A Deceptive Gem in Doolin / AAI Award Winning House / Cliffs of Moher Views
The Doolin House, Doolin, Co. Clare. V95 XN97
The house, built in 1995, was designed by Grafton Architects for the artist Matthew O`Connell, his wife Mary Gray, a jewellery designer, and their two young daughters.
The couple had been running the much loved Doolin Crafts Gallery and Restaurant since moving to County Clare in 1982 and the family lived ‘over the shop`, all the while planning and developing a brief for a home of their own. When the time came, they directed the brief to Shelley McNamara, a partner in Grafton Architects, who was an old friend and also happened to come from nearby Lisdoonvarna so was familiar with the demands the weather makes on buildings in the area.
The planning requirement was for a ‘strictly` traditional elevation to the main road, so the architects chose as their reference point the middle-sized farmhouse, common in the area, which is a long thin house, one room deep. When the building won an AAI award that year, the assessors` comments acknowledged the success of this approach: `I believe this is the best of the houses in a rural landscape` `I like the simple aesthetics. There`s a certain elegance to the roadside elevation` `I think it`s picked up the traditional element without being pastiche`
It is on entering the front door with its simple Liscannor stone canopy that the architectural magic unfolds. It is a design approach that would, 23 years ago, have been rare for a domestic building.
The plan of the house is free and open with a double height, glazed void separating the formal living from the kitchen and dining area at ground floor and separating the master bedroom from the children`s rooms and spare room at first-floor level. There is an engineered oak floor throughout.
On the South elevation a full height sliding glass door connects the dining area to the courtyard garden and a curved window, again full height, laughingly referred to as ‘the bay window` breaks through the wall between the courtyard and the interior spaces.
The enclosed courtyard, which occupies a footprint almost equal to that of the house, has splayed walls which appear as free-standing ‘wind screens` and are pierced with openings that offer framed views of the wider garden, the surrounding landscape and beyond towards the Cliffs of Moher. Long before the concept of ‘the room outside` became the buzzword it is today, the courtyard truly extends the house. Now richly planted, this space enjoys the sun all day long.
The first floor is accessed from a simple hallway, practically floored with coir matting, via a sculptural Ash staircase with a bespoke steel handrail. The hall, stairs, and landing which are on the north side, are given additional light by tall slit windows from the void area and a tiny ‘Juliet` balcony which looks back down into that light-filled space.
The master bedroom, which has an en-suite bathroom, also has a slit window from the glazed void.
The curved corridor leading to the other three bedrooms and family bathroom is lined with bespoke built-in cupboards. ‘Lots of light` and ‘Lots of storage` were two key elements of the design brief given by the couple.
On retiring from running the Crafts Gallery, Matthew, always a passionate gardener, was free to develop the garden around the house and set up a small nursery and garden design service (now closed). The garden is packed with interesting plants and mature trees and shrubs forming numerous garden rooms and sheltered seating spaces against the backdrop of the beautiful surrounding landscape.
A Deceptive Gem in Doolin / AAI Award Winning House
Cliffs of Moher Views
Landscaped Gardens & Courtyard / circa 0.5 Acre Site
Orientation – South Facing
Double height ceiling
Floor to ceiling glazing
Bespoke / Architectural Design
800 metres to Doolin Village – Gateway to the Aran Islands