Texture and character are created in this new barn conversion with materials from Wilson Conservation of Hillsborough.This barn conversion features black timber to the original block, black zinc cladding to projecting living extension with salvage brick lean to.
Newly constructed in 2016 from re-claimed architectural materials, the Coach House was designed by award winning architect, Des Ewing. The design is based on an original Irish cart house from circa 1850 with arches of red brick and re-claimed stone walls. The granite exterior staircase leads our guests up to the entrance hallway with its exposed period wooden floors and luxury vintage grandeur. Each of our 2 bedrooms are individually decorated and designed in an eclectic style with fine period Edwardian furniture and all the comfort of a small luxury hotel but retaining an intimate homely feeling.
As published in Ireland’s Homes Interiors & Living Magazine, May 2018…
Current trends and what clients want:
- Many older properties have layouts which just don’t suit modern living, with a maze of smaller, separate rooms, linked by dark corridors, with small hallways and long narrow landings all commonplace. So it is no wonder that many renovators choose to remodel these internal spaces to create a freer flowing, open layout. Doing this means removing walls, which in some cases is a simple job. However, when the wall is load-bearing and plays a significant role in the structural integrity of the rest of the house, then it can be a little more complicated.
- The main criteria clients ask for is space and a better use of it. They want a higher quality specification finish with much more integrated joinery items. Something that is often requested is a better connection with the garden and external areas, with maybe a covered space with outdoor heaters and smaller suntrap patio. External garden lighting is necessary to make the space look as good as possible in the evening and clients are spending an increasing amount of semi-mature planting which is now more readily available at a reasonable cost.
- Nowadays people and especially children have so much paraphernalia that adequate storage is essential. American ‘mud rooms’, which are attractive storage areas accessed via the back door, are a recent import but go down very well in N. Ireland.
- Clients are currently tending to stay away from natural stone and instead are using larger format tiles which look like stone but are cheaper and more durable.
- The days of the safe-tones of grey house appear to be fading with colour and texture making a comeback. Traditional favourites of salvage terracotta and terrazzo are becoming more and more prevalent again.
It is important not to view a renovation project as a chance to live out your house dreams unfettered. A series of extensions and renovations that not only towers over the original but takes away all its character will look wrong in scale and not work as a house. In such a scenario it would be better to consider a new build — indeed many renovation design schemes become so grand that the homeowners conclude it might be wiser to knock it down and start again (saving 20% on the VAT).
A well thought-out schedule of works is absolutely vital to the success and smooth running of any renovation project. Without one the whole process can become chaotic, with tradespeople overlapping and many jobs that could have been carried out at the same time to save on costs being done separately. A schedule basically lists what work needs to be done to the house to get it complete, and in what order. Everything should be included, right down to the tiniest detail.
A significant number of renovation and extension projects won’t need planning permission at all. These include internal improvements that don’t affect the external look of the building and extensions of a small scale. These are classed as Permitted Development and you can guidance on what works fall under this category on your local planning authority website https://www.planningni.gov.uk/pps07_addendum_annexb_permitted – in N. Ireland. Other larger scale renovations will require planning approval in the usual way. It is essential to take into account any designations that might exist where you live, e.g. Conservation Areas, Areas of Townscape Character or Outstanding Natural Beauty as these could really impact your plans and your need for Planning Approval. If your home is listed or is a protected structure, you will require Listed Building Consent as well as Planning Permission.
One of the easiest ways to ruin your house whilst actually trying to improve it, is by getting the windows wrong — wrong materials, wrong proportions, wrong position, wrong furniture, wrong glazing. If you are renovating a house that has the original windows still in place – likely to be timber or metal – then do all you can to rescue them before you even consider replacing. Avoid replacing period windows with plastic versions — they will never look truly authentic in a period context. Draught and noise problems can be improved by fitting sashes with new seals and secondary glazing is also an option. In some extreme cases the cost of repair work does not practically make sense and you may need to consider sympathetic, matching replacements.
When opening up internal spaces, changes in floor level often have to be taken into account and are common in older properties. Bear this in mind when considering knocking two rooms into one as getting the floors level will add to costs.
A good design starts in many cases with a good survey of what you’ve got and what state it is in. There’s no point in building an elaborate extension if you are going to have to carry out disruptive work to the drains beneath the floor later on, for instance. So take stock, and get a surveyor in as part of the early design process.
Ground conditions, site access, location and proximity of services, design and size — all have a big impact on what the cost of your extension will be and for this reason, it is difficult to give an exact idea of costs. However, extensions always tend to be more expensive that people think so keep it simple and small.
All extensions require Building Control Approval. Building Regs. are there to ensure that minimum design and construction standards are achieved and cover things such as fire safety, insulation, drainage and access.
Extensions can be in keeping or in stark contrast to the original house — either can be a success as long as it is well designed and considers the original building. Pay attention to the issues around the changing roofline, and of course ensure that the materials (particularly claddings, coverings and windows) have coherence to them as a whole house, rather than treating the extension as completely separate. Consider include plenty of glazing in the form of aluminium or timber windows or folding sliding doors. Letting more light into the space you have by means of larger windows and particularly roof lights can make spaces feel larger and happier and don’t cost much for the return.
Design-wise, it often makes more sense to build a contrasting extension that proudly shouts about its status as a new addition, yet complements and draws out the best elements of the existing building. Sometimes adding large extensions can be to the detriment of the remaining space as it can block light making the spaces less pleasant. In N. Ireland successful residential architecture is about natural light and proportion, making it elegant and beautiful. Clients often worry about how to overcome privacy issues yet still get light into their extensions. There are lots of great alternatives to traditional windows. Banks of rooflights, roof lanterns, glazed doors (both internal and external), rows of windows set just below ceiling level and above the eye level or alternative types of privacy glazing are all possible solutions.
Matching extensions are arguably much more difficult – and often expensive – to get right compared to contemporary extensions, making an extension appear as though it has always been there takes skill and attention to detail. In order for this style of extension to work, not only must the materials you use match the originals as closely as possible (using reclaimed or local materials is key), but you should also aim to copy the main design elements. These include the roof pitch and details such as the brick bond and even the mortar colour. Windows are also massively important, in terms of materials, style and size — make sure their proportions are in keeping with the rest of the house too. Matching bricks for many is the most difficult challenge but also essential to a ‘period’ extension’s success and don’t forget to match the mortar.
One of the most popular, least disruptive and cost-effective ways of adding another room to a house is to convert the existing loft. Much of the mess and disruption associated with other extensions can be contained with a loft conversion, with rubbish often going straight out through a waste shoot. The only form of major disruption comes with the fitting of the new staircase on the floor below. A straightforward loft conversion, carried out by builders or a loft conversion specialist, should only take around four to five weeks. The main area which can incur extra cost and time is the plumbing and electrics. Most loft conversions fall under Permitted Development rights however you will require Building Control Approval. Building Regulations state that if the loft is to be converted into a bedroom, playroom, study or bathroom, there must be a permanent staircase.
Using underused spaces like garages and formal dining rooms is an economical way to add useable space at little cost. If your home comes with an integral garage, you might find that the space is better served as additional living accommodation than for the storage of bikes and tools -as they are never used for cars! Integral garages are usually located near utilities and can be extended into as pantries or enlarged kitchens. Work does not tend to need planning permission but will need Building Control Approval — there are also some fire safety issues to consider. One of the key tasks is to level the floors (garages have to be at least 100mm lower than the dwelling’s usual level) and can usually be made up by adding a damp-proof membrane if required and sufficient floor insulation. As your existing garage wall will likely have single leaf construction, you will need to apply a compound or waterproofing breather membrane to the walls, along with insulation which can be hidden behind plasterboard as part of an inner leaf.
Sourcing an Architect:
The scale of your project may be such that the services of an Architect are just not needed, but if you are extending or carrying out major remodelling work, you should not underestimate what an Architect could bring to the table. They have the experience and expertise to get the very most from your space and your budget and could well offer ideas and solutions beyond what you had considered possible. They will also have connections with local tradespeople and may have a relationship with the local planners — as well as some knowledge of what they are and aren’t willing to accept. They will also be able to submit your plans and advise you on any red tape surrounding your application. A lot of an Architects job is to not get it wrong -to help the client avoid making mistakes and wasting money.
Selecting an Architect is difficult as you don’t really know if you will work well together until you get started. Go for one that loves to do residential work and is enthusiastic about the project. Experience is important but hard work is essential. It is always beneficial to go on the recommendations of others, particularly if you are impressed with their completed projects however a useful starting place maybe to contact your local professional body for architects, so either the RSUA or RIAI to search for registered architects in your area. Here you will find all the necessary contact details and websites to help you create a shortlist of possibilities. Prior to commencing any project, it is imperative to understand the need to perhaps also employ other consultants such as a Structural Engineer or Quantity Surveyor to work alongside the Architect to ensure the works are carried out as proficiently as possible and to budget. The number of other consultants recommended will vary depending on the scale of the project and the inclusion of any specialist items but it is something to be wary of and consider from an early stage.
Colin and Barbara Barry had always wanted to self-build on a site with sea views, and when a large plot in Co. Down completely open to the sea on three sides came up for sale, they didn’t hesitate in taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When you have, as Colin and Barbara did, a very clear idea of the setting and type of house you want to build, getting it all together is quite a tall order. The germ of the plan took hold when the couple were on holiday in Italy, as Colin explained:
‘We spent a holiday at Lake Garda in northern Italy and just loved the way the villas are built around the steep hillside bordering the Lake. The setting is fantastic and I knew exactly where, back home, we could get the same feeling, so when the site was put up for sale in 2006 we moved quickly to secure it.’
From the facades and layout of the house it is evident that the influence of Italy was more than a sense of place, the style is, as Colin described it ‘Irish Palladian’.
‘I love the symmetry of the ancient buildings in Rome and especially those of Andrea Palladio, but also, in the modern era, the fabulous Art Deco period villas on Long Island, New York state, and Miami.’
The result is a house with an international feel yet quite distinctively Irish.
Although new to self-building, the couple had plenty of experience of building as they had completely restored the house they were living in, a Listed building, and prior to that, renovated a modern house. In his day job, Colin has a background in large residential and commercial building. With this knowledge and interest, was it not tempting to do the designing himself? Colin was emphatic in his response:
‘Designing and building a house are two very different things and I had no hesitation in using an architect. It was his job to make all our ideas work in practical terms as well as distilling our thoughts on style into a form that we were happy with and that would work. The architect we knew because he’d already built a house for my brother in the area and the builder had worked for our family before on other projects. We were very fortunate in having these connections already established because it was quite a complicated build, and good communication and understanding were essential.’
Given the unusual design, its size and location, it would not have been a surprise to hear that gaining planning permission was a long, tortuous process, but not so. The site had originally been passed for the erection of two separate dwellings so the change to one large family home represented considerable planning gain, and permission was granted following some minor adjustments to the design.
The house is of masonry construction using 9”/230mm concrete blocks laid flat for sound attenuation and to create thermal mass. With three teenage children, the couple were particularly aware of the importance of both of these!
‘We wanted them to be able to bring their friends to the house but without us feeling as if we were living in a hotel!’ explained Colin. ‘The children chose what they wanted in their bedrooms which are large enough to have several people staying over, as well as which, on the top floor we have a multi-purpose room with a cinema screen; it’s also a place to play loud music without everyone else hearing it. The concrete beams and insulation between the floors means we can still enjoy peace and quiet downstairs.’
The family were allowed a ‘wish list’ of what they wanted, which is at first glance surprising for what they left out.
‘We have plenty of space for a swimming pool and tennis court’ Colin continued, ‘but nobody was enthusiastic. The tennis court we’d had at our previous house and I admit it was rarely used, the swimming pool might have been voted for if they’d been younger. Nowadays kids prefer to have their friends round or to go out.’
Predictably though, they all requested showers with body jets and in their rooms, a TV screen and internet access.
The question of using renewable energies was considered in the same way as the fabric and interiors, from a very aesthetic as well as practical point of view.
‘We looked at having both solar panels and a geothermal heat pump, but the panels would have been an eyesore on the roof and the cost of digging down for the heat pumps was huge. What we have been able to do, apart from fully fill the wall cavity with insulation, is to use an air source heat pump for hot water in summer. Otherwise it is a mains gas boiler and, apart from an open fire in the hallway – which we’ve yet to use – there are gas fires in the living areas and it also powers the AGA cooker. Although it cost an extra £800/€1,020, we put in a management system for the AGA and that has proved very effective in controlling the timing and temperature.’
The warm roof construction ensures maximum use of the space inside and out with the projecting balconies a magical place to sit and watch the sun go down across the Lough and the hills beyond. As darkness falls, the blinds lower and curtains close; both are part of a system that’s clever enough to adjust to the time of sunset throughout the year, automatically. Even if the weather is poor, huge windows, (these and the Bangor Blue roofing slates were among the more significant parts of the build), provide almost the same experience. The curved glass in the projecting bays softens the seaward façade and contrasts with the geometric gables and tall rectangular chimneys. These curves are echoed inside with the wide sweeping staircase leading to a semi-circular balcony, giving access to the upper rooms.
Whilst her husband was keeping a watchful eye on site, Barbara was busy at her computer sourcing the fixtures and fittings for the interior, one of which is a stunning chandelier. Many a stately home owner must envy the motorised lowering for easy cleaning!
A Grand Design this home may be, but the use of marble flooring throughout and soft tones with splashes of colour create an interior whose stylish simplicity highlights the inventiveness of the design. Few changes were made in the course of the build, but one very visible as you walk through the front door, is the use of curved walls which just ask to be followed, to find out what lies behind and beyond.
In the classic 1960’s film La Dolce Vita, the main character (a journalist), searches in vain for ‘the sweet life’ in Rome. If the film were to be re-created, then Colin and Barbara’s wonderful house and location would provide the perfect set, only this time the story has a happy ending.
House size: c15,000sqft/372sqM
Site size: 2 acres
Builder: MG Construction, 3 Ballytrustan Road, Downpatrick, Co. Down BT30 7AQ Tel. 028 4484 1368 www.mgconstruction.com
Windows: Dask Timber Products Ltd., Meenan Mill, Dublin Road, Loughbrickland, Banbridge, Co. Down BT32 3PB Tel. 028 3831 8696
Stone cladding & porch: McMonagle Stone, Turrishill, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal Tel. 074 973 5061
Sanitary ware, AGA: Haldane Fisher Ltd., Shepherd’s Way, Carnbane Industrial Estate, Newry, Co. Down BT35 6QQ Tel. 028 3026 3201 www.haldane-fisher.com
Kitchen: Robinson Interiors, 10 Boucher Way, Belfast BT12 6RE Tel. 028 9068 3838 www.robinsoninteriors.com
Granite worktop & marble tile flooring: A Robinson & Sons, 14 Main Street, Annalong, Newry, Co. Down BT34 4TR Tel. 028 4376 8213 www.arobinson.co.uk
Slates: Lagan Building Solutions Ltd., 11b Sheepwalk Road, Lisburn, Co. Antrim BT28 3RD www.lbsproducts.com
Plaster moulding: Nicholl Plaster Mouldings, 81 Knockbracken Road, Belfast BT6 9SP Tel. 028 9044 8410
Audio Visual & Sonos sound system, alarm, home cinema: iHome, 43 Ballynafern Road, Banbridge, Co. Down BT32 5BW Tel. 028 4065 1331 www.i-home.co.uk
Bedroom carpets: Martin Phillips, 9a Portaferry Road, Newtownards, Co. Down BT23 8NN Tel. 028 9181 8227 www.martinphillipscarpets.co.uk
Structural Engineer: Structures 2000 Ltd., 9 Grange Park, Magherafelt, Co L’derry BT45 5RT Tel. 028 7963 3876 www.s2kltd.com
Quantity Surveyor: Naylor & Devlin, 95 Malone Avenue, Belfast BT9 6EQ Tel. 028 9066 9118 www.naylor-devlin.com
Mechanical & Electrical: Dynamic Design, 20A Newry Street, Banbridge Co. Down BT32 2HA Tel. 028 4062-3377 www.dynamicdesign.org
Insulation: Kingspan Insulation, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan Tel. 042 979 5000 www.kingspaninsulation.ie
Landscaping: Park-Hood, Hawarden House, 163 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3HZ Tel. 028 9029 8020, www.parkhood.com
Instantaneous hot water tap: Quooker www.quooker.co.uk
Photography: Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill, 17 Clarence Street, Belfast, BT2 8DY, Tel: 028 9024 5038 www.scenicireland.com
Location, location, location – that saying certainly rings true when it comes to property, and today’s little discovery once again proves that.
The project? The creation of a traditional Arts and Crafts-style home for clients who, after living in modern houses for several years, decided to build much more character into their new home. Thus, enter the professionals over at Des Ewing Residential Architects and task them to create something traditional, yet at the same time take advantage of some more modern and simple lines.
Work in progress
As we can see, it’s all systems go for the conjuring of this stunning new family home. And even though it’s not complete yet, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see the traditional look of the house-to-be.
As many natural materials were used as possible, including cobbles, handmade roof tiles, lime render, and timber flooring.
Shifting our perspective ever so slightly allows us a fantastic look at that even more fantastic view. How strikingly do the greens and blues of Mother Nature complement the neutral and earthy tones of the traditional house?
The vision: Front façade
We might not be psychic, but we have extremely professional contacts, and they’ve provided us with a futuristic vision of what the finished house will look like – thus, feast your eyes on this 3D rendering!
Don’t you think it looks like a house straight out of a fairytale? As we can see (and heard from the designers in charge), this house majors more on taste and style than glamour. As you walk around it, each corner will provide you with an interesting and surprising perspective.
The vision: Rear façade
The rear of the house is equally enticing, providing both a royal and lush look thanks to the expertly-made house and the dream-like garden surrounding it.
Let’s have a look at some more images, shall we?
This discovery reminds us of another little gem we recently encountered: England’s smallest castle.