It’s a stone village consisting of three houses, a dairy and a farmer’s cottage, originally built in the 1700s, but with later and necessary alterations to meet the needs of a working farm during the 19th century.
It might have fallen into complete disrepair, or even disappeared entirely, as so many old farmsteads have done since the Great Famine, but for the vision of architect Mark Guard and the Clochán;s then owner way back in 1998.
By then it had been abandoned, (a symptom of emigration), and left to become a ruined village of sorts.
However, unlike more typical renovations of Irish farmhouses and outbuildings, you won’t find any attempts at pastiche or the ubiquitous country cottage here — rather the application of modern design principles that work with the buildings to maintain their authenticity,while creating havens of comfort and modern convenience.
“The client gave me a free hand to pursue what I was interested in,” says Mark, “which was 1930s modernist architecture.”
But he also had a keen interest in rural Irish architecture, so a combination of the two informed his vision for the project which slowly became a reality from 1998 to just three years’ ago.
Having grown up in Dublin and trained as an architect in Canada, he finished his studies in London and established his own practice there, Guard Tillman Pollock Architects, a firm specialising in modernist design.
This background has achieved a project outcome where the buildings are a testament to how contemporary design, when sensitively applied, is a natural bed fellow of vernacular architecture.
“In the big house we kept the original features and didn’t take away the character,” he explains, “so things like wooden shutters remain in place.”
But when it came to the other buildings, the challenge was introducing the principles of modernism to a traditional setting, while maintaining the authenticity of a cow shed, dairy and a series of stone barns.
“These sorts of buildings don’t lend themselves naturally to contemporary living,” Mark explains.
“You have to think laterally instead of knocking it around to fit in windows and doors to achieve something people like and want to live in.”
The result is a flood of natural light introduced without the light deprivation cure-all — the dormer window— in sight.
In fact, Mark maintains he is always trying to get away from the room with a door and four walls.
“We made roof lights to drench the place with light if we needed it, and white walls to bounce the light off,” he explains.
The result is dynamic as light quality changes throughout the day, yet there’s an inherent solidity in how the integrity of the buildings’ structure remains intact, helped by a commitment to reclaimation.
“Old stone was retained and reused from buildings that had been demolished earlier,” Mark says.
“As far as possible, fixtures and fittings were sourced in Ireland, but things like radiators had to come from Germany.”
Indeed, central to the project was the desire to source locally as much of the materials necessary, with similar attention paid to the interior detailing.
The contemporary design theme spills over into the finishing touches so gleaming white walls are punctuated with colour from paintings by some of Ireland’s best known contemporary artists, including the late Patrick Scott.
Ceramics and soft furnishings by Celtius, a specialist in the sourcing of artisan products influenced by Celtic tradition, are artfully styled.
It’s all part of a master plan that has been rolled out slowly and sensitively in a development where it was never the intention these houses would be sold off individually.
Instead, they’ve been retained for the luxury rental market, so expect bed linens of the highest quality, and organic toiletries in ultra modern bathrooms.
Wood burning stoves are also a feature, along with private garden and deck areas, but thanks to a wider garden planting scheme, the houses are set out so there is also a sense of a community.
And it seems the project isn’t yet complete as there are still more buildings on site ripe for reinvigoration and repurposing, with plans mooted for an exhibition space and the conversion of a large barn.
Ballilogue Clochán, Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny.