A marriage of history and art under one roof in the Burren

This incredible classically-proportioned home commands its spot in a wild landscape – and provides refuge for its owners.

5. FG liv space feb.5 The classical proportions and vaulted ceiling of the main living space were inspired by Georgian design. John A O'Reilly Architect John A O'Reilly Architect

A CLASSICALLY-PROPORTIONED house influenced by Georgian design is not a building you imagine rising from the stark landscape of the Burren in the west of Ireland.

However, it served architect John A O’Reilly well in his bid to fulfill his clients’ brief for ”a simple, clean, well-proportioned space capturing the ever-changing light of the Burren”.

The result is an elegant home settled at the base of Turlough Hill in a nest of mature trees and which commands views across the valley below.

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The influence of the Georgians is even more evident inside, where the main living area is coralled into a large high-ceilinged space with those majestic views at the residents’ disposal.

The clients, Frank Golden and Berry Guthrie, spend much of their time here, cooking, entertaining or relaxing. The multifunctional room even has a Belgian-made stove, sourced from Murphy Heating, which swivels on a central pole to lend its cheer to wherever the activity is taking place in the room.

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Frank, a poet and artist, had previously lived in a building in Ballyvaughan which featured wonderful vaulted ceilings and also in a Georgian property in Mountjoy Square in Dublin. He says that architect John took on board his desire to live in a place with these classical unities in play – lots of light, vaulted ceilings.

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This house is built on a relatively tight footprint, which was environmentally less impactful, and although it has what Frank calls a “tall wallplate” and sits in the landscape in an obvious way, “it kind of mirrors the landscape and the hill behind it”. He adds:

It’s such a sensitive landscape and I would be fully aware of that.

The windows were also specially designed by the architect – the larger, ground-floor ones for scale and light. As a visual artist as well as a writer – some of his own work decorates the walls of the living space above – Frank appreciates also the smaller windows which “frame skyscapes beautifully”.

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That constant play and tension between the interior and the inspiring landscape just outside those windows is enhanced by the preservation of a ruined cart house just to the left of the main building. You can see it through the window above.

The cart house was once associated with a clachán or old settlement of the O’Halloran family. “There used to be a main house off to the right and that was the family house but they were part of the rural reallocation scheme and went to Meath,” notes Frank.

The human history of the landscape was something that Frank wanted to note and pay tribute to. “It was always the idea to retain it,” he says. By linking to the ruin visually, the new building retains that bond to the past and to the previous residents of the townland.


6. FG liv rm + stairs feb.5 John A O'Reilly Architects John A O'Reilly Architects

Open-space living can be wonderful but… where do you put your stuff? There is an abundance of storage solutions in this home.

The image above shows flush-doored storage cabinets under the stairs, and in the kitchen, and tall built-in shelving for the couple’s books and glassware.

The wardrobes in the first-floor bedrooms are deepset to contain the clutter there. Frank’s study has the perfect balance of storage and light-filled space for him to work productively (see below).

It clearly works – Frank is launching his new novel on 6 March at Ennis Book Club Festival. See here for more details.

Further inspiring projects from John A O’Reilly Architect can be see here.

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