While there are many architectural practices that can design head-turning, one-off houses, to custom-fit the lives of their occupants, scaling that same thinking and aesthetic up to a housing development is far more difficult.
Building techniques, economies of scale and working to stricter budgets all factor and explain why so many new build schemes can resemble each other in look, feel and layout.
Sika Woods, a new estate on the outskirts of Enniskerry, has been built on lands formerly owned by the Slazenger family, and the scheme overlooks one of the golf courses at Powerscourt Estate.
At first glance the barn-like homes look to have been stolen from the 1960s. Vast stretches of the pebbledashed exterior are without windows, as though they were accidentally omitted from vital drawings. But these aluminum window frames are surrounded in a pearly brick, a clue to the level of detail on offer.
In fact some of the houses almost appear set in a downward-facing dog yoga position with the rear ends of their roofs aloft. This makes better sense from the inside in the tented pitch of bedrooms and galleried living rooms.
It is a first time venture between developer Winterbrook and Max O’Flaherty of Aughey O’Flaherty Architects and the results are impressive. Winterbrook is driven by the next generation of the Rhatigan family including Anne-Marie Drohan, who operates sales, marketing and interiors along with her sister, architect Kate Rhatigan and brother Conor who heads up business development.
When complete there will be 47 homes in total. Inside the A2- and A3-rated houses have lofty ceiling heights that extend from 2.7m to a soaring 6m, full-height interior doors draw the eye upwards and kitchens have been nipped and tucked to fit discreetly rather than dominate.
The three-bedroom semis range in size from 127sq m to 132sq m (1367sq ft to 1,420sq ft), and the staircase in each sits into the core of the home giving the ground floor a broken plan layout with a sitting room to the front and the kitchen accessed via two sliding pocket doors - one on each side of the stairs. A clever study area has been hived out on one side to provide a discrete work station that’s separate from both receptions.
Fitzgerald Kitchens in Tinahely did the kitchens which feature a neat-sized island that leaves plenty of room for an eight-seater table. The bedrooms are set over the first floor and its return, with the main bedroom suite at the top of the house, incorporating a walk-through dressing room and shower en suite. Prices for the seven houses in this launch start from €535,000.
Prices for the four-bed semi start from €655,000. This house style extends to 173sq m / 1,862sq ft and has its utility room cleverly worked into the landing space on the first floor. Complete with sink for hand-washing and soaking garments it eliminates the futile trek up and down stairs with laundry.
The entrance hall is big enough to take a boot-room like bench and this leads through to a large broken plan space which starts with the dining area to the front extending on to the tidy kitchen and island and finishing in a lofty living room at the rear of the house. This extends the entire width of the property with plenty of wall room for sofas.
Two of the four bedrooms are on the first floor. Set to the rear of the house the main bedroom is on the first floor return and has a windowed en suite. There is another double at the top of the house with a study adjoining. An option might be to open these two rooms to add a second sitting room.
The four-bedroom detached house has one of its four-bedrooms at hall level – a clever future-proofing consideration for later years when mobility could become restricted. The ground floor almost feels like a very luxurious apartment with the open plan living room leading through to the dining and kitchen areas. The double-height living room is set below a galleried landing that could be glassed in if there is too much noise transfer but the carpeted upstairs, not standard, minimises this. Upstairs there are three further bedrooms. Prices for these homes, which measure 191sq m/2,055sq ft, start from €815,000.
The show homes have been fitted-out by Sinead Considine and Niamh de Barra of The Interiors Project and feature a soft neutral palette of colours including Lamp Room Grey by Dulux on the walls and soft linens, wenge-stained oak cabinetry and cane and ebonised chairs .
“The site is pretty amazing,” says architect Max O’Flaherty, who designed the scheme as two mini estates, which he describes as the “lungs” set around a public open space that isn’t quite complete, thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown. He’s not wrong. The views are quite special. From some houses there are views to the sea, the shale peak of the Sugarloaf and the mature trees of the Powerscourt Estate.