Built four years ago in record time, Rose Martin finds this family home combines space, great privacy, and an impressive footprint
It’s a cathedral to the joys of a new age, an era where little ones can play in freedom, whatever the season
THE owner of this complicated, south Cork build was so intent on having Andrew Lane as her architect that she ran him to ground. Literally. The designer was cornered in the corner of a supermarket by a buggy-wielding, self-builder who “persuaded” him to take on the commission. Immediately.
The occupier of the buggy is now in school and there are two more at home, the littlest crawling around the underfloor heated floor. Joy and bliss.
Built four years ago now and finished in a record nine months by contractor Denis Harrington the family home combines space, great privacy, an impressive footprint and a standout feature — a soaring, triple height room that seems unlikely outside of a large, commercial build.
Here, however, it’s a cathedral to the joys of a new age, an era where little ones can play in freedom, whatever the season, and where solid tiled floors provide an ease of mind to parent and child alike. This is how family living should be — bright, warm, functional but also, design-led so that even smallies get to absorb the why of architecture before they’re even out of nappies.
Every house should have a sun room like this: it’s midpoint faces towards the mid-season, midday sun and the regular, double height shape is pieced by two windows on both sides, (almost like modern lancet windows again bringing in those sacred proportions and unconsciously playing on the cathedral effect).
The eastern and western light is them multiplied by flanking roof windows, which not only give direct, overhead light, but draw attention to the volume of the interior space. All very impressive and all very warm — markedly so on a testy, March day. That’s also down to the geothermal heating from a Starship Enterprise level plant room but also from the siting, which involves not only orientation. The design incorporates this rangy, 4,000 square foot or so house inside a cleft in the hilly site which reduces the effect of prevailing south-westerlies and thereby, reduces fuel bills. That kind of long-term thinking works. It’s why you pay an architect.
Andrew Lane got to play with a big, three-acre field with this build too, it wasn’t just the house. Creating the context allowed him to change the levels to suit the interior flow. Changing contours brings an added dimension to this residential design, inside and out.
The multi-gabled new build stands on part of the site of an old cottage, which, after consultation with the planners, was demolished.
Not quite like for like, but Lane followed the outline of the old house and the new one, on the approach, presents a low key, modest facade.
Cleverly, this allows a public and private element to the design, showing a traditional elevation to the road, while behind a high, stone wall, the main mass of the house is revealed, gable by gable, bit by bit.
And that’s not all: most people when they build new try to get the garage in as well — all very good, but usually they put it at the side of the house. Not here. Instead the garage is set at the roadside and almost as an homage to the old cottage, stands sentry to the house, while forming a very traditional courtyard of buildings inside. It’s informal, enclosed and welcoming, and sensibly, the hard standing provides plenty of parking and the high wall to the right provides shelter. It’s an idea worth remembering for self-builders or renovators. The front of the garage is sweetly landscaped, like a gate lodge and you could see it become Granny’s house or the au pair’s abode if converted.
Sheltered corners, views through and around the building and a working area that’s removed from the main entrance, this house is a clever piece of work and is not an easy read.
It’s not meant to be. There are public areas and there are private areas, and the open-plan design is offset by the psychological device of going up or down a level.
For instance, the entrance hall, which has a double height galleried entrance, is at the lowest level, with rooms fanning off to left and right, but there is no immediate view of the staircase, or even, the upper floor, it’s all subtly shielded by good design.
The playroom is tucked into a northern corner and designed to be a study in the long-term, or if needs be, a ground floor bedroom as there’s a bathroom nearby. Adjoining is the main sitting room, just a door really, but it opens into a gable all of its own, with windows on three sides and a flight of steps to a glazed mezzanine which looks out over the room to the countryside beyond.
Then as it turns into a small landing, there are glimpses through to the huge, vaulted, living space.
This room is the piece de resistance: facing east to west, with its apex in the south, this is a powerful room. Living here, it would be hard not to be charged with life. We get too little sun in this hemisphere and it’s sad that more of our houses don’t incorporate more light. This room is a master class — even if it’s vastly extravagant in its conception. The idea that a living space be bathed in light and heated by the sun should be incorporated into every residential and commercial design.
And there’s a modesty in the interior style that sits right with this build. The owners here weren’t interested in the frivolous end of the self-build business, but neither were they in favour of ice-cube architecture — no space-age boxes plopped in the landscape, they say. Instead, Andrew Lane concentrated on providing a classic — a house that transcends fashion and whose form is linked to function, but which is nonetheless luxurious in the geometry of its space.
The house is modest to the road, soaring in parts and utterly functional for a large, but young family.
But, and this may sound contradictory, it’s not at all showy. Colours are muted, natural tones, (save for vivid pink in one bedroom — but the Fairy Princess stage is a must, isn’t it?) with quality the byword and doors and joinery are handmade and in oak by a mix of local craftsmen.
The main living space has its kitchen tucked into one corner and it’s very low key — units are in oak, but stained a dark ebony colour and the worktop is cream granite. That’s it really, because most of the heavy-lifting is taken by the pantry next door, which for a couple of hundred quid’s worth of shelving, takes all the rubbish out of the kitchen and places it within a hand’s grasp in the adjoining room.
The utility area doubles as a hallway, as this is the door the family use to come and go from: a mirror for the lippy before exit, a bathroom for the kids, (also before exit), and a wall of built-in storage, which makes for ergonomic living: the owners are design savvy in every way.
There are rooms here to suit every mood and every part of the day and the upper floor has bedrooms for Nana and Grandad as well as room for the whole family. Again, unshowy, quality fixtures and fittings are used and the bathrooms are a joy: ecru, coffee, cream with glazed shower panels and top of the range basins and units, it’s a house that’s clean, clear and very, very warm — in every sense.
Four years on and architect client are shooting the breeze in the now complete house. The kitchen/ living and dining room is bathed in spring sunshine as they reminisce and a toddler runs riot on the warm floor while a pre-schooler flits in and out — it’s a happy snapshot.
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