My home: James Robinson

The keeper of art and design at the National Museum of Scotland tells all about his home.


As well as having overall responsibility for the European decorative arts, modern and contemporary design and fashion, James Robinson oversaw Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story, which runs at the National Museum of Scotland until 16 August.

Where do you live?

I live in an area sometimes (I think) termed the ‘East Village’, just off Broughton Street in a house designed by the architect Robert Burn who was responsible for the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.

What’s your earliest memory of a house?

The house I lived in from the time I was born until I was about four years old I remember through some of the sensations I associated it with - the furniture creaking, clocks ticking and the fire crackling. It’s a house that I remembered as being vast with lots of dark, unexplored recesses. It dated from about the 1880s and was built in the Queen Anne/Dutch style but when I went back to visit it as an adult I was surprised to see how much it had seemingly shrunk over time to something really very ordinary.

Where would be your dream place to live?

Edinburgh ticks most boxes for me – proximity to the sea, monumental architecture, friendly folk, enough of a cultural offer to keep me happy but with good exit routes to other cities if necessary. However, I wouldn’t say no to penthouse living on the upper west side of Manhattan.

Do you have a favourite building in Scotland?

For its poetic, panoramic location more than its architectural merit, I’m repeatedly drawn to Castle Campbell (also known as Castle Gloom) positioned between the burn of Care and the burn of Sorrow in Dollar Glen, Clackmannanshire.

A favourite place you visited on holiday, such as a hotel or villa?

Chera Rock Beach House, Kannur in northern Kerala. It’s not too fancy and combines desert island style remoteness with fabulous food and vibrant culture, including the opportunity to experience traditional Keralan theatre.

How would you describe your home?

Light and airy. It’s south facing and we’re constantly opening and closing the shutters to limit the damaging effects of the sun on furniture and pictures.


What’s your favourite home smell?

I like natural floor coverings such as coir, sisal and seagrass which release their own scents, particularly when doors have been closed for a while.

What do you miss about home if you are away for a while?

My bed and the sound of the traffic in the rain across Edinburgh’s cobbles.

Do you have a favourite room in the house?

Probably the sitting room. Many will find this hard to believe but with the sun beating against the closed shutters, the room creates that ideal Mediterranean siesta moment.

How are your DIY skills?

Adequate. I’ve done up two houses in the past. I may not be fast with a paintbrush but I’m neat. I have also mastered the ancient art of Ikea self-assembly but that took years of hard study.

When was the last time you worked on your garden?

Currently, I don’t have a garden – so, 2012.

Dinner at the table or in front of the TV?

Definitely at the table, preferably without a ‘device’ within easy reach.

What’s your favourite thing to cook at home?

Ratatouille with tuna steaks or chicken liver salad with spinach and bacon. I find it hard to have one favourite when it comes to food.