Monday 26 September 2016

Dermot Bannon's designs for light

Dermot Bannon

Published 27/09/2015 | 02:30

The kitchen is at the back of the house and is very dark.
The kitchen is at the back of the house and is very dark.
Despite windows and French doors, the house does not get much light.
The front of the house offers uninterrupted views of Rusheen Bay, near Galway Bay.
An open-plan design allows the light to permeate through the house
Capture the view and use your window as a frame
In new structures, choose slim beams and columns
Break a horizontal window into vertical sections

The architect and TV star answers your home improvement questions

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How could we improve our light and views?

Dear Dermot,

Our house (pictured) is 13 years old. We bought it second-hand three years ago. My husband and I live here with our three kids aged seven, four and one.

Our two concerns are :

1 At the front of the house we have uninterrupted views of Rusheen Bay, near Galway Bay, from our sitting room. But for some reason the house was built with a bay window that does not take full advantage of the view or the light.

2 Our second problem is it has a North-facing rear garden. Our kitchen is at the back of the house and is very dark, even though it currently has two windows and French doors in it.

We would love to hear any ideas that could improve our light and enhance our views from the house.

Claire Morgan

Hi Claire,

Your problem is one that is shared with other home owners up and down the country - living in a house that turns its back on its surroundings.

The vast majority of people live in what I would call a generic house type that is repeated over and over again. In towns and cities it is a three- or four-bedroom detached, semi-detached house or a version of it, and in rural locations it's a dormer bungalow or a two-storey house type. The plans of these houses are virtually the same no matter where they are located.

This isn't noticed as much in urban or town settings, but if your house has a good aspect with rooms that spend the day bathed in sunlight, you can be guaranteed that on the opposite side of the road it's the reverse - and yet nobody thinks that changing the plans is worth it.

I know it's slightly cheaper to build every house in a development the same and whilst it's understandable (but not acceptable!) in built-up areas, in a rural setting with an amazing view it beggars belief that we would waste what we have on our doorstep and build a standard house type on the site. We keep on building the same boxes over and over and it's because of this you are frustrated with the view you could have had.

You have a busy house with three small children who are only going to get bigger, so you need to make sure that any work you do will improve the function of the house. You will need to make sure the spaces flow into each other, can be divided and that you have plenty of storage.

From what I can gather from your pictures, you are in a street or cluster of houses. This would mean that any work carried out will have to be to the front or the rear. I am assuming that, as it is dark to the rear of the house, there is good light to the front and there also seems to be good light coming through the little window above the sink.

In order to maximise the view over the bay, I would look at opening up as much of the front of the house as possible and putting in a much larger version of a bay window in - extending it as wide as you can possibly make it, putting as much glass into it as possible. Any new structure (columns etc.) that you need should be as thin as possible; you could even expose any new columns and bring them inside the window and paint them a bright colour to express them.

I would lower the windowsills to a maximum height of 450mm off the ground and maybe put in a proper built-in window seat - this will give a great seating area looking out over the view but also give you some much-needed storage. There will be a good bit of structural work in opening up the front of the house to get the widest view possible, so you will need to contact an engineer for advice.

Most work that is carried out to the front of your house will require planning permission, so be sure to also contact your local authority.

Extending out to the front is not as straight forward as a rear extension as, in some cases, it may change the look of the street. If you are doing this you want to do it carefully; your neighbour's house looks very close, so anything you do to the front will have a visual effect on the house next door.

Every building has an architectural language. This means there are elements that are consistent in its design. This may mean that all the roofs are pitched or flat, or all the windows are horizontal in design. You need to understand the language of the design of your house and work with what you have.

For example, I can see on your house that the windows to the front of the house are vertical in shape - tall rather than wide. If you do make the front window larger and more horizontal, perhaps break it up with vertical sections so it ties in with the original house. What you are hoping to achieve is a house that looks like it could have been another option (House type B) within the development, something that would have been there from day one.

The second part of your question is regarding the light to the rear. I think you need to open up the front room so that it runs right to the rear - this will bring much-needed light but also bring that wonderful view the whole way through the house, making the space dual aspect.

You then have the option of leaving it open the whole way through or putting in a glass sliding door or set of double doors to divide up the space when you need to. I would seriously consider this with three small children! Good luck with the project.

4 inspirational ideas

Open the rooms up

An open-plan design will allow light into every room

Knocking the ground-floor rooms into a single space will allow the light to permeate through the house and also bring the wonderful view right through to the back. In a family home with small children, consider adding dividing sliding or double doors.

Maximise the use of glass

In new structures, choose slim beams and columns

To make the most of both the view and the light, use as much glass as possible. Keep supporting beams, dividing columns and window frames as thin as you can, and paint them to make them in-keeping with the design.

Capture the view

Use your window as a frame

Maximise the view at the front of the house by putting in a bay window that is as wide as possible. A built-in window seat will provide a viewing point but also functional storage.

Keep the feel of the house

Architectural language must be consistent

Break a horizontal window into vertical sections to stay true to the original design of the house.

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