How we future proofed our 1950's home
Most house buyers re-imagine their new space before they even move in. Not Nuala and Eoin McCarthy, who took the long view when they moved into a 1950s house in Glenageary. For starters, they decided to live in their new property for a year before making any changes.
"I think it's a good idea to do if you can," says Nuala. "It wasn't the most comfortable house for the year, but it was fine. It just wasn't set up for kids." All the same it called for grit and determination - their daughter Aoibhe was six weeks old when the couple moved in and their oldest, Siun, was two.
A year later, they knew exactly what they needed done to turn the space into a family home and they engaged architect Patrick Gilsenan of PG Architects to reconfigure the traditional three-bedroom semi. Key to the brief was to design the house so it would work for the family as it grew. "It was to be a family space that could work when they were very small babies and that could evolve when they were small children to larger children to teenagers to adults," says Nuala. "So there needed to be enough flexibility that it could move and change."
Their budget was tight which meant making some tough decisions - like postponing a first floor extension over the garage that would have added a bedroom and bathroom and allowed them to extend up into the attic space. "It would've been cheaper to do it all in one go but we didn't have the funds to do it," says Eoin. "We would have had to forego a few other things so we decided, no, let's just put the basics in."
Instead they put their money into a spacious L-shaped extension to the rear which seems to stretch almost seamlessly into the decking area. The extension houses a playroom, large kitchen and a bright dining area walled around three sides with glass.
Almost the entire end wall of the playroom is a single 11 foot sheet of triple-glazed glass with a U-Value of 0.9. That, and high levels of insulation, make the house warm all year round.
The glass is also handy for keeping an eye on the kids, who now number three - Siun and Aoibhe having been joined by little sister Fia. "There are no blind spots," says Nuala. "It means you are comfortable with them running out to garden while you're in the kitchen."
A sliding door runs between the playroom and the kitchen so that in 10 years' time when the house is full of teenagers, Nuala and Eoin can return the open plan space to two separate living areas.
They also fitted a swing door to the kitchen that meets fire regulations for an attic extension. "When we want to build up into the attic space to make the house three storeys, we would have had to fit fire regulation doors into the hall. They cost only a small amount extra - a couple of hundred quid - to get it fire rated and it saves us changing the doors in the future."
The sleek kitchen units are by The Cabinet Company and the hardworking countertops and long bench top are wood laminates. The couple resisted putting in loads of storage. Instead laundry baskets, washing machine, coats and clutter are tucked neatly away in a large utility room with shower just off the kitchen. They built out into the garage area to gain the space.
Nor were the first floor rooms neglected. "We painted and did electrics and put in new heating and wardrobes," says Nuala. "We took the hotpress out from upstairs and put it in to the utility room downstairs and that gave us more space."
It's a minimalist finish but certainly not spartan. Interest is created with a skylight and alcoves in the playroom, as well as a high window and different ceiling levels in the kitchen. "We thought it made for a cosier space. Maybe in time, when the kids are a bit older, we might have a nice seat - or rocking chair - in the dining space," says Nuala, "and the garden will be amazing because we'll finally have all the time in the world to do it."