When old meets new in East Cork cottage

A run-down cottage has been beautifully incorporated into a contemporary extension, says Tommy Barker.

When old meets new in East Cork cottage

A VISIT to East Cork’s pretty Loughaderra lake, when she spotted a pretty cottage nearby, was enough to convince a woman then working on the 2011 Census, and roaming the townlands, that this could be a lovely place to live. And, indeed, so it has transpired to be.

A swift property hunt unearthed a similar-era cottage (luckily for sale). It had been happily lived-in by an elderly couple for 50 years of marriage: it was a perfect match for its next owner, who liked the vibes, and the views.

Ready to trade-down from a larger, detached home with designer flourishes, near Midleton (which was for sale on these pages in 2011), she bought this contrasting, tiny 480 sq ft cottage, seeing scope, but knowing, too, that it needed everything done to it, to bring it up to a high standard of comfort; she quite rightly ignored advice to knock the original, to build entirely afresh, and went for a mix of new “and the old, which I loved and fell for.”

So, she contacted engineer, James Corcoran, of CEA Architects and Engineers, in Midleton, gave him a brief “to be true to the original cottage form, and anything new is to be contemporary in nature. It’s to be in harmony with the vernacular, taking advantage of the lake views, and the living spaces must be flooded with plenty of natural light,” she said.

As seen here, it is an utter transformation: she’s in her new family home for two years and “I wouldn’t change a thing”, she says.

James was the engineer and the constantly on-site supervisor, Richard Booth, of CEA, was the designer, and the builder was Niall Guerin, of Guerin Construction, “and I couldn’t say a bad thing about any of them and the work they did. In fact, I’d do it again in the morning,” says this particularly satisfied customer.

Seeming problems, “like having the light come in from one direction, and having the lake view on the other side,” were addressed by the architect, Richard Booth, who came up with a mono-pitch roofed wing as a contemporary contrast to the original cottage’s form, linked by a flat-roof section, with overhead, domed windows above the central hall to ensure that the light pours in midships also.

“The design solution was to embrace the conflict by providing single-storey, open-plan living spaces, between north and south, incorporating the existing cottage plan, and a key aspect to the solution was to ‘tilt’ the new extension roof, to allow the natural, southern light to penetrate deep within the plan, through elevated, ‘sun-absorbing’ windows,” says Mr Booth.

Sleeping quarters were placed on the western/northern edges, and the build is block masonry, insulated internally: “I kept seeing my rooms look like they were shrinking when the insulation was going in,” says the beneficiary of its modern comforts. The design, with main sitting room in the original, high-ceilinged cottage section, where the four original front windows have been kept, went through the planning process first go.

Work started on the one-third-of-an-acre, picturesque site in February, 2014, and was finished in time for the family to move in by Christmas week — always an ominous deadline date for a builder to be given, especially after June of that year was a wash-out.

The original roof had to be taken off, as well as its timbers, so it was essentially a gut job throughout the inside (and old sheds and lean-tos were demolished), growing from an initial 480 sq ft, by a further 1,200 sq ft, to over 1,600 sq ft, with every inch redone, and massively insulated, snug as a bug, and heated by oil, with a back-up wood-burning stove, as well.

Costs are not divulged, but it’s likely to have all come in nicely under the €100 psf sort of sum, it’s understood.

The kitchen was done by Brian O’Driscoll, of O’Driscoll Kitchens, who also did the corner-bench seating, and quartz worktops came from Hickeys, and local monumental sculptor, Brendan Wallis, of Killeagh, did the limestone approach steps, and the house name-plate, keeping to the ethos of using quality, local, East Cork trades, wherever possible.

“The next job he’ll do for me will be a headstone, as I’m only leaving here in a box,” the owner says of her down-sized move, with children in tow (they were also given an input into how they wanted their rooms and spaces to be finished).

During the build process, she was a constant site visitor herself, along with James Corcoran as professional overseer. En route she did an interior design course with Karyl Fradgley.

“The excitement was too much to stay away,” she enthuses, saying it’s time to have a party or two, now that the excitement has died down.

And, if that transpires, the house’s simple, linear hall connection has an intriguing feature: two hinged bookcases, which swing out of a double-door frame on rollers/castors to reveal a hot-press/hoover and coats press behind — so, this Loughaderra case study is an example of the advice not to judge a bookcase by its covers.

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