as a family.

  10. Christine, your house is such a warm and friendly place. The colors are so cheerful, I especially like the yellow in the kitchen. I love yellow in a house which brings me to the yellow and orange tiles in your bathroom. perfect for a dark space! don’t know what that lady was on about. so many books … ah, wonderful … and the sloping roofs and gorgeous windows. you have made a lovely home there and i wish you all the very best in finding somewhere very special in Glasgow. wishing you a wonderfully quick sale to just the right people. i was uber-impressed with all the sharing you have done in your present house. it says a lot for the concept of community and is a tribute to you and your downstairs neighbours.

  11. Thank you for inviting us into your lovely home, Christine. It’ll be a wrench to leave, but the prospect of making a new house into your ‘home’, must be an exciting one.

  12. Thank you for the lovely tour of your home. I hope the sale goes smoothly and you find somewhere equally lovely in Glasgow. I’m about to go through the same process myself and I’m wondering how on earth the house will ever be tidy enough for the photos and the viewings!

  13. What a lovely, lovely home! It has so many extras that I’m certain it will be snapped up very quickly. I know if we were looking for something in Aberdeen we would buy it in a flash! I wish my home were as uncluttered and tidy as yours! I better get organised before you come and visit me in a couple of weeks! 🙂 xxx

  14. Hi Christine,
    What a lovely home you have, I have been transported through the lovely rooms for a happy moment, and how great to see books and more books, and a real loved atmosphere abounds, you will sell it fast surely. Have not heard of double uppers, brilliant phrase. I am sure Glasgow contains a home just such. All happy wishes to your dafter, do like that phrase. And many to you to.

  15. Well done on getting ready for the estate agents’ pictures! I think your double upper is fantastic. I’ve never heard the term double upper before and have lived in many parts of the UK (all south of Birmingham though!). Someone is going to get themselves a beautiful home – hope you find one for yourselves too!

  16. Beautiful house! We live in a double upper too, pretty sure it’s a Scottish thing. We also call our spare room Spare Oom! Good luck with selling.

  17. I’ve never heard of a double upper! I would call that a split level maisonette 😉
    Your house is lovely! I would snap it up in an instant if I was looking for a home in Aberdeen 🙂

  18. I’ve never heard of a double upper in Glasgow but it may depend what area you live in. Your house looks lovely, good luck finding such a nice house here in Glasgow. I suspect you might like the West End, Nithsdale Road/ Dumbreck, Muirend/Merrilee areas of Glasgow. All quite expensive but with similar types of property to your current home. Good luck selling and have fun looking for a new place! If I can help with areas please don’t hesitate to contact me, you can get me via my blog mytreasureslife.blogspot I don’t know all the areas well but I know most of the areas a bit and certainly the ones to avoid!!

  19. I love your house tour!! Thank you for doing that! I feel that you have a good bit of room for Scotland! I’m sure it feels small to you at times though! I love that you have a bay window — I think that helps to make Scottish weather bearable. I see that the Dafter does have a lot of stairs to deal with — to bed and to get out of the house. Yikes! I’m sorry she was having a bad day. 😦 Andrew (age 10) peeked over my shoulder and saw your bedroom and declared it a “cool bedroom.” Laura (age 2) then said, “I love that cool bedroom.”

  20. Thanks for the lovely visit, Christine. I chuckled a few times as I related to some of your comments about tidiness and different color choices.

    It is fascinating to me to ponder how you share your property, while still enjoying ownership. Your home will surely bless the new owners.

    I especially enjoyed the last photo of the sunrise!!! Stunning!!!

    Blessings to you and yours as you continue to move. I am cheering your progress!


  21. Eek, it is too long since I visited your blog and I have missed the important news that you are leaving your lovely home in Aberdeen and moving to Glasgow. On the plus side, when you’ve moved, let me know if you fancy meeting up for a knit and a coffee/tea!

  22. What a lovely tour of your bright and cheerful home! So many beautiful windows and cozy nooks and such a lovely view you have with your cast iron finial to punctuate that incredible sky! I know it must be bittersweet to leave it all behind with all of it’s family memories, but a wonderful adventure for you all to look forward to. I know it will attract a loving family and perhaps they will welcome you to visit once in a while. I am quite sure it will not be long before this happens and you will be on to new horizons. Many blessings to you and your family for a quick and easy time of it, as much as that can be possible. Hugs, xx

  23. Thanks for the tour! I hope your new place has fireplace and a little plot of land you can mess around with.

  24. Cozy and colorful–quite different from any house I’ve had, but then I haven’t lived in a city.
    My older New England relatives [maternal line] always referred to a clothes closet as ‘clothes press.
    Seeing May’s little trunk reminds me I might not have told you that I enjoyed your book about your ‘great-grannie.’ I can relate to the long hours of searching the online census, dealing with variant name spellings, unexpected moves of the family. Genealogy is both rewarding and frustrating.

  25. Thank you everyone for your kind and uplifting comments! I have now corrected “this morning’s sunset” to “sunrise” – I was clearly in an addled state when writing this. And as for tidyness and clutter, it’s all smoke and mirrors, believe me. We have an action plan for sweeping things away for visitors. The Dafter and I have agreed that our family motto should be “A place for everything and everything out where you can get at it”. We already feel a bit like visitors in our own home, it’s so unnaturally tidy. And that’s perhaps a good first step in letting go.

    A couple of you commented on the shared garden. The two flats that we’ve lived in the longest in Aberdeen have had shared gardens. It’s worked well for us in both places – perhaps I’ll write a separate post about that sometime.

    And how interesting that you’ve also commented on the books. We know that we have a lot more than most people, being very fond of books, but as we’ve been looking at other properties online – the ultimate in voyeurism! – we’ve realised that many people seem to have very few books in their houses. ??? Why should this be? I can’t believe it’s the advent of the Kindle and the like.

    Lastly, I’m glad to hear that there are other double-uppers in Scotland, although perhaps not so much south of the border. And a few other Spare Ooms!

    amadarling – we often fondly remember a decorator who came to do our kitchen ceiling years ago, and who pronounced: “Yous have a crackin wee hoosie!” I didn’t realise the pulley was called a Sheila Maid – we love it and I love it more now that I know her name.

    Lorna – we can only seriously house-hunt once we’ve sold our place, so we’ve just been trying to acquaint ourselves with various areas of Glasgow so we can swing into action asap.

    Linda – how interesting that every cupboard in Buckie is a press!

    Pat – you may be as relieved as I was to learn that when the photographer comes, you are allowed to move a lot of things out of the way for the photographs!

    Roobeedoo – when we bought the house in 2002 it was described as a “dwelling house on two levels”! Maisonette sounds very chic, I think.

    marksgran – thanks very much for the specific pointers, especially re the south side. I may take you up on your offer for more information!

    Heather L. – yes, there are a lot of stairs and a lot of path just to reach the car to go for a drive! We would love to find somewhere that’s a bit more accessible for her, although at the same time we hold to the belief that she will improve and eventually be able to scale mountains. I’m so glad your children like our bedroom! It’s normally littered with cat toys, which might have been even more appealing.

    purlpower – I most definitely will be in touch once we’ve resettled! Thanks for the invite.

    Karen – is it called a ‘finial’? Now I know what to say when showing the house, thanks!

    Kelly – the open fire is not an absolute must but the plot of land is non-negotiable!

    Mimacat – Oh I’m so pleased you liked May’s Diaries! Well, that’s the trunk you may remember reading about.

  26. Well if the Estate Agents pic are as good as yours you should have no difficulty selling! It looks like a really homely home (the British version of homely) I have worked as an Estate Agent here in Essex and have never heard of a Double upper before, similer properties here are Maisonettes and would also have a garden, what a wonderful view you must be sad to leave but moving on is not all bad and you and the Dafter can look forward to lots of new adventures.

    Good luck with your viewers


  27. Love getting a peek around at your home…so fun seeing inside other people’s houses. I’ve been catching up here and it sounds like there are lots of exciting things in the making…so much to do I’m sure. I’ll be following to see how things unfold. You’ve made such great choices with your family, I’m so hoping that everything falls together better than you could hope or plan with your new move and housing.

  28. In our house you trip over books at every turn. Long ago when we were in a baby-sitting circle we found it weird that so many families appeared to have hardly any books – unless they were hidden away in a bedroom somewhere we didn’t go.

  29. What an adorable flat! I’ll bet it goes fast, and I hope you find something equally as charming in Glasgow.

  30. […] living room is the first door on your right, and those who knew our double-upper in Aberdeen will notice some […]

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