Staff and residents of Alastrean House in Aboyne are looking forward to moving into their luxurious accommodation this autumn, as Balhousie Care Group re-opens the facility after a £160,000 refurbishment.
Situated in the beautiful and tranquil countryside of Tarland, Alastrean House was extensively damaged in a fire in January 2016. All 38 residents and seven staff members were evacuated swiftly without injury, as the fire spread internally through the flue to the roof space, causing damage to the walls and roof.
Alastrean House, a former retreat for Royal Air Force veterans, is owned by The MacRobert Trust and operated by Balhousie Care Group. The name, chosen by Lady MacRobert, is derived from a composite Latin phrase meaning “a place of honour by the hearth of the winged heroes of the stars.”
Balhousie Care Group has set the gold standard in accommodation and staff care for this flagship care home. With £160,000 invested in the design of the interior, Alastrean House has emerged like a phoenix from the ashes looking more like a five-star hotel than a residential home. The refurbished building will initially include 29 bedrooms, with a further 22 to open at a later stage.
Repairs to the structure of the historic property have been undertaken by the Trust, with Balhousie Care Group’s architect and designer Lesley Birrell paying tribute to the heritage of both the house and the RAF in her transformation of the interior.
Lesley has previously refurbished Balhousie Moyness Care Home to an exceptional standard, working with residents and staff to create an environment that is not only welcoming and luxurious but that can have positive effects and make life easier for residents living with dementia.
A co-ordinated variety of quality, tactile fabrics in bright colours have been used throughout the social spaces, with furniture arranged in small intimate groups, to encourage conversation and combat isolation.
Lesley spent a lot of time observing the needs of residents while thinking about her design for the new Alastrean.
She said: “Rather than arranging chairs around a TV in a large room, we have created cosy little areas which are much more familiar in scale and set up to the familiar living room at home. Residents can enjoy the stunning views of the gardens or golf course, chat with friends or challenge each other to a game of scrabble or chess. We’ve also chosen comfortable chairs that residents can easily get in and out of, to maintain a sense of independence.”
Familiarity and continuity are also key to helping residents settle in new surroundings.
Lesley adds: “The subtle themed décor in each of the rooms also serves as a visual aid to help with navigation. Dancing, golf and the RAF feature prominently in little details throughout the rooms, and I even managed to sourced RAF uniform buttons to enhance some of the furnishings. We were also inspired by a historic painting of Alastrean which depicts a black Labrador, and a welcoming Labrador figure now has pride of place in the foyer, complete with basket for visiting ‘therapets’. This has been an incredibly rewarding project to work on, and one that will stay with me for the rest of my career.”
Alastrean House continues to be owned and maintained by The MacRobert Trust and serves as a memorial to the three MacRobert sons, who tragically all died young.
Simon Power, estate manager at the MacRobert Trust, said: “The MacRobert Trust has undertaken extensive works to Alastrean House repairing the fire damage after the incident in early 2016 and restoring the house to a high standard and meeting current Care Inspectorate requirements. The Trust is delighted to welcome Balhousie Care Group back to the house and wishes them success in their running of the care home.”
Fiona Duncan, Alastrean House’s new manager, said: “A team of inspiring, caring and passionate people have been recruited to support residents of Alastrean House to live their life their way. An intensive, month-long training programme has been delivered which covers care and support, dementia training, hospitality and customer service. Staff who have had the opportunity to view their new workplace have been so impressed they have already expressed an interest in booking a room for their own retirement!”
An open day is being held at the home on Wednesday, November 1 between 11am and 2pm for visitors to view the restoration.