Tina and Michael O’Connor have transformed a traditional-style bungalow, at the foot of a mountain, into a contemporary family home which makes the most of its dramatic surroundings.
Making the most of the dramatic, natural views is a high priority when your house stands at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain in Ireland’s County Wicklow. It was this view and the rocky surroundings which inspired the design of Tina and Michael O’Connor’s remodelled dormer bungalow, and helped to turn the traditional white-painted property with pitched roof into a series of sculptural, contemporary-style cubes.
“We bought the bungalow in 2003 to be closer to Dublin for work and schools, and fell in love with the location,” explains Tina, a teacher. “But although it was large and modern, all of the rooms were spread out and cut off from one another.” With five children to consider, the decision was taken in 2008 to build a two storey extension which would add space and light, creating a more sociable, open plan layout.
Architect Shane Aherne, of SADA Architecture, took this brief and expanded upon it to totally transform the house internally and externally. His bold ideas wowed the whole family, who were determined to splash out and build his vision: a series of cubes, clad externally in iroko timber, render and stone. Various new additions were proposed, including a cantilevered section to enlarge the first floor, and a 2m extension to the sitting room.
Planning permission was granted on the proviso that existing supporting walls were retained. “The planners seemed delighted with the design, which blends into the surrounding scenery and is far more insulated and energy efficient than the old house,” says Tina. The radical makeover also incorporates a number of eco-friendly features, such as an air-source heat pump connected to the underfloor heating.
The family decamped to a rental property nearby and watched as their former home was stripped back to virtually nothing — an experience which Tina admits was particularly worrying. “Only a handful of block walls were left standing, and we did wonder if we’d done the right thing,” she recalls. “I would visit the site every day and our eldest son, Hugh, worked with the builder over the summer holidays. There were a few delays, and we ended up having two different project managers. It was such a unique project, and without our architect overseeing everything I don’t know what we would have done. We had a great relationship with him.”
Fitting the oversized windows – which now create an immediate connection with the surroundings – resulted in some particularly tense moments during the 17-month project. Glass has also been used for balconies, balustrades and internal features — including a window between the master bedroom and en suite bathroom which allows views through to the balcony and mountain beyond, but can be turned opaque at the flick of a switch when privacy is required.
“In some ways our home has ruined other houses for me, because now I notice every detail — particularly when windows cut a view rather than frame it,” says Tina. “We just love the clean lines of the house and the way the space has been designed to flow so well. It’s far more exciting than the type of traditional extension we first considered, but despite everything it’s still a real family home.”