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Karma collected - LYNN COCHRANE

TANYA Worsfold should write a book: The Stress Free Guide to Refurbishing Your Home. Rule number one would be to direct proceedings from Hong Kong while your trusted partner, Alex Stewart, deals with the dirty jobs in Dollarbeg, by Dollar. Rule number two would be to time your arrival perfectly. "They were putting the carpets in as the furniture and I pulled into the drive," says Tanya.

Kennels Cottage is testament to her relaxed approach. A very stylish B&B, the place is a haven of white walls, crisp bed linen, fresh flowers and some rather beautiful (and highly polished) Asian furniture. Most people, she says, could run a perfectly acceptable B&B. However, she wants to offer guests something a little more special.

"I think living in Asia you learn about customer service," she explains, relaxing on one of the pristine cream couches in the guest sitting room. The view from the house, all rolling hills and green pastures, could not be more different from the dramatic urban landscape of Hong Kong.

Tanya and Alex spent 11 years there. Tanya had her own business as a relocator, with clients including businesses such as Motorola and Shell. It was her job to help staff recently arrived off the plane to find everything from a house to a good school for their children. Alex, meanwhile, was working in the construction industry. Although they had talked about returning to Europe, Scotland was not top of their list of places in which to settle. Having lived in Cyprus and Minorca, mainland Europe seemed, at least initially, rather more appealing.

Their plans might have remained on the back burner had Alex's large-scale construction jobs not been near completion. With fewer projects like these on offer, the choice was to stay in Hong Kong and risk not working or move on. A job was going in the Middle East but it didn't appeal. The question was, where did? After much discussion Scotland, where Alex grew up, was back on the agenda. "We were thinking about the fact that our parents are getting older, we don't speak any languages and friends had already come home," says Tanya.

The next question was, where would they live? And then, what would they do? Alex trained as a mechanic and has always loved classic cars. He had the idea of setting up a business hiring out all the models he admired, such as an E-Type Jag and a Porsche 911. Like Alex, Tanya wanted to work for herself. A smart B&B sounded ideal.

After what seemed like a long and exhausting search for a new home, it was Alex's sister who suggested the couple take a look at Kennels Cottage, in rural Clackmannanshire.

"As soon as we walked in I knew it was right. My grandfather had a white farmhouse. It was the happiest place in my childhood so I think that's what sold it to me," Tanya explains.

But while the outside looked bright the inside was just the opposite. "It was very dark, had a lot of reds and greens and swirly, patterned carpets."

A couple and their two daughters had lived in the house for around 20 years. As is the way with young girls, they favoured brightly coloured yellows and purples for their bedroom walls. One of the first jobs, therefore, was to get the paintbrush out and start the transformation.

Work began in September 2003. Alex moved back to Scotland while Tanya packed up the remnants of their old life in Hong Kong. She had no doubts that she would arrive and the house would be just as she wanted it. "Luckily Alex and I have exactly the same taste, we've never ever argued about what to put in a house."

Just in case, though, she put together a reference book filled with samples and magazine cuttings of furniture and paint colours that she liked. She suspects Alex ignored it. "I think he probably just put it to one side and thought, 'dream on'," she laughs.

The majority of the furniture is Asian, either antique pieces that the couple already owned, or interesting extras picked up in warehouses or in the neighbouring former Portuguese colony, Macau.

Not only is furniture of excellent quality in the Far East but it can also be cheaper and easier to have it shipped over here. Tanya says she couldn't believe it when she was told that to buy a couch in the UK usually means accepting a delivery date three months later. Furniture from Hong Kong could be at Kennels Cottage in a third of that time. Guests must be delighted that she brought with her such a fantastic range.

A lovely rice chest sits next to the open fire in the lounge. It comes, rather neatly, complete with compartments in which to store different qualities of rice, from everyday grains to those deemed good enough for wedding feasts. On top of the chest is a large Buddha, bought on the couple's travels in Bali, and lugged home to Hong Kong and up the final 160 steps to their house.

Two handmade chairs are placed on either side of an antique money box in the guest sitting room and the bedrooms continue the Asian theme. The family room features a Buddhist prayer table and a wardrobe decorated with brass Chinese zodiac signs.

Guests eat breakfast at a long wooden table and sitting on high-backed chairs in the bright dining room. Throughout the house abstracts and bright paintings of Buddhist monks add splashes of colour while pieces such as antique ginger pots make the B&B look very much like a home. And, of course, it is Tanya and Alex's home, one they are enjoying sharing with others. The B&B is successful enough to have made it into the highly regarded guide by Alistair Sawday, Special Places to Stay. Meanwhile, Alex's Caledonian Classic Car Hire business is attracting clients from right across the globe. 

Alex and Tanya have seen a fair bit of the world in their time. Now, it seems, the world is coming to them.

For more information on Kennels Cottage visit www.guesthousescotland.co.uk

View original article: http://living.scotsman.com/homes.cfm?id=1193602006

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