THIS is what happens when you get two architects working together in perfect harmony — Cube Haus.
A cool, clean design statement near Janemount, Glanmire — the home of Eamonn and Judith Gahan, both fastidious designers and married to each other.
Eamonn’s a partner in Deady Gahan Architects and Judith is a registered interior architect in her native Germany, and also an artist.
The couple, with their two young children, have only recently moved into their new address, which was chosen because it’s mid-way between two schools.
Their joint enterprise and vision has created a sleek, one-off house that not only ticks all the sustainability boxes, but manages to be homely, user-friendly and design-led all at the same time.
And it’s big too — 280 sq metres, or 3,000 square feet, but you wouldn’t think it — nor does it proclaim its size — this is a house that’s more about quality of product and professional sampler than property as status.
Budget was an issue, however, so there were a number of elements that had to be taken into consideration at the design stage, but the couple didn’t stint on the important stuff:
“We decided that timber frame would be most suitable for the building,” says Eamonn Gahan, “the high level of insulation coupled with a controlled air-tightness membrane that timber frame provided, set the principle for the building.
“And to minimise concrete and wet-trades we decided to use a cement board cladding with a through-coloured render finish, removing the need for a concrete block leaf external wall.”
Cube Haus is built to passive principles, and while it uses gas central heating, (underfloor), it has a large proportion of glazing and is aligned to the sun’s daily progress around the site, from the south-eastern kitchen to the elevated, west-facing living room.
“The design and technology of Cube Haus was examined and re-examined throughout all stages of the building process,” says Eamonn Gahan, “basic simple design principles are crucial to achieving a good result — orientation, light, volume, materiality and inter-connectivity of spaces.
“Aspects like comfort, constructability and cost were also significant factors in the initial design process.”
The couple chose Eco Timber Frame from Carrigaline to construct the skeleton of the two-storey house using pumped cellulose insulation and concentrating on air tightness:
“Given the amount of glass in the building we decided to use triple-glazed windows from Poland, with a u-value of 0.6.
“The timber frame system achieved a U-value of 0.18 in the walls and 0.1 in the roof and an initial air-tightness test achieved 1.6 ach, which was improved further during the finishing stages. A heat recovery system is used in the building along with separate supply/extract flues for the fire places to retain an air-tight seal.”
ACH or Air Changes per Hour measures the leakiness of a dwelling and under the current building regulations, the standard is 10. The passive house standard is 0.6 and Gahan feels he probably brought that figure down further by going over the house himself:
The interior lives up to the glass canopy and grey stone promise of the exterior. There’s an impressive use of volume and light with a central void mirrored in a full height wall of glass which faces due south. The glare is softened by an integral brise soleil and all the windows were manufactured to Eamonn Gahan’s specifications in Poland.
The entrance hallway is modest at first glance, but there’s the full width mat well and sliding oak door to create a vestibule that stamps design-led. Inside, the hallway opens up to that huge internal space with a glimpse through to the garden beyond where a mass of multi-coloured heathers cover the steeply inclined garden — almost like a giant bolt of tweed.
The ground floor living room is, in effect, the point at which the rest of the house pivots — it’s central focus.
On one side is the kitchen/ dining and play room area, including a tightly designed work station with units by Schuller and sourced through David Lane Kitchens. Colour is a teal grey topped with a composite granite worktop in white and appliances include a one-off extractor that was an expensive flourish and it’s filtered, rather than extracted because of air-tightness. That architectural staple, the corner window, is tucked into the south-eastern end of the room.
A large dining area stretches south where a wall of glazing includes sliding doors to a limestone terrace and between both areas, the playroom/ sunroom projects onto the side garden.
The doors and windows are aluminium-coated, triple-glazed units with matt steel trim and hefty feature hinges. The Gahans have also used the same RAL colour, (a central European colour standard) in the aluminium cladding on the facade and in the parapet/fascia. Walls are white and floors are solid oak, (when not ceramic), as are the doors and skirting. Cleverly, the Gahans contracted O’Flynn Flooring for doors, skirting architrave and stairs. (Stair details include a steel rail inlay as a sensory break and for grip.)
Judith Gahan took to the roads and the super highway to source her fixtures and fittings:
“I had a strong opinion on the colour scheme. I wanted ceramic tiles coloured grey but hadn’t seen anything that wasn’t shiny or slippery and was affordable.
“So I drove around to see what I could get and Lynch’s tiles in Carrigtwohill were great and they have good accessories too,” she says.
” We saw everything everywhere — you have to look around and Ikea’s fantastic. It will work with what you’ve bought and because we couldn’t buy everything we saw, we looked to see if we could get the same online.”
The biggest spend was on lighting, it’s Judith’s thing, and she sourced a stand-out spiral light for the ‘adult’ living room in Spain, at half the cost of the original. Other design-led lighting was sourced in Germany, including the Ice Globes in the family room and everything else came from Kelleher’s in Cork, she says.
The house has two living rooms, the upper level being an adult space, and while it’s open to the lower level via a glass balustrade, folding oak doors can be used for privacy.
Alongside the living room is Judith’s dedicated studio, (her art hangs through the house) and up another level is the bedroom floor with two en suite rooms, two children’s bedrooms and a main bathroom, with some funky fittings courtesy of Mirage in Tipperary, Ideal Standard and MD O’Shea, Ballincollig.
The master bedroom has a full Hulsta bedroom suite, from Keatings, Cork, and this low slung leather bed, includes underlit, iroko side tables with dark lime drawers and matching, cantilevered shelving overhead.
A glossy black side table is Ikea, as are the built-in wardrobes and the bathroom pieces are Mirage.
On the ground floor, and tucked away to the north-east, is a fully functional au pair suite, with separate bathroom and a cute kitchenette unit from Ikea.
Here, too, is the nerve centre for the smart home system and the laundry/utility area. A guest bathroom, with cloakroom, is tucked neatly off the hallway.
The house has five bedrooms, three of which are en suite and acres of warm, bright living space, and should run on a fraction of the cost of a standard home. And then, it’s beautiful too, inside and out, and so fit for purpose — it’s ingenious.
Cube house — living squared.
Deady Gahan Architects and Cube Haus
Eamonn Gahan and David Deady founded Deady Gahan Architects in January 2004, a design-orientated architectural company based at Little Island, Cork.
Deady Gahan Architects has completed a number of buildings in all sectors, from public buildings like Inniscarra National Rowing Centre to commercial buildings such as The Lee Road Medical Centre, Passage West Credit Union, St Paul’s Garda Credit Union and Bank of Ireland projects.
Deady Gahan Architects have also completed residential projects for multiple-unit housing schemes such as Crawford Woods in Glanmire to one-off houses for private clients throughout Munster.