The Story of Home: The house that Ben built
Furniture designer Ben Gabriel took seven years to create his perfect idea of home
When furniture designer Ben Gabriel decided to create and build his own home in south county Galway, overlooking Slieve Aughty and the Burren, there was only ever going to be one material used – wood.
His timber framed house, which sits between Portumna, Loughrea and Gort, took seven years to build, but that’s only because he tackled it in the same way he does his furniture commissions, with a lot of thought and planning.
“The timber gives the house instant character that you wouldn’t get with a new concrete build; they take years to get that character,” he says.
Gabriel and his son Joshua, who joined his father in business in 2011, work seamlessly together in a workshop that’s located 100 yards from the family home.
Born and raised in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Ben moved to Ireland in 1996, when he finally decided he wanted to “set down roots”. “I moved a lot as a kid, more than six times. I didn’t want that for my children,” he says.
“I had an idea of staying here, so when I got a chance to buy this land, I decided it was a good opportunity to build a house. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it in Holland, it would be very expensive. I designed the house, brought it to an architect, he drew it up and put it in for planning. I was involved in every aspect of the process,” he says.
While Ben carried out the majority of the work on the house (the roof was cut out and constructed in Austria), the family lived on the land in a cabin with a mobile home attached.
A primary reason for both going into furniture design is the sense of freedom it allows them.
“We work from home and often we spend way more hours working and creating than if we were employed. But we get to come up to the house for lunch and sit looking at that view,” Ben says.
Living in close proximity to such other-worldly landscape offers inspiration, but only in an indirect sense, Ben says.
“It puts you in a frame of mind that allows you come up with the designs. You need to be comfortable and relaxed to allow the creative juices flow. You feel the freedom that we have here. Many would draw from architecture but to say it inspires me to do pieces, no.”
Home gives them both a feeling of belonging. “When you travel, you get to see lots of different places but to know that there’s your version of home somewhere in the world, everyone needs to have that. It gives you security and grounding,” Joshua says.
Ben agrees that everyone is entitled to a home, “a roof over their heads”.
“Home gives comfort and gives me comfort, more than in just the physical sense,” he says. “The view now is nothing like it was. To watch it develop, and grow, locks it in even more. I have built up a history with the place, and being in Ireland for 23 years, it’s the longest I’ve been anywhere.”
“Home to me is a place that I built, created and I feel comfortable in and I want other people to feel comfortable and at ease in it too,” he concludes.
About The Story of Home
The Story of Home is a six-part monthly print, video and online editorial campaign that explores the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who have found their dream place to live.
We are all writing our own Story of Home and to help inspire you we will travel around Ireland over the next six months to hear stories from a range of creative individuals on their own Story of Home.
For inspiration we’ve turned to a group of people who have managed to find a home that reflects their own personality and lets them live the life they dreamed of.
This is the third series of this award-winning campaign, again supported by Ulster Bank, which won the 2018 Global Media Award for best execution of native content at the International News Media Association.
That win reflects the global interest in these very local stories, reflecting the importance of the Story of Home to all.
Ulster Bank is also helping to write that story, working with customers all over Ireland: “One of the first major steps in creating your own Story of Home is getting a mortgage,” explains Susan Hogan, a mobile mortgage manager with Ulster Bank.
"In this series, we want to help with that and to help people consider the role of their homes at the very earliest stage so they can create a home that reflects their own story perfectly."
“We also want to take away as much of the stress from the mortgage process as we can, so we’re available to meet people at a time and place where they feel totally at ease,” she says.
“My role is to make the process as easy as possible and not one that is just about form-filling. We’re here to help. Building your own Story of Home has never been simpler.”
For more, see ulsterbank.ie
Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland
The editorial team behind The Story of Home
Series editor: Gary Quinn
Series videographer: Ana Conlon
Writer: Mimi Murray
Photographer: Andrew Downes