Even for Ciaran McCoy, the re­vival of his grand­par­ents’ crum­bling for­mer home was a daunt­ing prospect. But with some clever de­sign, the house has now been trans­formed. Edited by Mary O’Sul­li­van. Pho­tog­ra­phyby Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Life -

Evenings in the hot tub

‘C iaran said, ‘Give me two things you’d like.’ As a joke, I said, ‘a hot tub and bar,’” Enid Beb­bing­ton laughs as she shows off the ex­tra­or­di­nary hot tub she did even­tu­ally get. It’s be­low ground level and its draw­bridge-style lid forms part of the floor of the deck area out­side the kitchen of the home in Dublin 6 she shares with her hus­band, Ciaran McCoy, and their shih tzu, Bones.

The rea­son why the idea of a hot tub and bar was a bit of a joke was that the house was in such a state that sta­ples such as a roof, win­dows and doors — not to men­tion heat­ing and plumb­ing — were miles ahead in the queue for things that needed to be done. When this ge­nial cou­ple took on the house, the roof was open to the el­e­ments, and the orig­i­nal two-storey re­turn was fall­ing away.

How­ever, there was a hint of a gaunt­let be­ing thrown down by Enid to Ciaran — af­ter all, he’s a part­ner in Terenure-based ODKM, which is one of the more edgy ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tices in Dublin, and is very much into mak­ing ar­chi­tec­ture more ac­ces­si­ble to the gen­eral pub­lic.

With that in mind, the firm uses the shop front of their of­fices as a bill­board, with ever-chang­ing doo­dles to at­tract the at­ten­tion of passersby. “Ninety-five per cent of our work is do­mes­tic ad­di­tions. To marry old and new is the hard­est part of con­struc­tion. Add in the fact that it’s some­one’s home, all the emo­tional at­tach­ment, and you feel like a coun­sel­lor at times,” ex­plains Ciaran who, apart from ar­chi­tec­ture, also plays squash for Le­in­ster and paints.

He and Enid, a li­brar­ian, grew up five min­utes apart on the Na­van Road. “Ciaran would have walked past my house, go­ing to play squash, for a decade,” says Enid — but they didn’t meet un­til their early 20s. The scene was their lo­cal night­club. Soon af­ter, they went to Aus­tralia and loved it so much that they were go­ing to move there per­ma­nently.

“We went for a year and came back af­ter the 12 months was up, but we were very close to go­ing back. We lived two min­utes from the beach and loved the life. I had made a lot of friends through squash — I had a so­lic­i­tor friend who was go­ing to spon­sor me — but it was 2000, and ev­ery­thing was boom­ing here, so we stayed,” Ciaran ex­plains with a rue­ful laugh.

They quickly got jobs and bought their first apart­ment. “That got us into the mad­ness,” says Ciaran. They gutted it and sold it a year later, then bought a sub­ur­ban, four-bed­room house, which Ciaran re­designed. When the cou­ple, who had mar­ried in 2001, sold it eight years later — al­though the mar­ket had col­lapsed — they got the high­est price for that area for a long time.

‘I’ve al­ways been am­bi­tious with that kind of stuff. This house was ev­ery­thing I’d ever done . . . on steroids’

“We did have a lovely mar­ble floor — it was like a gallery. I miss that floor,” says Enid, while Ciaran adds: “I’ve al­ways been fairly am­bi­tious with that kind of stuff. This house was ev­ery­thing I’d ever done . . . on steroids.”

Like many of the houses that Ciaran and his part­ners in ODKM are in­volved with, there was also an emo­tional in­volve­ment in the pur­chase and re­design of their cur­rent home. Dat­ing from 1859, the red-brick, ter­raced house had been Ciaran’s grand­par­ents’ home, and his fa­ther grew up there.

“There were three brothers and one was left to look af­ter it and, for var­i­ous rea­sons, it was ne­glected. When he passed away, Dad and his other brother asked me to look at it. I saw an op­por­tu­nity and asked if I could pur­chase it,” Ciaran ex­plains.

“It was nice for Ciaran’s dad and un­cle to see it brought back to life,” Enid adds.

The derelict house was, how­ever, a daunt­ing prospect. “A lot would have said, ‘I can’t do any­thing with it.’ I’d lie if I didn’t say I thought of knock­ing it down and build­ing a con­crete box. It would have been cheaper and eas­ier. The hard­est types of build­ing are ren­o­va­tions — or up­cy­cling, to use the new term,” Ciaran says.

The house was too far gone to faith­fully re­store it but, for­tu­nately, it isn’t a listed house, so Ciaran — in con­sul­ta­tion with his part­ners in ODKM, De­clan O’Donnell and Barry Kane — opted for what he calls “con­ser­va­tion ren­o­va­tion with a twist of mod­ernism”.

He got plan­ning per­mis­sion within a record six weeks — the neigh­bours were so thrilled that their street’s eye­sore was be­ing taken in hand that they lodged no ob­jec­tions — and the ren­o­va­tion was un­der­way.

The build took nine months in to­tal and, while the house looks the same as its neigh­bours from the front, in­side it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent story.

The two-storey re­turn was de­mol­ished com­pletely and in its place is a three-storey struc­ture, the ground level of which is the un­usual kitchen. The eat­ing area with its built-in seat­ing is backed by slanted glass, through which can be seen an out­side wall made of the brick from the old re­turn build­ing.

“It acts as a light well. It’s a ho­mage to ar­chi­tect John Laut­ner and his Che­mo­sphere house in LA. It took me a while to get it right,” says Ciaran, adding that, as this eat­ing area took up the space that was the gar­den, it was im­por­tant to have a lot of glass.

As well as de­sign­ing all the spa­ces, Ciaran also de­signed the fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing the kitchen units, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dean Cooper, and he de­signed the fold­ing doors to hide them away when en­ter­tain­ing.

“I try to de­sign all the fur­ni­ture into a build­ing so the clients can’t move it around,” he says with a laugh.

But in the build­ing process, Ciaran moved quite a lot. He dropped the floor in the two in­ter­con­nect­ing re­cep­tion rooms and, be­cause the hall is now at a higher level, he was able to put a stor­age area un­der­neath. “No space should be wasted,” Ciaran says.

One of the key fea­tures of the rooms is what Ciaran calls the con­ver­sa­tion pit, which also in­cludes built-in seat­ing.

This can be seen from the hall, as the wall be­tween the hall and the liv­ing rooms was re­moved, as were the doors.

In fact, apart from the front door and the glass bi­fold­ing doors, the only doors in the house are on the bed­rooms and bath­room. There are no en suites, as Ciaran hates rooms with­out win­dows. There are a lot of hard-edged ma­te­ri­als used in the build, in­clud­ing gran­ite, glass — re­mark­ably, a glass stair­case runs from the bed­room level to the third floor where Ciaran has his paint­ing stu­dio, which also has a glass roof — and con­crete —the floors in the liv­ing rooms are poured con­crete. How­ever, there are plenty of soft­en­ing touches as well, in­clud­ing the pe­riod-style mould­ings and ceil­ing roses.

The colour scheme is plain — dark grey, soft grey and white — but lots of colour and at­mos­phere is added through soft fur­nish­ings, rugs by Ru­gArt, Ciaran’s paint­ings and clever light­ing.

Ev­ery­thing about the house is clever, in­clud­ing Enid’s hot tub. She also got her other folly, as Ciaran calls the bar; re­wards, you could say, for hav­ing been such a good client.

“I did ques­tion him about cer­tain things, but I do have to trust him,” she says fondly.

“Enid is my per­fect client. She let me at it,” Ciaran says with a smile.

There is no TV in this house and they use the hot tub ev­ery night, so maybe it wasn’t such a far-fetched no­tion af­ter all.


Left The at­tic has a glass roof, so the light is ideal for Ciaran when he's paint­ing. The door opens on to a fan­tas­tic view of the en­vi­rons of the house Above Ciaran McCoy with Bones and Enid Beb­bing­ton in the newly ren­o­vated in­ter­con­nect­ing re­cep­tion...

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