'It was like this house was waiting for us': Cork architect talks creating his dream home

'It was like this house was waiting for us': Cork architect talks creating his dream home

Cork architect Loïc Dehaye tells Eve Kelliher how he created his dream home from a blank canvas.

Staying in is all the more palatable when you’re billeted somewhere that’s as tailored to your specifications as the Dehaye family home in Cork’s southside.

And you’ll appreciate the open invitation for a “virtual” visit next week as it is one of the star turns on the penultimate episode of Home of the Year on RTÉ One on Tuesday at 8.30pm.

As an architect, Loïc Dehaye knew precisely what he was looking for when he began the quest for a property to turn into a dream home.

He received the keys to the 1930s-built semi-detached house on the Ballinlough Road in 2017 and is now well settled there with his daughters Emilie, 9, and Juliette, 11.

“It’s a happy place and it’s a great place for them to grow up,” he says.

The family had previously lived in other styles of residences in Cork, from a small apartment, in Tivoli, to a two-bed house, and a large Victorian residence they rented on the Douglas Road.

Loïc Dehaye with his daughters Emilie and Juliette at their Ballinlough Road home.
Loïc Dehaye with his daughters Emilie and Juliette at their Ballinlough Road home.

Because finding the perfect property takes time, as Loïc knows.

“As an architect, I am keen on energy-efficient building and wanted to work on my own project and stay in this area as there are schools nearby and one can enjoy a city lifestyle with minimum travel,” he adds.

Loïc also sought “a blank canvas”.

“I wanted a property that was derelict so I could start from scratch,” says the architect, adding that with his professional experience he has no qualms about tackling structural issues that others might shy away from.

The three-bed Ballinlough Road residence appealed to him immediately.

“I had my eye on it for a while, but it went off the market so I guessed it was sold,” he says. “But a year later, when I was ready to buy, it came back on the market — happy days.”

Sales had fallen through three times on the property.

'It was like this house was waiting for us': Cork architect talks creating his dream home

“It was like it was waiting for us,” says Loïc.

Its potential was clear: “I wanted an extension and the garden was long and south-facing, it had the perfect setting and orientation,” he says.

Loïc kept most of the walls and partitions, and the two-storey extension was built in timber frame for a sustainable approach.

The extension expanded it to a four-bed home and connects the outside with the inside.

Original features have also been preserved including the staircase and the doors to give more character.

“Functionality, simplicity and elegance are important to me,” he adds.

From the moment the judges open the front door, you’ll be struck by the home’s minimalist interior — yet Loïc’s personality is evident throughout in the form of artwork and personal objects from his travels.

'It was like this house was waiting for us': Cork architect talks creating his dream home

Loïc notes the house “has a positive impact on people who visit it as it creates curiosity and surprise plus it is a great place for gathering with family and friends”.

“I developed the design around our lifestyle, hence the big open-plan space at the back,” he says.

“The open-plan space is the hub of the family.

“As an architect, I am obsessed with light, the use of glass, the garden and also energy efficiency.”

The footprint of the sitting room (what Loïc calls ‘the good room’) at the front and two upstairs bedrooms remained the same, but the house was reconfigured at the back and to the side, to include the open-plan kitchen and living area and a converted attic space or playroom, accessed by a ladder.

“The ‘good room’ is small and snug. Its colour contrasts with the back, open-plan part of the house, which is all about natural lighting, but the ‘good room’ is more an evening room, a TV room,” says Loïc.

As for his favourite spot? It is a perch in the open-plan area.

“It’s in between inside and outside and you feel protected there,” says Loïc.

'It was like this house was waiting for us': Cork architect talks creating his dream home

“It’s a nice place to read and relax and listen to music — and feel like you’re in the garden.”

Originally from Lille in France, Loïc graduated from Institut Saint-Luc Tournai in Belgium (DESL DipArch) in 1994, winning the Willy Van Hove architecture award for his final-year project.

Loïc moved to Cork 18 years ago, establishing Loïc Dehaye Architects Ltd in 2005.

For every brief, the basics are the same, he adds: “You follow the same rule at the start: considering people’s lifestyle, light, comfort and context.”

Meanwhile, figures show that home design escapism is what we’re craving in these times: Last Tuesday’s episode of Home of the Year drew an average of over 400,000 viewers, RTÉ confirmed.

Tune in to Home of the Year on RTÉ One on Tuesday at 8.30pm

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