How Britain lives An award-winning five-bedroom new-build
Creating this stunning house was an adventurous project, but it’s paid off with a warm and welcoming family home for the owners – and a top award for the builder
When Nuala and Danny McConnell needed a builder to turn their dream home into a reality, there was no obvious reason to pick someone who, like them, had never built a house before. But Nuala says: ‘When we showed Gavin Dynes our plot of land, he had a look in his eye that we hadn’t seen from more experienced builders. We decided to take a chance – and it turned out to be the best decision we’ve ever made.’
Eleven months later, the result is a breathtaking five-bedroom, 6,300 sq ft family home that mixes traditional Donegal slate with walnut wood interiors and modern glass. Nestled in the rolling hills of Carryduff on the outskirts of Belfast, it has not only won New Build of the Year 2017 in the prestigious Federation of Master Builder Awards, but Gavin, 30, has also been crowned Builder of the Year.
‘Down to the last tile and smallest detail, Gavin repeatedly went the extra mile,’ says a delighted Nuala, 50, who lives there with her accountant husband Danny, also 50, and children Joseph, 21, Patrick, 18, and Katie, 15. ‘The house was made with real love – and it shows.’
It was during the summer of 2014 that Nuala and Danny decided that they wanted a change from their four-storey terraced house in Belfast. ‘When an architect friend mentioned a plot of land just outside the capital and suggested a custom build, I replied “That isn’t my dream at all”,’ says Nuala. ‘But Danny and I went to see it and found ourselves standing in a field with beautiful views. Suddenly I could see myself living here.’
The land had planning permission for two dwellings, so the couple submitted new drawings for a single property complete with garage. ‘One architect’s plans left us feeling uninspired,’ says Nuala. ‘Then, an architect friend, Ronan Downey, asked if he could try, so I showed him images of homes I liked. When Ronan unveiled his 3D plans, my dream home unfolded in front of my eyes and I couldn’t contain my excitement.’
Ronan’s design mixes traditional Donegal slate with wood and render, plus modern glass and steel panelling. Centrepieces include a floating walnut staircase to provide a stunning entrance and steps down into a huge open-plan kitchen and living space.
A breathtaking slate fireplace is a focal point in the open-plan kitchen/living area, while floor-to-ceiling glass showcases the stunning views. The upstairs landing leads onto a glazed exterior balcony, and the house also has a utility room with separate laundry room, games room, cinema room, reception room, five ensuite bedrooms and a communications room/study.
There’s a further bedroom above the double garage with a separate entrance and staircase. It connects to the main building by a levitated glass and cladding corridor.
With planning permission assured, the couple’s search for a builder led them to
‘Down to the last tile
and smallest detail, Gavin repeatedly went the extra mile,’
Gavin and his local company. A major change to the plan came when Nuala saw a picture in a magazine of an open fireplace with a stone column, cantilevered to give the impression of being ‘suspended’. ‘I wanted a real “wow factor” and Gavin worked with the engineer to install hidden supporting beams,’ she says.
There’s also a traditional woodburning stove in the living room. ‘Danny grew up on a farm and it reminds him of fetching logs when he was a child,’ says Nuala. ‘In truth, with triple glazing and insulation in the house, we’ve hardly had to use it.’
Gavin also made some further suggestions. For instance, he wasn’t happy with the existing quote for the windows and doors and drove Nuala and Danny to see alternative suppliers, managing to shave £20,000 off their bill. ‘I loved the way that Gavin cared about the finest of details,’ says Nuala. ‘He drove miles to hand pick the slate himself for the very best quality.
‘Also, I wanted a chute so dirty clothes could be ‘dropped’ from upstairs and land in the laundry room. Gavin came up with a design and the kids love “posting” their laundry!’
A seating area in the hallway evolved by accident. ‘We put our old sofa there to be collected and realised we loved sitting there! We asked the carpenters who made the stairs to create two matching walnut benches,’ says Nuala, who’s tied the different areas together with the same grey colour scheme.
‘I wanted everything to flow, so I chose French Grey paint from Little Greene. It’s a calming colour, but also shows off the walnut and industrial steel beautifully. I’ve introduced colour through soft furnishings, such as the pink footstool in the cinema room and posters of our favourite films.’
The property has changed the way this close family live together. ‘My keyword was warmth and the wonderful bonus is the way this house pulls us all together,’ Nuala says. ‘We see more of the children now because they don’t escape to their rooms. Instead, we use all three reception rooms, while the boys treat the games room as a man cave!
‘In the evenings, the boys are in the cinema room watching sport on the large TV, my daughter is in the living room with friends and my friends are enjoying a glass of wine in the kitchen or dancing to music via the new sound system. It’s a house that welcomes people in and encourages fun.’
A double-height hallway with a floating staircase creates a stunning entrance for Nuala’s breathtaking home
Belfast firm Robinson’s Interiors designed the kitchen, which has sleek handleless taupe units and porcelain worktops
A scheme of calming greys has been used in the living room