Saturday 1 October 2016

My home stood the test of time (and children)

Ten years ago when Patrick Gilsenan designed his house, he was single and newly qualified. So how did his concept stand up to real life - and a family?

Words by Caroline Allen Photos by Peter Cook; portrait by Gerry Mooney

Published 04/10/2015 | 02:30

Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan

Architect Patrick Gilsenan preaches the importance of future-proofing and flexibility. So he's happy to report that the home he designed a decade ago as a single man is fit for purpose now that he's a married dad of three.

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The house is built on family land in Hill of Down, Enfield, and reflects the design and setting of traditional farm buildings. "It was a case of taking old familiar buildings and interpreting them for modern family living," explains Patrick. "When you see one-off builds in the countryside, a lot are very insensitive with little distinction from one to the next."

Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan

It was a couple of years before construction began in 2008. "Elaine, who is a schoolteacher, and I were living in an apartment in Inchicore and our oldest son, Ben, had just been born. We were like a lot of couples who needed to upscale but who couldn't afford to buy in Dublin. We moved in on Christmas Eve, 2009, pulling polystyrene out of the oven to put the turkey in," says Patrick, who now runs PG Architects, based in Mullingar.

It's a striking living space, slick and streamlined but it also works well as a family home. Key, says Patrick, was not over-thinking things. "I design houses for people all the time, but when you start with a white sheet of paper for your own home it's very different. You're influenced by so many different things that you have to pull back a bit."

Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan

He used very few materials - white sand and cement rendered walls, western red cedar wood and fibre cement slates. "They're very simple materials that a lot of people use," he says.

Sharp clean gables with a high pitch allowed Patrick to create a barrel-vaulted ceiling that exaggerates the interior volume of the open plan kitchen, living, dining area. This sleek space wraps around the rear garden, with roof lights cutting in to draw out the light. White walls provide a blank canvas for colour coming from plants and artwork. "A lot of people go for different coloured paints and papers on their walls but I believe you lose everything in that," says Patrick,

Patrick Gilsenan pictured at his home in the Hill of Down co. Meath for Sunday Property
Patrick Gilsenan pictured at his home in the Hill of Down co. Meath for Sunday Property

Italian black porcelain tiling runs throughout the ground floor, with under-floor heating and upstairs radiators powered by a biomass wood pellet boiler. Solar panels integrated into the south-facing roof contribute to much of the family's hot water needs. A living room stove is still being fuelled by the building wood off-cuts. The painted wood kitchen with laminated wood finish features Durat worktops.

Patrick had pieces of furniture such as the table and bench in the kitchen made by a local cabinet maker. "More often than not when you're buying a table, there's something about it you don't like, such as the legs or the shape. I found it easier to design exactly what I wanted."

Patrick Gilsenan's home
Patrick Gilsenan's home

A tongue in groove effect headboard wall in the master bedroom disguises a doorway. "Within that there is a secret door leading into the master en suite," Patrick says. The three children, Ben, 6, Alice, 3, and Jamie, 20 months, occupy the other two upstairs bedrooms while the fourth downstairs functions as a playroom.

"Elaine has set me a challenge to sensitively design another bedroom upstairs but it's a challenge I haven't taken up," laughs Patrick.

Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan

"Adding another bedroom would start to bulk up the proportions of the dormer middle section which is based on the one-room-deep style of Irish vernacular architecture. Proportions are very important in my mind."

Luckily, the couple agree on every other aspect of the house. "We waited months to find the right floor tiles which we eventually came across in Monaghan," Patrick says. The result is a multi-tasking space - it's little wonder that Patrick brings potential clients home to show off his design.

Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan
Patrick Gilsenan's home office
Patrick Gilsenan's home office

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