Fully supportive structure

The Open Door appeal for the Simon Community by the Royal Institute of Architects Ireland helped to create this house extension, writes Rose Martin

What happens when you need more space at home, but you don’t want to move? You extend, of course. Big, small or just a sunny, balming spot, the urge for more space is irrepressible. And how many of us have created elaborate, dream kitchen/ dining rooms on pages pulled from a child’s copybook to keep up the spirit in an overrun house?

We tend, however, to see our houses through familiar eyes and our experience of home living often means we’re not detached enough to get the best use of space we can.

Now, for a mere fifty quid you can have the bones of a new extension drawn out in an hour with an architect — and help a good cause at the same time as the Open Door scheme’s donation goes straight to the Simon Community through the architect’s organisation, the RIAI.

The collaboration has been going for a number of years now and two years ago, the owners of this house in Grange, Cork, booked a slot with Andrew Shorten of Elite Architects in the RIAI Open Door and found themselves on the way to a delightfully changed environment.

They needed more space — they had just had the third of three kids and lived in a smallish, but lovely bungalow in a quiet little park. And while they loved their home, the internal space had become a problem. They added on in the attic, a conversion that’s now a home office/ den, but the mid-20th century layout of the bungalow, with its small rooms, didn’t suit the family needs.

So, they devised a design they thought might work and it included a big, kitchen/ dining/ living room as part of what they figured would be a two-storey extension. They mistakenly felt they hadn’t the room at the rear for this new space — along with a guest bedroom and bathroom.

The couple then decided to try the Simon Open Door event where they met Andrew Shorten and went through their plans with him, including showing him a rough sketch of their existing layout and what they had in mind. He, like a magician, turned their plans around entirely.

They were intrigued at first and then saw that the new scheme made more sense: yes, the design would work and they hadn’t thought of their house in that way. So a site visit followed, a bit of negotiation ensued and Andrew drew up full plans.

Instead of a stick-on extension, he came up with a complete reconfiguration of the ground floor, but most strikingly — he shifted the axis of the house leftwards, taking a wraparound approach to the new build that involved moving the front door and entrance hallway towards the new extension, while he also reconfigured the redundant old hallway into a walk-in wardrobe and en suite for the master bedroom.

And in return for the seismic shift, the couple have a very impressive, very architectural entrance in zinc and oak with a massive 10’ high door that gives a great fillip to the lovely old bungalow. It’s fresh, dynamic, and if only for this flourish alone, the use of an architect was worthwhile.

They also have a new guest bedroom to the immediate left of the entrance hallway, and a central spine that connects directly to the extension and to three ground floor bedrooms as well as the stairs to the attic — very neat, but very considered.

Doors and windows here mark the difference between designed and drab — the sheer, clean scale of the internal doors and the triple glazed units in the extension lift this house to another level. Again, it’s why architects spend the bones of seven years’ study on “space”.

The new room is a light-filled, open plan, multi-functional hub with a simple honestly to its finish.

There are no self-conscious, designed elements, no ‘look-at-me’ additions, just great clear safe space for children and their parents.

The kitchen is tucked into a north-eastern corner, leaving the full run of east to west for the dining to living room, with square and full length windows cut out of a two-block design that runs in an L form around one side of the rectangular bungalow and reaches half-way up the roof line. And it’s this height that also adds to the grandeur of the space — high ceilings always make for a healthy environment — and allow more light inside.

Windows face south and at the western end, open wide onto a deck and patio; overhead light boxes bring daylight down. Despite the massive addition, there’s still a lot of garden, with a clever raised bed created along the perimeter and room enough at either side for access.

The clients, who moved out for the duration of the build, are very pleased with the result and were very happy with their builder too. Kieran McCarthy of KMC Construction. Today’s market offers a willing cohort of professionals to bring in a scheme on time and on a tight budget. The couple added 65 sq metres on a budget of approximately, €1,500 per square metre, all inclusive and that’s for a high end finish and internal changes. Just goes to show, if you can afford it, it’s a good value time to build.

*Simon Open Door happens next week, 11th to 12th of May and to book a one-hour consultation, just log on to www.simonopendoor.ie

*Property and Interiors begins an extension special on May 17


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