Award-winning Howth Boat House on sale for €1.5m
Architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey won Riba prize for property
Architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey are no strangers to awards, but this year, when they received the Royal Gold Medal, the world’s most prestigious award in architecture, awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba), they stepped into a new league.
Their buildings, which include Cork’s Glucksman Gallery, Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, Dublin’s Gallery of Photography and the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics, are celebrated for their sensitive use of materials and instinctive handling of movement, space and light.
Their Boat House in Howth, designed for Veronica O’Keane and her family, won a Riba award in 2004 and was, says Tuomey, “a very special project for us. It’s a personal work, and Veronica was a great client. A happy story.”
He adds that many of the design ideas that went into the Glucksman, which the practice was working on at the same time, are carried through in the Boat House.
This doesn’t mean you get huge rooms and swathes of white walls to hang your pictures on; rather, it involves clever circulation, lovely connections between inside and out, and the strong sense of the house being at one with its environment.
“I loved their work,” says O’Keane. “I knew their multidenominational school in Ranelagh, and while I didn’t think they’d say yes, I thought: ‘Why not ring them up and see?’
“Then, when they saw the site, they thought it very interesting. The front is north facing, so the light is diffuse, and they liked the idea of that, so I’m the lucky one.”
The front door is at the side of the house and is reached by a flight of stairs. There’s a separate entrance at ground level to what could be a semi-self-contained apartment, which currently houses a utility room, storage and a fifth bedroom with en suite.
Upstairs, there is a split-level living space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, which leads on to the kitchen/dining area.
There’s also a sittingroom with study.
In all, there’s 280sq m (3,014sq ft) of accommodation.
Wood patterns on shuttered concrete ceilings match the Iroko timber room dividers and doors, and the creative attention to detail can be seen everywhere.
The walls in the living space are coloured with grey-pigmented lime wash in a reference to the Martello tower out on the island in the bay.
Elsewhere, an orange wall creates a sense of separate space in the breakfast area.
Shelving, storage space, the table and chairs in the breakfast area, and the kitchen itself, have all been specifically designed for the space by the architects.
On the higher level, the bathroom has green mosaic tiles and a skylight, creating a dreamy, aquatic, almost undersea feeling.
“The idea for the new house started from an introductory conversation held with the client on the site,” says Tuomey.
“Looking out to sea, with the sun on our backs, we discussed our shared preference for facing north, watching the effect of the light on the landscape, without the glare of the sun in your eyes.”
The further four bedrooms are upstairs again, and the principal bedroom incorporates a study, a walk-in wardrobe and an en suite.
The other bedrooms all have their own unique characteristics. One is a bright dual-aspect space, with views of the sea and of the back garden.
Another is darker and cosier, ideal for those who need to feel they are completely away from the world to settle down for the night. The final bedroom has a garden view.
Skylights bring extra light to this level, too.
“I like the fact that most of the rooms have outside walls, so that in a way every single room is like a special separate area,” says O’Keane.
“In some modern houses, the spaces can be too merged. Here, there’s a central space that’s shared, but beyond that, each has its own aspect, view and character.
“I know everyone looks at the sea, and it’s absolutely spectacular. But there’s a seaside garden feel to the back, and it’s very sheltered, which I love too. The walls make it like a tower, a stronghold, but it’s also very open.”
With her family grown, O’Keane is now downsizing, giving a new family the chance to experience life in the Boat House.
“I hope it finds a good new owner to look after it,” says Tuomey. For sale with Lisney for €1.5 million, it certainly deserves it.