Fans of Ards Forest Park between Creeslough and Portnablath on Co Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way will already know the work of architect Tom O’Brien, for many a visitor has sheltered from the wind and rain in his thatched folly, Jeffry’s House, commissioned by Donegal County Council in 2014 for this sylvan seaside setting.
Situated at a natural pause on the boardwalk trail around the headland, the folly errs on the side of an art installation and, as well as providing shelter from the elements, is lovingly clambered over by kids of all ages.
The architect was recommended to the owners of 5 Emmet Street, musician Séan MacErlaine and artist Michelle Browne, when they wanted to contemporise their two-bedroom artisan cottage, which is situated just off Fitzgibbon Street in Dublin 1 (up the road from one of the city’s best chippers, the Savoy). They have many architect friends and all suggested O’Brien, MacErlaine says.
And he has done a smart job adding creature comforts like insulation and the durable and slim-framed Velfac aluminium and wood composite windows, without losing any of the property’s character.
Accessed via a set of granite steps, the house opens into a lofty hall where the ceiling height is 3.8 metres and where its owners make use of the space to hang their bikes from his and her pulleys – clever devices which they bought in one of the German supermarkets.
The ceiling height in the living room, a good square-shaped room, is slightly lower at 2.9 metres and it has timber floorboards and an open fire. A work by Browne, a reimagining of the village of Manorhamilton in Co Leitrim, one of the big art communities outside the capital, hangs on the wall. This room could also be used as a third bedroom.
The property has a villa-style layout with steps descending to the broken plan living room and kitchen, which is set in the return to the rear. A large glass and oak framed sliding door softly closes the living room from the hall and another can shut the kitchen from the living space.
These are beautifully put together by Cillian Ó Súilleabháin, who was awarded the Design and Crafts Council Futuremaker of the Year five years ago. There is a solid-fuel burning stove set into the very simple cast iron surround and birch ply sheeting covers the floor.
Below the dining deck is a secret space, a basement studio hived out of the area below the living room to the front. This is accessed via a small, Alice in Wonderland-like aperture leading to MacErlaine’s office, a fully fitted music studio.
From the living room, French windows open out to a contemplative garden, about 38sq m in size, that is bordered to the rear by the high wall of a building ruin. You can also see Pavee Point, a cut-stone Georgian building.
The kitchen is in the return, a space that has been widened by O’Brien, where there are Ikea units and lovely timber countertops by Ó Súilleabháin. Another door opens out to the garden where the party wall to the neighbour’s house is low, giving lovely views all down the terrace.
There is a utility area that you walk through to access the property’s only bathroom, where there is a separate shower and bath.
Upstairs are two bedrooms, both big enough to fit a double bed. The main bedroom has wardrobes by artist Rory Tangney. The second bedroom is bedecked in primary blues with a cyan colour on the floorboards and a slightly darker shade on the walls. It is a simple and effective way of creating a punchy decor.
The property, which has a C2 Ber rating and measures 89sq m/957sq ft, is seeking €425,000 through agent DNG.