Connemara. A typical long narrow seashore to road plot; undulating rock strewn stone walled irregular enclosures, enjoying a Southerly aspect seaward with fine vistas all around; the Twelve Pins mountain range dominating the skyline northward.
Clients a retired professional couple with an existing holiday home adjoining the site acquired in the seventies. Pressure of children and grandchildren’s usage suggested the possibility of amalgamating and developing two existing derelict cottages to create a separate retreat, accommodating living, kitchen, dining and relaxing spaces plus three bedrooms en suite.
The two cottages though close (a mere three metres apart) were not directly in line nor at the same level but were parallel. A basic decision in the redevelopment process was that they should continue to read as separate elements in the landscape. To allow the cottages read as two separate buildings, a transparent link was required, one totally glazed. This link would become the entry and circulation hub for the house connecting the cottages at both levels.
In the larger western cottage, access to the kitchen/dining area would be via the partially double height living room space, accessed from the glazed entrance and circulation link. Above, the library adjacent to the void leads to a large bedroom en suite.
The smaller eastern cottage would accommodate the master bedroom and en suite. A large store opposite the bathroom would house the main internal elements of the hot water and under floor heating system.
The project explores the relationships between a comfortable interior and the dramatic rugged landscape.
The cottages’ existing condition meant conventional restoration was neither practical nor feasible, the reconstruction entailed the careful removal and stockpiling of the stonework with the large existing quoins reserved for the gable corners, emphasising their unique quality. A heavily insulated stepped raft foundation would provide a base for this reconstruction.
Apart from the glazing and RC wall to support the cantilevered steps in the link, the balance of the construction is of conventional blockwork with the cavity increased to accommodate insulation levels in excess of current regulations. The 300mm deep dry stone rainscreen is laid against the outer face of the blockwork. To emphasise the traditional simplicity of form, gutters and down pipes are concealed within the slate roof and stonework.
The large glazing elements are secured by SS channel units, concealed in the dry stonework and secured to the building structure. The transparency of the link is facilitated by the individually cantilevered concrete stair threads leading up to the first floor and the glazed balustrade to the stairs and landing.
The other element of modernity contrasting with the age-old tradition of the dry stonework is the again glazed lean-to extension of the south facing dining area. A slide/fold arrangement of four doors allows for a full width opening, thus dining and relaxing can move smoothly from kitchen to dining to terrace, all the time enjoying the southern aspect and views across the strand and islands to the broad Atlantic horizon. As with the above elements, the windows are fully glazed externally, framing views northwards to the Twelve Pins and southwards to the seashore.
Inside, the interplay of colours and textures reference the varied landscape; the strand, the sea, the sky and distant mountains. The local stonework is an almost unique geological combination of granite and the darker pre-Cambrian Connemara migmatites. Polished concrete relates to the power washed external terrace and steps. Quality oak doors and floors to the bedrooms. Contrasting to this, soft furnishings and rugs replicate the natural colour palette of the surroundings. Locally crafted joinery add to the richness of materials to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
An air source heat pump provides both domestic hot water and under floor heating requirements. This works even with the outside temperatures below zero.
A combination of the contemporary and traditional, perhaps a more acceptable approach to rural development.