Grafton starchitects’ Co Clare longhouse stands the test of time

Ennis agency seeks €365k for The Doolin House, an award-winning home on half an acre

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Address: The Doolin House, Co Clare
Price: €365,000
Agent: Location, Location

Twenty-three years ago, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, partners in Grafton Architects, designed The Doolin House in Co Clare.

At the time they were on their way to becoming the architecture superstars they are today – a status confirmed by their choice as curators of the great architecture biennale in Venice this year.

And typically, while it was a modest house in the countryside, built for a family, it nevertheless displayed such excellence that in 1995 it won an RIAI award, with one of the assessors noting, “I believe this is the best of the houses in a rural landscape”. The design won plaudits for its modern interpretation of the traditional Irish longhouse and the “simple aesthetics”.

The owners of The Doolin House, artist Matthew O’Connell and his wife Mary Gray, a jewellery designer, did what so many do when it comes to building – they asked an architect friend and luckily for them that friend was Shelly McNamara who comes from Lisdoonvarna.


The couple knew the area well; since 1985 they had been running the Doolin Crafts Gallery and with two children, it was time to move from living over the shop. Their brief to McNamara emphasised storage and light and a sociable family home.

Inside, the front door opens into a double height space and there are four bedrooms upstairs, the largest (with an en suite) is at one end of the house, with the children’s bedrooms and the guest bedroom off a curved corridor at the other end. Downstairs there is the same separation – the large living room on one side of the hall, the kitchen, dining area and utility on the other.


To the rear, which is southfacing, a full-height glazed sliding door opens from the dining area into a courtyard whose splayed walls are punctuated by openings that frame the views of the countryside beyond. The house has 1,980sq ft, with the enclosed courtyard almost equal to the footprint of the house.

Local craftspeople were employed in the build and Gray says that the solid timber kitchen is still as good now as it was then, with the drawers sliding as easily as they ever did.

A sculptural ash staircase was commissioned and finished with a bespoke steel handrail while the flooring throughout is engineered oak. McNamara’s interior finish featured floating shelves, which, as Gray notes, was long before they became commonplace.

The house sits on nearly a half acre and, when they sold the gallery, O’Connell, a natural gardener, set up a small nursery in the grounds of The Doolin House. Long closed now, its legacy for future owners of the house is a beautiful, richly planted garden.

The Doolin House is for sale though Ennis-based estate agency, Location Location, seeking €365,000.

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison is an Irish Times journalist and cohost of In the News podcast