House extension is a class act

An unusual addition to a former schoolhouse in Roscommon blends old and new well

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 01:00

When two artists bought this former school nine years ago, the first extension they added was a shipping container that was winched in from the field beside it and swung over the wall, nearly taking out the neighbourhood’s electricity supply with it. The tale that owners Pauric and Linda tell of creating their striking home is a lesson in creativity, going with the flow, sharing design ideas and, yes, bravery. Pauric admits he was warned that it would be a trecherous business trying to avoid overhead wires as the heavy-metal container – now an artists’s studio painted black – was craned over the wall but he went ahead anyway and experienced a heart-in-mouth moment when he realised that sparks could fly. But the risk paid off.

The fact that the couple – and their enchanting daughter Ruby – even live here is a bit of an accident. Pauric was visiting family in the area. “I was havng a cuppa and flicking through the paper when I saw this for sale and drove down to have a look. We weren’t even thinking of living here. We had an apartment in Dublin although we did fancy a change from the city.”

Speedy sums revealed that the cost of a mortgage on this house would be less than the rent on an artist’s studio in Dublin. They knew there was a thriving arts scene in the area and it would enable the couple to set up a graphic design practice (they have a studio in Carrick-on-Shannon, and change their Dublin life of working in restaurants to supplement their time in the city studio. Both painters and makers of video installations, the move has even seen Linda expand her work into film directing: thrown in the deep end via a friend of a friend.

“We figured, if we didn’t like it we could move back,” says Linda, four years on. (Linda does go to Dublin often, still, completing a Masters at IADT in Visual Arts Practices ).

When the couple first arrived at this house outside Boyle in Co Roscommon, unruly grasses were wafting at hip-height and giant bullying leylandii trees, some growing like wild-things since the 1960s, encircled the garden. “It made a massive difference when we took them down,” says Linda, “and we gained about 15ft of garden all round.” The family is still burning the wood.

The ghost of those trees shimmers in the striking kitchen wallpaper: rows of dark, sinewy and silvery trunks growing up the walls. It’s the type of striking element that features periodically in this home of simple, chic rooms. Other blast spots are a red chair between the kitchen and dining room and primary-colour patterened bedlinen and curtains in Ruby’s room: nurturing creative bravery in the next generation.

The balanced, bold, flowing house was hewn from an unpromising palette. “There were no redeeming factors in it having been a school – just the tiles in the hall,” says Linda, who still meets people in the area who were at school here. It closed in the 1960s and was a house after that.

“Where the dining room is now [next to the front door] there was a kitchen with just a range – not a nice one – a sink and two cupboards.” Beside that, where the kitchen is now, was a downstairs bedroom.

While upstairs the layout was “weird”. “You had to walk through one bedroom to get to another,” says Pauric. They replaced the three upstairs bedrooms with two, taking out a hallway in the process, and have added a new bedroom in an extension designed by architect Ronan Rose-Roberts, which has a studio/living room on the lower floor.