Stay put — and extend

Extended Ryecroft off Maryborough Hill, Cork, is beautiful inside and out, thanks to a tasteful redesign, writes Rose Martin

WHEN I visited this house at Ryecroft to view its splendid new extension, I asked the owner if she’d chosen the site specifically for its aspect and woodland setting.

“Not a bit of it,” she says, “it was a cancellation and I was glad to get it — Sherry FitzGerald just rang up and said ‘it’s there, do you want it?’ and that was it.”

So, dumb luck then — because this site is perfect. Anybody else would have looked at the steep, shelving drop at the rear and thought, ‘no — too dangerous — not enough room to kick a ball’ and fair enough, that’s true.

But what you get instead is a perfect, adult garden that’s south-facing and bounded by tall trees. At the rim of the estate’s boundary this house is not overlooked and tips into the old Douglas road and older properties below.

Out the back, it’s like another country — out the front, it’s just another house in a row off Maryborough Hill.

The owners are aware of the beauty of the space, (hence the extension), but the first job was a cantilevered deck over the drop below and it created a basking spot for summer dining room in what is a private, bosky oasis.

And it’s owned by a gardener too: right now, a host of bluebells are slumbering under the November leaf mould, but the garden’s structure is defined by evergreen planting and the willowy, swaying bamboo sets up its own soft music in the stillness of the morning.

The tragedy for the owners was the fact that once inside the house, you couldn’t see out — especially in winter when the trees and shrubs create their own stark beauty. So, an extension was called for — a simple, glass block that would house a larger kitchen/ dining room, and give uninterrupted views over the garden and private glen outside.

Enter Gareth Sullivan of Simply Architecture who met with the clients, discussed the options and came up with a design that hit all the required targets, but added its own dynamism.

“The solution was simple; a new rational open plan kitchen/dining was proposed with a clear connection to the existing living room. However, the real challenge was to create a meaningful connection with the garden while maximising the sun path,” he says.

And he achieved that by creating a ship’s prow design that projects into the garden, but at an oblique angle, allowing room outside, but creating a feature on the eastern corner, where the sun hits in the morning.

Here, the frameless glazing joins neatly and part of the supporting wall is cut away to allow the morning light while occluding neighbouring properties. “With the dining table nestled within this corner window the occupants feel very much part of the garden — the frameless corner detail eliminating the feeling of separation between the living space and the outside,” he says.

He sourced the glazing through Senator Windows’ commercial arm in Wexford, because he couldn’t get the quality of frameless glass from domestic suppliers..

The glazing was the one point on which he insisted, says Sullivan, but overall he was pretty laid back as to how his clients used the space he designed — there’s no preciousness here — he was more concerned about how his design would connect with the existing house and the garden:

“The glazing was pulled right up to the ceiling to ensure the seamless nature of the corner was consistent everywhere. The solid element forms a more cosy surrounding for a soft seated area, but a picture frame view of the trees is facilitated by a long window slotted within the wall.

“Externally the intention was to ensure the extension felt almost like a garden room so a natural cedar cladding was used which will eventually blend with the browns and silvers of the mature trees.

“At night the glazed corner throws light onto the patio and forms a dramatic illuminated backdrop to the garden.”

The roof, meanwhile is finished in Trocal and a seamless skylight allows even more light into the interior, (Sullivan swears by Glazing Vision UK, sourced by Senator Windows), while the fascia is finished in zinc.

The extension became the client’s baby and she designed the kitchen and dining area with input from the designers at kitchen supplier, Kube.

In a world of vanilla units, the Zebrano finish of the massive island unit is a marmite touch — you either love it or hate it — but with the size of this room and the great untrammelled volumes of the extension, this extrovert material works really well. And it’s used in a measure that doesn’t overwhelm the overall design but is counterbalanced by the stark white wall units and spalted birch flooring.

The island sits like an altar in the room and is lit overhead by the skylight; in the corner, double doors connect to the living room, with a small, but efficient utility adjoining the door to the extension. Another window here, the original kitchen window, also comes fitted with a separate sink unit and serving area.

The space is defined by the glazing, the views outside, and the bank of white units along the right hand wall fade away into the space. Outside, there’s a new patio and a private corner from which to view the garden.

VERDICT: Simple, efficient, but beautiful, this extension has been the making of this ‘ordinary’ semi.


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