Renovation station: Open plan living with an energy-saving facelift

Each week, we focus on a makeover of an Irish home into a wonderful living space.

OPEN-PLAN LIVING is a lovely ideal – but is it cosy?

This week’s featured renovation, of a former council house in Dublin 12 which had lain unoccupied and unloved for around two decades, is a good illustration of how open, airy spaces can still be energy-efficient and workable.

When architect Amanda Bone took on this house, it had a dismal ’F’ BER rating. By the time she had refurbished it, the rating had risen to a very comfortable C2 – and all this with a home that had its living spaces opened up and given much more spacious bedroom and storage areas. The gas bills, she tells us, have been very low as a result.

How did she achieve this?

  • All of the original internal walls and floors were removed and replaced, and the external walls and roof space insulated with high-quality insulation. So too were the internal walls and floors.
  • New double-glazed painted hardwood-framed doors and windows were fitted. These also had a low e-glazing glass, reducing heat loss and glare from the sun. White blackout blinds are on all windows throughout the house for when the sun goes down, and heat can be trapped in the house.
  • A new A-rated combi boiler with digital controls removed the need for a hot water cylinder, and means constant hot water all day long without extra cost. Other efficiencies in water use were made with a new pump fitted in the attic.
  • The radiators were specifically made for each room’s function and space.

Interestingly, apart from a utility space, Amanda felt that the house didn’t need a massive extension – that she could improve the existing floorplan to introduce light and storage.

The new open plan ground-floor living level is designed to make the best use of the house’s orientation – it gets east light in through the front window in the morning…

Ros Kavanagh Ros Kavanagh

…and south and west light to the rear in the evening:

Ros Kavanagh Ros Kavanagh

The open plan arrangement means that the light reaches all parts of this floor throughout the cycle of the sun.

The storage units and cupboards throughout the house have flush, handle-free doors – you use a push mechanism to open and close them. The shelving in the living area has concealed fixings and there is a grey rubber floor throughout the house which is easy to clean, warm and soft – while keeping the look streamlined.

Ros Kavanagh Ros Kavanagh

This is how it looks from the rear:

Ros Kavanagh Ros Kavanagh

To give some sense of how it was before renovation started…

Amanda Bone Architects Amanda Bone Architects

You’ll notice the addition of a utility and store to the side of the house, which tidies the washing machine, bins and bicycles out of sight, but can be accessed from the front and rear gardens, as well as from the kitchen.

Upstairs, walls were moved to make two generous double bedrooms. This one has a dividing wall with the vanity. This wall, with alcove, was inspired by a visit to Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation in France.

Amanda installed full-height, floor-to-ceiling storage units to run the full length of one wall – this gives lots of adjustable shelving solutions and storage for shoes, clothes and accessories.

Amanda Bone Architects Amanda Bone Architects

Amanda Bone Architects Amanda Bone Architects

The bathroom was enlarged to include a bath, dual flush toilet and wall-mounted hand basin. The mirrors reflect the natural west-facing daylight:

Amanda Bone Architects Amanda Bone Architects

To see more of Amanda’s projects, visit

All photography of the refurbishment by Ros Kavanagh/

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