A calm, considered Harold’s Cross Cottage
The word "cottage" brings to mind a whole host of adjectives, but "light" and "airy" are not on the usual list. However, it would be hard to describe this Harold’s Cross property as anything else. When architect and lecturer Madeleine Moore and her husband, painter Oliver Comerford, bought the single storey end-of-terrace building, a series of poor quality extensions made the space feel cluttered and dark. Built in 1884, none of the original windows or doors had been retained, and there was no flow between different spaces.
Madeleine explains that despite this, they could see the potential of the house. “It’s a private, quiet location, situated at the end of a cul-de-sac, with a south-facing garden to the side, so I wanted to create spaces with links to the outside, to the sky and to the garden, and to have high levels of natural light.” To achieve this, the three extensions were removed, and the house was given a new layout. It was stepped down at the back for bedrooms and bathrooms, allowing an attic storey under the original ridge height, which had to be maintained for planning approval.
The natural slate pitched roof to the front of the original cottage was extended across the full width of the building, with the chimney retained in its original position, now forming a gentle division between the new kitchen and living spaces. The new layout positions this large south-facing area the full width of the front of the building. Madeleine explains that “this part of the house is single-storey, with high floor to ceiling heights extending up to 4.3 metres with roof lights, giving it lovely natural light and a sense of space.” The centre of the house is also flooded with light through two large roof lights above the stairs, bringing daylight into the middle of the space, as well as views of the sky.
The placement of windows also helps to achieve the light, spacious feeling inside the house. Being an end of a terrace property, with its garden to the side, the main windows are placed at the front and facing the garden “The front windows,” Madeleine explains, “with a single and a double sash with granite cills, respect the size, proportion and pattern of the windows on the street. While this seems simple, conservation details such as the depth the window is set into the wall are important.” However the windows at the side of the house do not need to follow such rules. High sliding doors and a horizontal frameless window are more modern and give carefully considered cutouts of the surroundings.
Madeleine also points out that details such as long horizontals below eye level give an illusion of more space. “The eight-metre-long green bookshelf and the full-width oak countertop increase the sense of space in the kitchen and living area. The green colour of the shelf connects with planting outside, making a visual connection between them. Choosing a single material for the floor finish throughout – in this case oak floorboards – with no thresholds between rooms, also creates continuity and flow.”
The interiors accentuate this effect, giving a streamlined finish with simple palette of materials, including white walls, custom-made iroko doors and garden gates, and oak floors. Built-in storage throughout allows it to remain a calm, uncluttered space, despite the demands of family life. The kitchen is visually unobtrusive, with white units and a white Corian countertop that were made to order to fit the space exactly. Custom-designed units also wrap around the original chimney, which is now in the centre of the kitchen and living space. “The traditional cast iron fireplace provides a focus for the living space, and we light a fire daily during the winter,” Madeleine says.
A common approach to an old building such as this is to clearly differentiate between old and new, but as the fireplace was one of the few original features that remained, Madeleine shifted her focus. “In this case it made sense to extend the pitched roof over the new extension and the planners were supportive of this,” she explains. “The planners liked the timber sliding sash windows and the timber hardwood front door. The original cast iron windows had been removed and it was not feasible to reinstate these.”
The creative couple’s home is full of interesting objects, ceramics and paintings, including some work of recent NCAD graduates, where Madeleine lectures. Taking charge of their own space meant that Madeleine and Oliver were able to prioritise the things that were most important to them in their house. “Designing your own space means examining closely how we live and the requirements we have as a family,” Madeleine explains. “For example, for the structure to accommodate the two long roof lights, we had to use steel beams, which was expensive. But we decided the natural light was important to us.” The resulting home, clean and bright, shows the fruits of their vision.
WORDS Megan Burns
PHOTOGRAPHY Ruth Maria Murphy