The great white dream house

Hedge House’s wedge-shaped design is concealed behind privet hedging in a location off Northbrook Road in Ranelagh, Dublin.

Hedge House is a family affair, designed by one half and lived in by the other.

Richard Pike enlisted Michael Pike for Hedge House’s stunning looks, which were shortlisted for the AAI and RIAI awards, says Rose Martin

This is a house the Pikes built, the fusion of brothers, Michael and Richard’s talents — younger brother as architect and older brother as client.

IT’S easy to see how Hedge House got its name — walk along Dublin’s Northbrook Road, hang a right and you come upon a lane with a tall, leafy boundary.

A striking white-and-cedar statement rises above the long, sweet-smelling row of privet hedging — Hedge House. Shortlisted for the AAI Award and the RIAI Award, this is a house the Pikes built, the fusion of brothers, Michael and Richard’s talents— younger brother as architect and older brother as client.

The strong design consciousness between the two isn’t hard to fathom — they’re sons of James Pike, a father of the profession and founder of O’Mahony Pike architects. His children have inherited the eye, but Michael has chosen to go it alone as GKMP Architects, with his wife and colleague, Grace Keeley, who was also involved in the design, along with Richard’s wife.

Sites like this in the heart of Ranelagh don’t come up for sale often, and are rarely affordable, but for the Pikes the timing was right.

Richard jumped fast when the site came up for sale, it was an opportunistic buy, considering how seriously the economy had gone south by the end of 2009. The property then comprised an old cottage, (in the same position as Hedge House) and a large, long garden on a wedge-shaped site. Planning had been in place for a row of four townhouses, but the brothers made a model of what they wanted and carried it to every resident on the boundary. They applied for planning on that basis and flew through the process — without one objection, or one request for further information.

The site was purchased in October and by February the builders were on site — in the snow. By December, the family had moved into their A-rated, dream home. Hedge House evolved from the model, and while Michael Pike created the shell of the building, he and his clients defined the internal space.

Richard and his wife took a month off work and brainstormed with mind maps until they had the layout. A mind map is a diagram used to represent ideas or tasks linked around a central idea — in this case, a building and how it should be used.

The couple traced out the functionality of their home, based on the family’s pattern of use, and this type of forward planning saves thousands in the long run because the details are worked out before a shovel strikes the earth.

Hedge House doesn’t follow fashion: the Dutch bricks used on the exterior are not run-of- the-mill, either in size or in their unexpected, off-white colour, (which is more Newgrange that Northbrook Road).

Neither is the house predictable, with it’s sloping, wedge-shaped design — it’s an original, and one designed to suit its family and the site. Hedge House also has a sort of retro, Scandinavian feel, and this is more obvious in the interior, which has that cool brick on feature walls and low level seating with splashes of primary colour, but it’s not pastiche either.

The house answers the demands made of it, respects the privacy of its neighbours and provides a safe, glorious haven for the Pike family.

Despite its size, Hedge House is hidden behind its boundary — almost like a submarine surfacing, the upper level is visible, but the main bulk is screened from the road.

There’s also a louvred theme going on, from the vertical cedar cladding to the slatted doorway to the perforated brick wall, which allows a glimpse inside and out.

Light reflects off the exterior and the theme is continued with white terrazzo that runs from the main external courtyard through to the interior, where green and blue glass elements are picked out in the colour detail.

This includes, most strikingly, a Prussian blue, pivot door to the kitchen/ living area, which lies flat against the wall when open but can close off the room for privacy.

This strong hue plays against the deep green of the high-gloss kitchen units and the theme runs into the playroom, where primary-coloured inserts are used as cupboard doors to give the white walls and shelves a lift — and to create some fun, too.

The kitchen, (also with a bespoke, terrazzo worktop) is subtly, but strategically-placed. There’s a line of sight directly onto the playroom and to the rear garden, down to the living room (this is a sunken, garden level space) and onto the garden beyond. So, the children can be monitored while cooking or clearing.

Despite it’s large size, Hedge House is broken up into liveable chunks and it’s also easily divisible, but open-plan. The modest entrance hallway leads through to a wide and long spine of a hallway that includes a straight-up staircase and also connects the house from east to west.

The playroom lies south-easterly and has sliding doors to the hallway, and hidden sliding doors to the dining room, which in turn opens to the kitchen and sunken family room.

Each area has direct access outside and there are at least four separate courtyard/garden zones with remarkable levels of finish, in a mix of brick, terrazzo, slab and balau (a very hard, very dense wood) decking.

The rooms have 3m-high sliding doors, so there’s floor-to-ceiling ambient light, too.

The living room is double-height and double-aspect and faces west, with it’s own large deck area immediately outside, accessed through enormous sliding doors and lit from overhead and from the side.

The internal fireplace wall is finished in the same brick as the exterior (just slightly thinner) and the chimney element runs all the way to the second floor, where it serves a slot-in gas fire for the den.

Overhead, there’s a wildly expansive open space, where a wall of windows provides daylight levels of light, and, in the evening, a theatrical wash of colour from remotely adjustable band lighting. (The smart home system runs the house and the under-floor heating).

Hedge House has been designed so that all of the views focus westward, toward that garden, and as there are neighbours on both sides, the windows are positioned in such a way that they tilt to the view, too. There are internal views through curtain glazing in each room, and also in the way that each room connects, so there are clear views outward from every area of living space to the garden. Smart. It’s the most luxurious, but most unpretentious family home.

Room sizes are grand in volume — and each element is thought through: the dining table is a 1970s original, the lounge furniture is Arnotts, but top-end, and there are some stand-out, designer pieces in the bedrooms and study.

The essence of the house, however, is incorporated into its form, and there’s much use of fixed furnishings, and in the case of the master bedroom a specially-designed bed. This double-height room (with eastern clerestory windows) is cosy thanks to a sliding door, which divides the sleep area from the circulation space. The rest of the suite is modest, but with impeccably-designed dressing room and attractive bathroom.

The children’s bedrooms fan out across the southern elevation of the house with blinkered windows facing down the house, over the painterly, sedum roof to the garden. Light pours onto the landing from roof windows and finds its way downstairs to the rear hallway to a substantial, guest bedroom, with adjoining bathroom at the house’s eastern end.

The amount of clever, designed detail at Hedge House is enormous — it’s a white palace that’s quite stunning.

Really, it has it all.

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