Tuesday 20 February 2018

Dermot Bannon's side orders

The art deco house which was built in the 1960s.
The art deco house which was built in the 1960s.
The buyers plan to turn the house into a family home.
The rear view of the house.
A flat-roofed extension - Dermot Bannon Architects.
Room with a view: Dermot Bannon Architects. Photo: Enda Cavanagh.
The great outdoors: Dermot Bannon Architects. Photo: Enda Cavanagh.

The architect and TV star Dermot Bannon answers your home improvement questions.

Dear Dermot,

Myself and my husband bought this two-storey house in 2014. We have three young children and we are intending to turn it into our family home. Downstairs there is a large sitting room, a smaller dinning room a small kitchen and a bedroom. Upstairs there is a toilet and another room for the bath and wash hand basin. Also there are three more bedrooms, one of which, if incorporated with the French doors, would make a beautiful sitting room upstairs.

Our concerns are :

The house was built in the 1960s and has an art deco style. So far we have replaced the roof and the windows and doors. As the existing kitchen in the house is very small, we are going to build a one-storey kitchen/dining room area. We have very little space to build behind the house, so maybe to the left of the house would be the side to build on to. I would be unsure that it might not look correct on the side of the house. Also, would it be OK for light all-day long? We are really just looking for ideas to make the house work the best for us as we have a very small budget.

Thank you,

Sharon Faherty

Dermot replies...

Hi Sharon,

Thank you very much for your letter and congratulations on purchasing the house, you look like you have really got stuck into the renovation work. It seems like you have spent a significant amount of time and money on the house already as replacing the roof is an expensive job.

I can see from your photos that the boundary is very close to the back of the house, so you are right, there isn't a huge amount of room to extend and it looks from the photos as if it is north-facing so there won't be a huge amount of light there anyway. So to answer the first part of your question,yes, you should extend out to the side, but what I'm picking up that you are worried about is how it affects the look of the front of your house - you don't want to ruin it.

I think it can be a lot easier to extend to the back of your house as you won't ever see it in conjunction with the front so, yes, it has to tie in with the architecture of the back of your house, but it won't ever affect the street or the neighbourhood in the same way extending out the front or the side will. The wrong extension can really alter the appearance of the house and what can start off as a well-proportioned building can end up just looking awkward and in some cases can have a detrimental effect on the street.

You need to start by looking at the language of the building. Now I know that that's architectural speak, but what it means are the design elements of the house: vertical windows, slot windows in a large solid wall, a long low roof line or a brick detail that wraps around the whole building. You need to look at the proportions of the existing house and the building lines - there is nothing worse when people replicate something like a bay window to the side of a house but it's not quite the same size as the existing one, or the detailing isn't the same. It just makes the entire house look odd and out of proportion.

With your house, the roof is quite strong in the design language and you can see that there are two volumes; the main rectangular part of the house and the large two-storey bay that protrudes on the left-hand side. I really like the nice concrete canopy that stretches across and links the two volumes enclosing a little porch area, it's quite slim and elegant. The natural side to extend your house is to the right as you have the stepped-back building line and you could use the line of the concrete canopy to form a new flat-roofed section that would be both contemporary and fit in with the existing building. But I am assuming from the photographs that the front of the house is south-facing, so the problem with extending to the right is that this is on the eastern side which will be great in the morning but not so good if you want to enjoy the afternoon and evening sunlight.

If you are extending to the left I would keep it back to the main building line, level with the recessed window under the canopy and the double doors on the first floor. This will allow you to bring the larger roof out over the extension if you ever need to push out the first floor. You could put a flat roof with a simple parapet detail to tie in with the thickness of the concrete canopy of the front door, or a pitched roof that might ape the curve on the hip of the main roof. You could introduce a little more glass to the extension to capture that lovely evening sun as it will be set back, but perhaps break it up vertically to tie in with the existing house.

Inside I am assuming that both your kitchen and dining rooms are on the right-hand side of the house, so I would look at combining these rooms with the new extension to give a much larger living and kitchen space. It is really important that you design these three spaces together and not just do an extension in isolation - this is a mistake that so many people make and you end up with a dysfunctional room that you will need to change around in a couple of years.

You said in your letter that there is a great room upstairs with a set of double doors that would make a great living room - this is a fantastic idea as the view from the first floor will always be a lot better than the ground, but be careful as you will need some extra bedroom space on the ground floor for your family as they grow. You may want to put two bedrooms on the ground floor as you will only have the two on the first. This will mean a bathroom or shower room on the ground floor so make sure you leave space for these. But long-term, if you design your ground floor extension to take a second floor structurally it should future-proof the house.

One last thing that you may not have considered is how the outside space is used. As you can see, the sunlight is predominantly to the front of your house so you will want to there! Perhaps you could introduce a low wall or some planting to give you that bit of privacy from the road, and carefully lay out your outside patio space. With the right planning and a considered brief this project has huge potential. Good luck with it!

Dermot's next column will appear on March 26. If you would like him to solve your house problems, email a detailed description to dermotbannon

@independent.ie. Please include photographs of the building.

3 inspirational ideas

Room with a view

Room with a view: Dermot Bannon Architects. Photo: Enda Cavanagh.

Elevated living

Positioning a living room on the first floor is a great way to maximise on the best views from the house.

The great outdoors

The great outdoors: Dermot Bannon Architects. Photo: Enda Cavanagh.

Catching the sun

It's important to consider how the outside area is used. Determine where you're likely to sit, then carefully lay out your patio space.

Flat out

A flat-roofed extension - Dermot Bannon Architects.

Modern magic

A flat-roofed extension contributes a contemporary feel to a building.

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