The bungalow is back across Ireland... but they have little in common with their predecessors
For generations, bungalows were an integral part of Ireland's architectural DNA. The single storey homes were the most popular housing option in rural Ireland, helped by the best selling Bungalow Bliss book of house plans published from 1971 onwards by Jack Fitzsimons. This was so widely used by self builders that environmentalists began to decry the "bungalow blitz" by the 1990s.
Single storey bungalows remained the dominant new house type in rural Ireland right up until the Celtic Tiger years when super dormers and Mac Mansions went into the ascendancy.
In our cities, a bungalow splurge imported from the UK ran from the late 1920s right up to the late 1950s (based on British Raj returnees favouring the Indian 'bangla' house type). This building wave saw stairless homes built widely until development land hit a premium and builders opted for two and more storey schemes. For the last 20 years, few new bungalows have been launched.
But in 2019 the bungalow is making a wholly unexpected comeback at new home schemes all over Ireland. The type is featured in at least 16 new residential developments nationwide.
Apart from their single-storey structure, this wave of bungalows has little in common with their predecessors. For starters, the latest incarnation of the bungalow is being built by developers to sit alongside other house styles, such as three semi-detached homes aimed at first-time buyers and detached properties targeting trader-uppers.
The design and layout of these developer-led bungalows are virtually unrecognisable from the bungalows of old: they are larger, have higher ceilings and are more likely to have dual or even triple aspect living spaces to allow in as much light as possible. And rather than the individual tiny rooms that were commonplace in Fitzsimons's designs, the new bungalows have open-plan living spaces, all kept toasty by underfloor heating, air-tight insulation and triple-glazing.
Developers who have started including bungalows in their plans are plugging a demand created by a dearth of houses aimed at buyers in their 50s and older whose children have fled the nest and who want a smaller, more manageable, energy-efficient A-rated house which can take them through to old age.
Analysis carried out last year by Eurostat found that Ireland is the empty nest capital of Europe, with 70pc of homes under-occupied. In the over-65 category, 91pc are living with surplus bedrooms, research has found.
Ard na Gréine, a new scheme of three luxury bungalows in a leafy cul-de-sac off Rathgar's Orwell Road, is appealing to buyers trading down from larger houses in the area who want all their accommodation on one floor but who want more space than they can get in an apartment, according to Suzanne Cashin from developer Marketside.
"Having reviewed the area, we decided we could offer 'trader-downers' the opportunity to purchase a unique, bespoke house that, as they advanced in years, would be perfectly structured should health or illness mean they could no longer do stairs."
The bungalows were only launched at the end of January but one of them, a three-bed-plus-study selling for €1.45m, has already been reserved. Ard na Gréine's two-bed bungalow showhouse, which spans 1,550 sq ft, is on the market for €1.3m, while the 2,012 sq ft four-bed bungalow costs from €1.5m.
The minimalist homes have sliding glass doors to multiple gravelled courtyards, triple-glazed windows and a private garden.
On the outskirts of the Co Wicklow village of Ashford, Ardstone Homes is building 17 three and four-bed bungalows at Ballinahinch Wood, a scheme of 169 houses in a variety of styles that launched in mid-February. All but one of the 14 three-bed bungalows in the first phase were reserved during the launch weekend, when 1,000 people came to view Ballinahinch Wood's three showhouses. The three-bed bungalows span 1,210 sq ft and cost from €385,000.
Colm Byrne from Sherry FitzGerald New Homes, one of the selling agents for Ballinahinch Wood, said the target market was buyers downsizing from larger homes in south Dublin and north Wicklow. However, the bungalows had a much wider appeal than expected - half of the purchasers were first-time buyers who had opted for the single-storey homes rather than the cheaper semis.
"Comparing a modern bungalow with those of the past is like comparing a 1980s car with a modern hybrid. Modern bungalows have high levels of insulation, high-tech heating systems and sophisticated ventilation controls, which contribute to much more comfortable living environment and hugely reduced running costs," Byrne says.
Meanwhile, bungalows also sit alongside three and four-bed semis at Cairn Homes' new Glenheron scheme in Greystones. Prices in the latest release of the development start from €585,000 for a four-bed bungalow with 1,442 sq ft of space and from €625,000 for a dormer version measuring 1,797 sq ft.
These A3-rated bungalows with stone cladding and large picture windows have proved popular among downsizers and young families.
Further south, a 10-minute drive from Curracloe Strand, where scenes for the films Saving Private Ryan and Brooklyn were shot, five of the nine homes at Crosstown Manor are four-bed bungalows, each one extending over 2,150 sq ft and costing from €399,500. Three bungalows have sold since it launched three months ago, according to selling agent Colum Murphy, managing director of Kehoe & Associates.
He says: "The buyers looking at these bungalows are in their 50s and are viewing it as their last permanent home."
The ultra-contemporary timber-framed bungalows have plaster exteriors painted in white, with dark grey to the front porch and to the PVC frames of the tall windows that line each wall.
The triple-aspect open-plan kitchen/dining/living room has vaulted ceilings and sliding glass doors that open onto a patio area covered by an external undercover lean-to. Each home also has a study, a separate dual-aspect living room, a master en suite with walk-in wardrobes, a utility room, a main bathroom, and a guest lavatory. Outside, there is a lawn to three sides.
Bungalows also feature at the 72-house Rathangan Manor scheme that launched in the Co Kildare village of Rathangan in mid-February. The first two to be released are four-beds measuring 1,528 sq ft and cost from €330,000.
While bungalow bliss is taking off in commuter counties, Gavan Ryan, one of Rathangan Manor's selling agents at Savills, doesn't expect the style to return to Ireland's cities anytime soon.
"Planning density requirements tend to rule out bungalows in and around Dublin and other urban centres and within minimum distances of public transport," he says. "This is because the plot size required for a bungalow is generally larger - often double - that which is required for the same size house laid out over two storeys."