Putting the bliss back into bungalow living


A dark, cold, age-worn bungalow has been transformed by architects into an energy-efficient, calm, bright, sophisticated home, writes EMMA CULLINAN

IRELAND IS dotted with blistered bungalows, the tired legacies of the Bungalow Bliss era, and yet one revamped home in Co Kerry shows how such houses can be cosied up, opened out and aesthetically enhanced to take their place among the best architecture of today.

The owners of this bungalow overlooking Kenmare Bay originally thought that they needed an extension, because they lacked space and the interior of their home was dark.

But Carson and Crushell Architects talked them out of it, something they have tended to do of late.

In a current job in Rathgar, Douglas Carson and Rosaleen Crushell showed the client how they could reconfigure their existing space and add a smaller extension to meet their needs. While in Kerry, they explained how the clients’ lifestyle would be better served with more openings in the exterior and a spatial configuration internally.

“We do seem to convince ourselves out of work,” Douglas smiles.

“But the extension would have been compromised by the budget and you can do a lot with small gestures. Sometimes an extension can exacerbate space problems. You can have an extension of 40sq m (431sq ft) without planning permission which can take up a huge amount of garden and you will get little or no direct sun into the centre of a house, even with a conservatory.”

But then Carson and Crushell Architects has been known to do things differently.

After graduating from UCD six years ago they left Dublin during the Celtic Tiger boom to work in London and now that their own workload has picked up here (and Rosaleen is doing a masters in conservation at UCD) they have returned to Ireland during the recession.

The Kerry bungalow, which had been empty for six years, had its good points: some of the rectangular internal rooms perfectly fitted golden section measurements (the proportions found in classical and modern architecture, the human body and nature, and which will be familiar to readers of the Da Vinci Code).

“Maybe it was accidental,” says Carson, “but there was evidence of thought being put into the plan and detailing.” He cites the bungalow’s internal courtyard providing natural light and ventilation in a deep plan.

Yet there were problems with the fabric of the building and the way people who lived there had changed the internal layout.

The architects wrapped the original single-leaf blockwork walls with Greenspan insulation boards, and insulated the underside of the flat timber roof.

The windows were then pushed outwards to be flush with the new exterior “which made the rooms feel bigger”, says Carson.

The new windows are in high-performance timber with aluminium exteriors, which replaced the former rotting timber window frame to both the exterior and to the courtyard.

The architects praise the work of window fitter Windox who avoided using acres of mastic, which is a common problem with flush-finish aluminium windows.

Other green additions included putting 20 solar tubes, from Absol, which heats water (providing 60 per cent of needs). The building has gone from an F BER rating to a B.

Internally the kitchen had been moved into the former garage attached to the house, which put it a long way from the livingroom. At the rear of the house were two small bedrooms which have now been converted to one large en suite, turning this from a four-bed bungalow to a three-bed one.

While the front of the building is essentially unchanged the back elevation has been opened up with the addition of three large openings to match the existing French window.

“We took the dimensions from the existing livingroom window,” says Carson, “because we knew that the proportions worked.”

One of the new openings lines up with the front door on the other side of the house to provide a view right through to the distant bay as you arrive in the house.

The house has also been cleared of its dark interior, which included curtains, dark timber ceilings, floors and wall panelling along with dark furnishings. “The whole space becomes compromised by those,” says Carson.

The kitchen has white laminate units floating on recessed grey kickboards and the worktops are in oak.

Outside the architects cleared the site which had become overgrown and made a terrace from Kilkenny limestone that overlooks Kenmare Bay. They also designed a limestone bench that sits against the house with its back to the fireplace within.

The surface texture is not smooth but rather has the feel of a limewash. “We were not trying to achieve a white, smooth box,” says Carson.

As with the kitchen, this white exterior recedes to grey at its base where it hits a bath of pinky grey pebbles, so that when the rain splashes up off the ground it doesn’t hit white and stain it.

The new deeper internal window sills are also in this pinky grey, which works really well with the inherent green in all glass, says Carson.

Further rain protection is achieved with a limestone capping at the tops of walls.

While the architects say that the original house, and the interventions needed, dictated the final aesthetic, when pushed they do admit to bringing their own design to it. “Achieving this level of detail is difficult,” says Carson (who was aided, when the couple were in London, by Jeremy Walsh Project Management).

It was all worth it: from a dark, cold, age-worn bungalow the architects have created an energy-efficient, calm, bright, sophisticated home.

It could be the start of a whole new Bungalow Fix movement.

The bungalow is available for rent through Sherry FitzGerald Daly, Kenmare (064-66412123)