Kinsale architects turned 1970s property into this dream home 

Home Editor Eve Kelliher discovers how a husband-and-wife duo transformed an old bungalow into an award-winning design
Kinsale architects turned 1970s property into this dream home 

The award-winning Peek-a-boo! residence has been renovated to capture views of Kinsale Harbour. Pictures: Jed Niezgoda, www.jedniezgoda.com

Take one bungalow, two architects, and “a jungle of plants” — it all adds up to an award-winning dream home of our times. Lizette and Ronan Conneely purchased a 1970s property in Kinsale, Co Cork, four years ago.

They set to work revamping the residence in 2019, unveiling the brand-new look a year later — in the process more than doubling the footprint of the original house. 

“It was originally a single storey with a pitched roof. In the re-design, we removed the pitched roof, and replaced it with a second storey, with a flat roof,” says Lizette.

The 'living box' was designed to connect the interior with the exterior.
The 'living box' was designed to connect the interior with the exterior.

She and Ronan run a boutique architectural practice in the historic town where they aim to provide a “responsive, imaginative and professional service”, says Lizette. “We work across various sectors, including residential, conservation, and commercial,” she adds.

They relish “interesting” builds, Lizette says, at their practice, Conneely Wessels, which recently secured planning permission for Blacks Brewery for the redevelopment of the “old T-shirt factory” in Kinsale into a state-of-the-art brewery and distillery — a project Lizette finds particularly absorbing.

And it looks like the husband-and-wife team’s own home design, in turn, will offer an enduring fascination for their peers — winning a coveted Irish Construction Industry gong in 2021 in the residential category.

BEFORE: Lizette Wessel and Ronan Conneely purchased this bungalow four years ago.
BEFORE: Lizette Wessel and Ronan Conneely purchased this bungalow four years ago.

The couple regenerated, refurbished and extended a circa 1974-built bungalow.

A central, wrap-over roof light provides south light to the 'living box', which cantilevers over the car parking.
A central, wrap-over roof light provides south light to the 'living box', which cantilevers over the car parking.

While the awards ceremony may have been postponed due to pandemic restrictions, you could say the lockdown and post-lockdown yen for biophilic design and indoor-outdoor lifestyles have taken root in this design.

A central, wrap-over roof light provides south light to the “living box”, which cantilevers over the car parking area, to capture views of Kinsale Harbour — and, adds Lizette, inspires the residence’s name “Peek-a-Boo!”

“It is extended vertically with a ‘living box’, reconnecting living spaces to the garden,” says the architect.

When it comes to projects that involve a considerable amount of refurbishment, I think we all want to know what the prospective buyers’ gut reaction was on first stepping over the threshold.

I’m particularly curious, seeing as Lizette and Ronan are architects by profession. 

“The existing bungalow was in need of attention, and unfortunately there were several issues with the existing house, including minimal living accommodation, lack of connection to the garden — which sits 2.5m above the floor level of the house — poorly constructed sheds and canopies, as well as issues with thermal performance of the existing building fabric and finishes,” says Lizette.

The interiors makes the most of natural daylight.
The interiors makes the most of natural daylight.

“However, it was exactly what we were both looking for. We saw the potential immediately, as it is set on a hill in Kinsale, with great aspect, as well as within walking distance to the heart of Kinsale.

“We were in total agreement that it was a no-brainer to purchase the property straight away.”

Now, four years on, what is their favourite perch in their seaside home? “Sitting on the bar stools at the kitchen counter, enjoying the view down to Kinsale Harbour,” says Lizette without hesitation.

The large open-plan living space is conceived as an extension of the garden landscape, to visually reconnect the garden to the heavily wooded escarpment on the opposite side of the road. 

“The space responds to the depth of the landscape, defined in the foreground by an existing damson tree, and in the background by the view of the escapement and the rolling topography and cantilevers over the car parking,” says Lizette.

The “living box” is defined by two plywood panelled walls, behind which is concealed storage and the kitchen. 

That wrap-over roof light provides light to the “box” and down through the stairs to the ground floor. In contrast, the smaller cellular rooms on the ground floor, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, are conceived as a rustic base, referencing the stone hill out of which the site was originally cut.

Standout pieces of furniture include the off-white, leather Barcelona chairs in front of the wrap-around window. The chairs were designed by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for his German Pavilion building at the Barcelona Exposition of 1929.

The kitchen carcass is by the German brand Leicht Kitchens, supplied by Chris Keating, House of Design, in Midleton. “We customised the design, by replacing the doors with birch plywood, to match the rest of the fit-out in the open-plan living space,” adds Lizette.

Does Lizette have any advice for others embarking on such a project?

“Have a clear understanding of the brief you require, how many rooms and what rooms you would like,” says the architect.

Understand your priorities, she adds: “Sometimes compromises might have to be made, to achieve your aspirations within your budget, then it is important to distinguish between what is essential versus a ‘nice to have’.

BEFORE: The kitchen before being revamped.
BEFORE: The kitchen before being revamped.

“Engage a Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland-registered architect, who can guide you with all of the above, whose work you admire, and can offer professional services and expertise, which no other building professional can provide.

Lizette and Ronan share their home with 'a jungle of plants', says Lizette.
Lizette and Ronan share their home with 'a jungle of plants', says Lizette.

“Apart from the day-to-day architectural services, we [architects] provide a very important co-ordination role for the whole design team.

“We also offer the client a single point of contact throughout the process. 

"We can add monetary value to every project by clever design. We also offer a different way of thinking.

“But most of all, our advice to clients embarking on a similar project, is to enjoy the process of building your dream home.”

Architects are trained to solve problems and are experienced in planning a project in advance, she adds.

Back to the organisational aspect of this design duo’s own dream space. At a glance, this space looks cool, clean, and minimalist — but below the surface, it is working extremely hard, as I discover.

“We live a very busy life and want to come home to a house that is calm and organised,” says Lizette.

“We therefore integrated and designed a lot of ‘hidden’ storage into the house. The first-floor open-plan space has 800mm deep floor-to-ceiling cupboards, on both sides of the floor plan, that offer very useful storage and even include a hidden bar.”

Natural daylight enhances the connection with the outdoors in Peek-a-Boo! 

BEFORE: The back garden.
BEFORE: The back garden.

The award-winning Peek-a-boo! residence. Pictures: Jed Niezgoda, www.jedniezgoda.com
The award-winning Peek-a-boo! residence. Pictures: Jed Niezgoda, www.jedniezgoda.com

“We used the same location of the existing window openings of the original 1970s bungalow, as this was a cost-effective solution, but increased the height openings, to allow for floor-to-ceiling windows, which brings a lot more natural daylight into the house,” says Lizette.

“At Conneely Wessels Architects, we always design the lighting ourselves, interior and exterior, as we feel it is integral to the design concept.

“Lighting should be practical, but also be adjustable to create ambience, especially in a home environment.”

Website: Cwarchitects

Instagram: @conneely_wessels_architects

SOURCEBOOK

Architecture and interior design: Conneely Wessels Architects

Main contractor: DKS Construction Ltd

Electrical sub-contractor: A1 Electrical

Mechanical sub-contractor: DHP Mechanical Contractors Ltd

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