Thursday 17 January 2019

In Pictures: Why this award-winning Irish architect painted all the walls and ceilings in his home black

  • Bloomfield, Dublin by David O'Shea
Declan McCabe designed his house in Cullionboy so it appears to grow out from the hill. Photo: Paul Doherty
Declan McCabe designed his house in Cullionboy so it appears to grow out from the hill. Photo: Paul Doherty
In David O'Shea's home in Dublin 8 polished concrete floors are paired with black painted walls
Declan McCabe at Cullionboy
The traditional layout has been flipped with the living areas upstairs in Cullionboy
Cullionboy: a stone spine wall provides a striking addition to the interior design
A series of courtyards are scattered throughout the property which looks impenetrable from the outside
The exterior view of the Bloomfield property
David O'Shea

Home to ODOS founder and creative director David O'Shea, his wife Sen and teenage son Miles this multi-level super mews in Portobello, Dublin features seven courtyards over seven levels hidden behind a broodingly black cantilevered metal façade.

Built nine years ago, it has become as much a gallery as a home, acting as the perfect stage for some of O'Shea's boldest designs.

"In Ireland we're hung up on the idea of a front and back garden, but it's not the only housing typology. Our job as architects is to create debate and challenge prejudices and perceptions of what a house can be," he says.

ODOS is regarded as a practice at the top of its game, with offices in Dublin and London and projects in Britain, Germany and Saudi Arabia. The multi award-winning, internationally acclaimed firm was founded by O'Shea and his then partner, Darrell O'Donoghue, who now runs his own practice in Dublin. The firm is known for its avant-garde, one-off homes and contemporary reinterpretations of existing domestic dwellings.

Located in an industrial laneway in Dublin 8, previously devoid of domestic life, this is the first home O'Shea has designed for himself.

Influenced by its industrial setting, the house looks robust and impenetrable from the outside but its transparency is revealed at night when the lights switch on, illuminating a series of courtyards angled at different orientations.

In David O'Shea's home in Dublin 8 polished concrete floors are paired with black painted walls

Polished concrete floors are paired with black painted walls and offset with mid-century modern furniture by Eames, Panton and Corbusier. "I didn't want a white sterile box," says O'Shea of his decision to use black on the walls and even on the master bedroom ceiling. An upstairs study is completely painted black.

"It's a colour decision that definitely sets tongues wagging but it works because the house is constantly bathed in light. Also I've used subtle variations of black throughout - brown blacks and grey blacks - which create a sophisticated layered effect."

The design has substance too. There's a grey water harvesting system and a boiler linked to an air-to-water heat pump to maximise the use of renewable energy.

"Designing a house for yourself is every architect's dream. You're not constrained by client's demands. You have free reign to a certain extent. But you also must live with your mistakes. Architects are desperate sticklers for quality. I can see junctions and details that could have been better, but I've since learned to choose my battles," says O'Shea.

"It's amazing how time passes and the building has matured. I was always intrigued would it date but it still has that curiousness, especially with teenagers, whose response is often: 'Jaysus, would you look at that. It's deadly'.

"You know you're doing something right if it has that impact.

"This isn't the last house I will ever design for myself but at the minute we're still enjoying living here."


Co Donegal

by Declan McCabe

Declan McCabe at Cullionboy

Donegal architect Declan McCabe wanted to maximise the views, harness the light and embrace the surrounding context of the Bluestack Mountains with his family home.

The result is an inverted split-level build that blurs the boundaries between art and landscape, built using materials from the land and nestled snugly into it.

The 3,000 sq ft property which he shares with his wife Nadine and two children, Ella Rose and Harry, occupies a sloping site overlooking Lough Craig in Cullionboy, Donegal.

"There's more hills in Donegal than there is flat land," says McCabe, who is well versed on the challenges of designing dwellings with minimal scarring on the landscape. His practice, McCabe Architects, with offices in Donegal and Sligo, has created a number of contemporary one-off domestic builds carved into the contours of the earth all over Donegal, from Barnesmore to Mountcharles and Malin.

McCabe has designed this house so it appears to grow out from the hill. Its protruding angular platforms are informed by the geology of its context; scattered granite rocks in gorse, heather and wildflower.

He describes the design as "a journey across the landscape, made memorable by giving each of the platforms a different orientation

"It's a typical architect's dream and builder's nightmare. No two corners are the same," says McCabe.

Inside, the traditional layout has been flipped to maximise the light and capture the views. Three bedrooms are downstairs. Upstairs the arrangement is more broken plan than open-plan, with the kitchen and dining space on one level, stepping down to a living room.

Cullionboy: a stone spine wall provides a striking addition to the interior design

A stone spine wall forms an anchor for the structure, providing a valuable thermal mass as well as being a striking addition to the interior design, breaking down to become a planter, define a reading area, become a seat and frame a view. Externally it's used to define a courtyard that links the house with an upper garden.

The relationship the house has with the landscape is also echoed in the choice of materials and colour of interior finishes: polished limestone floors, quartzite stone walls, oak detailing and handwoven tweed soft furnishings.

There's sustainable elements too: a grey water harvesting system and a geothermal heating system.

McCabe not only designed the house but he took it on as a self-build. Describing the experience as incredibly stressful and something he'd never do again, on the upside he says that it gave him the "opportunity to experiment and test out the ideas going on in my head".

"It's also taught me a lot about the practical issues of designing and building. As architects we have a vision for what looks good but we don't always know the process of getting from A to B."

Indo Property

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