PICS: An outstanding piece of work - Birch makes Rise home shine

A new approach to a common material makes this Rise home shine, says Rose Martin

PICS: An outstanding piece of work - Birch makes Rise home shine

Speed bumps notwithstanding, The Rise is a quiet, almost rural corner of Bishopstown, with mature trees at every corner and views of soft, lush fields from every angle.

Part of the 60s surge to the suburbs, this green and pleasant place has maintained its rural idyll thanks to a hard and fast rule brought forward in the 70s by Cork city and county councils and maintained since. Long live the Luts Plan. Other suburbs have fared less well, but Bishopstown has been the beneficiary of the golden rule.

And a new generation of owner is moving into the area now, not least the McNally family, one half of which is architect and Tipperary-import, Paul McNally, a certified Passive House designer.

It’s no surprise that when it came to his own home, he put his money where his cert is and constructed a low-energy extension to the rear of his Rise, Bishopstown, home.

North-facing, this was the one big design problem for the architect when it came to creating a warm and bright, living/ dining/ kitchen space, and one he solved by creating a triangular extension while at the same time, tilting the roof upwards to catch westerly sun. He also inset a long, narrow roof light half way through the span, to borrow ambient, southerly light from overhead.

A simple, uncomplicated space to look at, it involved considerable architectural skill, and spatial ingenuity to get a a wide expanse like this to work. Small wonder there’s a steel beam running through the room, which, with lighting and some paint, becomes part of the overall design.

It’s a pretty impressive job, one he’s created for the client, his wife Libby, who is thrilled, as are the the couple’s two little girls, who despite the minimalist approach to the decor, have acres of play space and lots of storage for their toys. And there’s still a huge back garden leftover after the build, in which to play outside.

Quite the most outstanding feature of this space is the use of birch ply. Now, this is ubiquitous for hipster kitchens and Shoreditch-industrial applications, but here it’s been taken up a notch to become an elegant material used in a highly imaginative way.

Paul McNally has turned the simple and cost effective laminate into a foil for a white, shimmering kitchen. Look down and a light-toned floor in birch runs over the entire 20 sq m area with obvious joins, that while it may not be obvious to the untrained eye, was painstakingly routed, and a shadow gap created, so there is symmetry in the placement of each sheet. Also, the finish is perfect for normal expansion and contraction.

The look is then carried up onto the work surfaces, but it’s teamed with a Gola-profile kitchen that mirrors light and adds to the reflective quality of the floor. The units are fitted along one wall, with everything tucked inside and out of view, like the coffee machine and more, and the island is a clutter-free zone. Paul’s so adamant about clean space that he even created a shelf for the toaster near the sink— out of sight, but within a hand’s touch.

There are so few elements here, that it’s surprising how striking the space is— white, grey and wood the simple breakdown, with a French Connection sofa from DFS creating a seating space on the right hand side of the room. The kitchen is to the left, with door to the utility breaking the line and the island runs parallel, in one long drift of white and ply.

The sink is tucked safely to one corner, but with views over the garden backed by a sheet of grey-toned glass with ply shelves holding cast iron, Oisin Kelly sculptures, inherited from his father. The island includes a breakfast bar at the garden end, with Meadows & Byrne stools underneath, as well as pop-up sockets, extractor and an induction hob.

A long, wall of glazing opens onto the garden and is high enough to take in the sky. Paul says seeing sky is the key to light filtration in a room, so the windows rise above the roof tops behind, to clear light and provide all important, afternoon sun.

Heating requirement is minimum in the extension and it’s only the beginning of a retro-fit of the 60’s house, as Paul and wife, Libby, are doing it by degrees — like most couples with young children and a mortgage. The extension also includes an office to the side— where Paul has based his practice and from where he now works. Anyone coming to see what he can do need only look at this addition — it’s an outstanding piece of work.


Plan concept: “Triangular plan shapes are intrinsically problematic from a space-planning perspective,” says Paul, “because in a simple triangular space, you will always have an internal corner that is less than useful.

“We have developed a variation on this theme, where we truncate the internal corner, and this line becomes the location of an entrance to the space.

“The balance of the severed triangle, becomes an external covered awning where one has space to use the door.”

¦ Architect: The PassivHaus Architecture Company

¦ Engineer: James Kelly and Associates

¦ Contractor: SK Construction Services

¦ Kitchen manufacturer: Cullen


¦ Materials: Airtight tapes and membranes — Ecological Building


¦ Demand Controlled Ventilation — Lunos

¦ Birch Plywood: Cork Builders’ Providers

¦ Curtain wall: Classic Windows

¦ Rooflight and splashback: Precision Quality Glass

¦ Space Lighting: Light, Douglas.

More in this section

Property & Home

Sign up for our weekly update on residential property and planning news as well the latest trends in homes and gardens.

Sign up
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Execution Time: 0.23 s