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SPRING 2019 £3.50 / €3.75

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Dream it . Do it . Live it







Beams with toast

Charred timber can provide a contemporary finish to your self-build


Your trend and style guide to shopping for kitchens


New series helping you cost your selfbuild

Astrid Madsen - Editor

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Selfbuild Dream it . Do it . Live it

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Learn from the Irish self-builders who have been through the process of building and home improving


In case you couldn’t make it to the event, we bring you the highlights from Selfbuild Live Cork.



Nicola and Dom Thorpe’s journey to build a contemporary home nestled in the Co Down countryside.


How Kate and Lorcán Horgan designed their self-build in Co Monaghan around the kitchen.

48 MID-CENTURY MAGIC Cora Marshall and Philip Clarke transformed their two-up two-down house in Co Dublin by moving the staircase.


A box extension with a high specification is all it took to transform Gayle and Graeme Doyle’s home in Co Down.


For Sean and Eloise Duffy building their family home in Co Cavan meant combining architecture with the practicalities of dealing with muck from the countryside.

108 ONLY CHARRED, NOT SCARRED The DIY approach to charring timber shingles in Co Antrim.

112 CUTTING EDGE How Katharine and Matt Dooley extended their house in Co Wicklow with a structural system made of EPS, glass fibre and cement.

112 BASICS Basic information about building or improving your home in any of the 32 counties


Our guide to building with masonry, from bricks and stone to cavity walls.


The two most common methods to insulate cavity walls go head-to-head: board insulation and bonded EPS beads.


First article in a series designed to help you budget for the specific elements of your self-build.

116 SAVAGE SALVAGE How to upcycle everything from chairs to fireplaces.

118 KITCHENISTA How kitchen design has evolved over the years and what styles to choose from today.

128 OVER THE RAINBOW An examination of what possesses people to go through the stress of a self-build.

Eight reasons why those tenders gave you a fright.


Charred timber cladding has a wonderful look and provides great protection from the elements; we find out what’s involved.


The proposed changes to the ROI wastewater Code of Practice do not include willow beds as a zero discharge system – this would have made it possible to self-build anywhere regardless of soil conditions.

122 THE JOY OF SPRING FORAGING Once you’ve read our guide to harvesting your dinner, you’ll be donning your boots and woolly hat.

126 ASK THE EXPERT You have questions, we have answers. This issue: extensions that don’t require planning permission, insurance and radon membranes.

130 SCRAPBOOK An update on the latest developments in 3D design and architecture for self-builders.

INSIDE TRACK A showcase of Irish products and services from our sponsors



All articles equally cover the 32 counties; when we refer to the Republic of Ireland the abbreviation is ROI. For Northern Ireland it’s NI.

Latest products and services for self-builders.


The top 5 trends that will excite your design sense and relax your body and mind.






SPRING 2019 £3.50 / €3.75

Keith Kelliher

Paul Kempton

Marion McGarry

Aileen is a leading authority and blogger in the world of upcycling in Ireland. She set up, an online one-stop shop for all upcycling supplies, and online training programmes.

Keith is a quantity surveyor with over 20 years’ experience and is the founder of Kelliher & Associates Quantity Surveyors.

Paul is managing director of SelfbuildZone, a leading site insurance and 10 year structural defects providers in NI and ROI.

Dr Marion McGarry is an author, historian, part-time Galway Mayo Insititute of Technology lecturer and freelance illustrator. She is the author of The Irish Cottage published by Orpen Press. @marion_mcgarry

ISSN 2515-5369

Aileen Hogan

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Dream it . Do it . Live it



Cover Photo Paul Lindsay Editor Astrid Madsen Design Myles McCann Shannon Quinn Marketing Calum Lennon

Steve Meskell

Fiann Ó Nualláin

Jeff O Toole

Marcus Patton

Steve is operations manager at Munster Radon, a company trained and certified for installing radon barriers. / tel. 061 574022

Award winning garden designer, author and broadcaster, Fiann has a background in fine art, ethnobotany and complementary medicine. / @HolisticG

Jeff O Toole, BSc, MSc. ACIOB founded Waterford-based JOT Energy Consultants in 2010. / tel. 051 874675

Marcus is torn between being an illustrator, an architect, an historian and a musician.

Subscriptions Becca.Wilgar Business Development Manager Niamh Boyle Advertising Sales David Corry Nicola Delacour-Dunne Lisa Killen Maria Varela

Andrew Stanway

Mark Stephens

Sasha Stewart

Andrew is a project manager with over 30 years’ experience. He is also a writer and the author of Managing Your Build published by Stobart Davies.

Mark Stephens, MRIAI is an architect and certified passive house designer based in Co Mayo. / tel. 094 92 52514

Sasha set up Toasted Wood to bring the art of Shou Sugi Ban, or charred timber, to Ireland. She’s based in Co Armagh. / Insta @toastedwood_ / facebook toastedwoodni

Come meet more experts at our Selfbuild Live event in Belfast in February - turn to page 84 for more details and FREE tickets NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0 ROI calling NI prefix with 048

Published by SelfBuild Ireland Ltd. 119 Cahard Rd, Saintfield, Co Down BT24 7LA. Tel: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0570 / Fax: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0576 / 08 / SELFBUILD / SPRING 2019

Accounts Karen Kelly Sales Director Mark Duffin Managing Director Brian Corry Chairman Clive Corry Distribution EM News Distribution Ltd

The publishers cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions nor for the accuracy of information reproduced. Where opinions may be given, these are personal and based upon the best information to hand. At all times readers are advised to seek the appropriate professional advice. Copyright: all rights reserved.

H I G H L I G H T S / W H AT ' S N E W

THE YEAR IN 2019 Starting in ROI there are two major developments. On the one hand we’re expecting new building regulations: the energy and ventilation requirements are tightening up. Part L was meant to be published in December and hasn’t so the timelines for implementation will be delayed. Secondly we can expect changes to the now infamous ‘locals only’ rule. This is a planning restriction that consists of proving you have a connection to the land in order to be allowed to build on it. We’ve been talking about this for the past couple of years and we do feel like we’re beating a dead cat here but, apparently, the new Guidelines will be issued to the Local Authorities in the first half of 2019.

Cavity wall insulation on page 86

OPINION: Still no Building Control

Brexit shmexit Stoic self-builders and home renovators are defying Brexit uncertainty, according to a survey of 2,400 self-builders by the UK’s Homebuilding & Renovating Shows. 86 per cent of those surveyed said they were continuing with their project and 78 per cent said that there would be no change in their level of project spend. Additionally, there was no indication that homeowners had changed their minds on product choice or scale of project.

Instead of spending money on hiring local authority inspectors, the ROI government is spending millions on repairing homes that weren’t built to standard. First pyrite and now mica – Minister Damien English met with the Mica Action Group at the end of 2018 to thrash out how the government will pay for the repairs. The NI model is much more attractive, whereby inspectors from the local

authorities come out to check the building works as they

progress. But even in that jurisdiction there’s no solid method of regulating builders. This is why the Federation of Master Builders thinks that NI needs to be tougher on cowboy builders. In ROI it seems we may get a statutory register of builders (CIRI) but it will be regulated by the construction industry’s lobbying body, which has been described as akin to putting foxes in charge of the hen house.

Renovators snub engineers A survey by the Institution of Structural Engineers released in October shows that half of those who upgraded the structure of their home for an open plan renovation did not consult an engineer. Only 37 per cent of respondents believed that a structural engineer would be needed when creating an open plan kitchen diner; 18 per cent of those who had created an open plan kitchen diner in the past five years were uncertain if a structural engineer had been

involved. That said 78 per cent believed a structural engineer would be needed to create an extension but 26 per cent who said they had created an extension in the past five years had done so without consulting a structural engineer; 24 per cent of those who had created an extension in the past five years were uncertain if a structural engineer had been involved. SPRING 2019 / SELFBUILD / 09

W H AT ’ S N E W / N E W S

Septic tank grants to be extended in 2019 Homeowners who need to upgrade their septic tank will no longer be means tested in areas with ‘high status water bodies’, delegates at the Irish Onsite Wastewater Association conference heard in December. THE CATCHMENTS.IE MAP SHOWS the areas where the grant will be extended in red, indicating priority areas for the local authorities’ water cleanup initiatives. Ruth Hennessy of the Local Authority Waters Programme told delegates the full details had yet to be finalised by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government but are expect to be rolled out early 2019. “The Department are yet to finalise the revisions to the septic tank grant scheme so we cannot be certain that they will be extended to everyone in high risk areas. Based on recent discussions this is likely but still uncertain,” Hennessy said. She added the grant would apply to all homeowners, regardless of income level, that

are in a high risk area. You will no longer have to fail an inspection to be elgible for the grant in these specific areas. The current grant system is means tested and does not apply to regular system maintenance such as desludging. The current grant levels cover 50 per cent (income level of €50-70k) to 80 per cent (income level of up to €50k) of the cost of repairing, upgrading or replacing a septic tank that failed a local authority inspection. The maximum grant currently availble is €4,000. Hennessy told Selfbuild it was likely that the grant in these high risk areas would be at the €4,000 mark regardless of income level. The grant will continue to be for works to upgrade or replace the failing septic tank that is leading to water pollution and exclude

desludging. Local authorities inspect septic tanks and every year roughly half of all septic tanks inspected fail. The latest figures

presented by the Environmental Protection Agency at the conference confirmed this trend. Since 2013 work has been ongoing to evaluate the water quality of Irish rivers, with 1,400 out of roughly 5,000 deemed at risk. Of these 800 sections have been prioritised for cleanup in 190 priority areas. The recently established Local Authorities Water Programme is in charge of further investigations and community engagement to reduce water pollution levels in priority areas. In addition to agriculture, poorly functioning septic tanks have been found to be a main pressure on water quality. In 40 areas they were considered to be the only cause of water pollution.

ROI flat water fees to be introduced in April SELF-BUILDERS WILL BE CHARGED €2,272 for a new water connection and €3,929 for a new wastewater connection as of the 1st of April 2019, according to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities’ decision on Irish Water’s connection charging policy published in December. The CRU’s proposed decision is in line with Irish Water’s original proposal published earlier in 2018, which earmarked a total flat connection fee of €5,636. The total now is €6,201.


Currently each local authority evaluates how much to charge self-builders for water and wastewater connections on a case by case basis. The new flat connection fees will be cheaper in nine out of 10 cases, according to Irish Water. The flat connection fee will cover the cost of connecting the nearest network point to the property boundary. The cost of bringing water and/or wastewater services from the property boundary to the

house will be the responsibility of the self-builder. The flat charges are primarily based on pipe size: in the case of water the standard size is 25mm, for wastewater 100mm. Connection requests outside standard parameters may incur an additional fee. However homeowners will not be charged for any additional treatment infrastructure necessary to accommodate the connection. If you have paid for your connection and have been issued

a connection offer but have not yet paid, you can apply again to Irish Water under the new flat rate fee regime. But a connection offer under the new policy will only be issued once the new rates come into force in April. Connection offers from Irish Water are based on the terms and conditions applicable at the time of applying, and these remain valid until the connection offer’s expiry date.



N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

Glimmer of hope

In brief

ROI homeowners are one small step closer to being able to sell electricity they generate from the likes of solar photovoltaic panels back to the grid, thanks to a private member’s bill put forward by TD Brian Stanley passing the second stage in the Dáil in November.

Light bulb moment

CURRENTLY IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO GET CONNECTED to the electricity grid to export to it, and there are no mechanisms in place for you to get paid for the electricity you feed into it. But before the Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill 2017 can be enacted, and turned into law, it must go through three further stages. There is no guarantee the bill will progress into law. Earlier this year then Minister for Energy Denis Naughten had ruled out feed-in tariffs for homeowners. Current Minister for Energy Richard Bruton said that installing a microgeneration device such as PV panels can pay for itself in approximately eight years. He said the existing grant scheme for homeowners to install photovoltaic (PV) panels was proving very successful and that it was expecting to enrol 5,000 applicants a year up to 2020. Minister Bruton added the grant scheme will be under review early in 2019 to examine

Almost three months after the EU ban of the sale of halogen lightbulbs across Europe only 35 per cent in the UK were aware of it, according to a survey of 2,000 UK residents commissioned by lighting provider LEDVANCE. A third wished the ban hadn’t happened and about the same amount said the vast majority of the bulbs in their home were still halogen. The ban has phased out production but halogen bulbs on store shelves can continue to be sold.

Scary smarty

the possibility of expanding it to other technologies or to other groups of people. He added carbon taxes will be another way to help with the government’s commitment to fight climate change. He also spoke about the success of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s community schemes. Minister Bruton’s ‘misgivings’ are in relation to the cost of administering a feed-in tariff system, and whether it’s feasible

to ask suppliers with 10 per cent or more market share to have microgeneration account for 5 per cent of their supply. NI used to have a grant system for exporting renewable electricity to the grid in the form of certificates but this NIROC scheme was scrapped in its entirety in April 2017. However you can still apply for feed-in tariffs to get paid for each kWh of electricity you export to the grid.

Smart home devices and appliances are fast becoming part of our lives but according to a survey in the UK by, many are still reluctant to buy into it. 39 per cent of homeowners said what stopped them was that they believed it would make them vulnerable to hacking. A similar amount said they considered the technology to be over-priced while 27 per cent said they feared getting locked out of devices as well as having more passwords/security to remember.

Price hikes in NI NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF BUILDERS have had to pass skip price increases on to clients and a fifth have had to pass on diesel price rises, making home improvement projects more expensive for homeowners, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) revealed in November. Three quarters of builders surveyed by the FMB said the price of skips has risen over the past 12 months; the average cost of an eight yard skip has gone up by £24 over the past year translating into an additional cost of £360 for the average extension using 15 skips. Nearly two-thirds of builders said they had passed skip price increases onto clients and three quarters said that skip price rises have

squeezed their margins. Almost 90 percent of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next six months More than one in ten builders said diesel price hikes have led them to turn down jobs they would have normally accepted as they are too far away. 17 per cent have raised the prices they charge clients to absorb the additional cost while 10 per cent have taken steps to reduce vehicle use. Meanwhile, more than half of the builders surveyed by the FMB said they had their tools stolen. To prevent van thefts the FMB advises bringing tools indoors at night.

Apprenticeships Apprenticeships also took a hit in 2018 raising concerns about the availability of tradesmen in the future. The drop in NI follows the government’s introduction of the apprenticeship levy – the percentage fell from 90 per cent of firms taking on apprentices in 2017 to 70.5 per cent in 2018. 72 per cent of those firms that offer such programmes have experienced difficulty in recruiting apprentices or expect to do so in the next three years. That’s according to research into employer demand for graduates in NI by the Pearson Business School released in December. SPRING 2019 / SELFBUILD / 13


O N L I N E / W H AT ' S N E W

Online reads Building costs Architect Isabel Barros has compiled self-build costs sources for ROI, including the Selfbuild cost calculator.

Inspiration isn’t just about magazine cut outs and the occasional drive-by, it can be captured in paintings and artwork too. 65 per cent of exposure to outdoor air pollution is actually breathed indoors, the Better Homes 2018 conference heard from Catriona Brady of the World Green Building Council. She also highlighted the issue of Short Lived Climate Pollutants which are tiny particles released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels for heating, cooking and driving. These are responsible for 45 per cent of global warming.

Instagratification The Selfbuild Instagram account has partnered up with self-builders who are in the process of building their home. Check out what tips and advice @building_ eden_house and @seanuahouse had to give on our account @selfbuildireland. From working with the planners to the challenges of doing most of the building work yourself, there’s plenty to learn from others who are going through the process now.

Image courtesy of Stephen Nolan, Co Wexford, wins Magazines Ireland award Selfbuild was over the moon to pick up the award ‘Digital Product of the Year: Consumer Media’ at the Magazines Ireland Awards – we bagged it for our website which showcases the latest news, project profiles as well as basic advice and information for anyone who’s building or renovating in any of the 32 counties. Pictured right at the ceremony are Niamh Boyle, Business Development Manager and Calum Lennon, Digital Marketing.

Photography by Paul Sherwood


Digital Product of the Year


Selfbuild Live Belfast Bag your free tickets to Selfbuild Live Belfast, the must attend event for anyone building or improving their home. It’s on this February at the Titanic Exhibition Centre. Get them on



N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

Conservationist blames In brief Mushroom salesmen for botched insulation renovations

PRE-1945 HOMES UNDERGOING RENOVATION are the most at risk of mould and damp because of an inadequate use of materials, a leading conservation expert told a gathering of building

professionals in Dublin in October. Little to no understanding of how building materials perform and a lack of government support have conspired to damage rural Irish homes, argued Peter Cox,

managing director at Carrig Conservation, at the National Retrofit Conference organised by CMG Events. The main issue, Mr Cox said, is that people who own older buildings, defined as built before 1945, don’t know how to go about insulating them. “You need to use breathable materials such as wood fibre insulation or lime and hemp, but what’s commonly available on the market are modern products that, when used in historic buildings, can trap moisture which in turns leads to issues with indoor air quality,” he said. “Most people don’t usually know how to renovate old properties for an energy upgrade. And they’re misguided by salesmen, that’s what is causing a lot of the trouble.”

Most people try to keep mould out of their house but in the near future you could be harnessing the fireproofing qualities of the humble mushroom to insulate your house, thanks to research by Ehab Sayed, founder of Biohm.

Get shorty Co-living and micro-homes top the charts for a solution to the housing crisis in urban areas, according to research by the Federation of Master Builders. Building on the greenbelt, meanwhile, was listed as the least favoured solution. The FMB asked 2,000 homeowners across the UK if there is a housing shortage (two thirds agreed) and if so, how best to address it with just 17 per cent agreeing that building in the open countryside was a solution.

‘Scratch test’ your pipes THE MAJORITY OF NI HOMEOWNERS (68 per cent) don’t know if they have potentially harmful lead pipes in their home; that’s according to a WaterSafe survey of 2,000 homeowners. Older properties are the most at risk because lead has been banned since 1970. Water used for drinking and cooking which has been supplied through lead pipes can lead to a build-up of the metal in the body. This can be bad for health – especially for babies and children, whose development can be affected. To do the ‘scratch test’ WaterSafe says you should find the water pipe where it enters your home. This will usually be in a kitchen cupboard or under the

stairs. Then scrape the surface gently with a coin. If the pipes are painted just scrape the paint off too. Lead pipes are normally dull grey and soft; quite distinct from copper or plastic. The scratch test should reveal a shiny silvercoloured metal if it’s lead. The survey also showed 53 per cent of homeowners were unaware of their responsibility to replace lead pipes in their home, should they choose to replace them with copper or plastic ones approved for tap water. Watersafe is a free online search facility funded by the water industry to help consumers find competent and qualified plumbers in England, Scotland, Wales, and NI. A short film showing how to take the ‘scratch test’ and how

to reduce lead levels in water is available on SPRING 2019 / SELFBUILD / 17


N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

Dublin house bags World Architecture Award The 11th edition of the World Architecture Festival (WAF) crowned a Dublin project as Best House - Completed Buildings late last year. WAF’s architectural awards in Amsterdam announced winners in over 35 categories. THE ARCHITECT DAVID LEECH DESCRIBES the project as “a contemporary translation of the ordinary suburban house”. It’s located in a garden at the end of a short terrace of a 1940s suburban estate on the edge of Dublin city. The site is bounded to the south by an existing hedge of hazel and privet, to the northwest by the blank wall of the original terrace and to the northeast by a high wall backing onto a public laneway. Previous planning applications had been refused for a house larger than a one-bed due to the need for a minimum garden area. “We like gardening and David suggested that instead of the garden being the constraint that this should instead be the source of the project, and the scheme developed from this idea of the house and a garden, not separate entities but one,” explains homeowner Avril Bates. “The existing hedge and tall boundary walls meant that at ground level we could essentially build a glass house, with immediate direct connection to the outside but private from the estate and above this the upstairs reverts back closer to the more traditional pitched form of the original estate albeit more contemporary in the detailing and materials.” Photography: David Grandorge and David Leech Architects



I N S I D E R N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

The future is bright


Professional rugby player Joey Carbery is Tegral’s new brand ambassador

Roofing slate supplier Tegral has just completed its €18 million factory upgrade in Athy, Co Kildare, to further improve its technology and production processes. According to Claire Kelly, Tegral marketing manager, their slates are made stronger and more resilient than the European standard dictates. This is to deal with harsher winters, more storms and higher temperatures in summer months as well as Ireland’s geographical position as a windbreak from the Atlantic. “Our BES 6001 Excellent rating is

really positive as we are leading the way worldwide in adopting this standard for fibre cement slate manufacturing,” she said. “It relates to responsible sourcing of materials and is one of our key performance measures when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of a build.” The company has also just welcomed Joey Carbery, professional rugby player and native of Athy, as their brand ambassador spearheading their Slate of the Nation campaign.

Fully covered Natural stone cladding, which consists of sliced stone, is a hassle free way to introduce natural stone to your home. A new product line from Fernhill Stone shows just how good natural cladding products can be: Fernhill Donegal Slate which comes in an especially thin profile, between 10mm and 20mm thick. There are many different ways the Fernhill Donegal Slate cladding can be laid: you can achieve a dry or wet look, and pre mitred corners are even available to help with installation.

For a free quotation contact Fernhill Stone, Glaslough, Co Monaghan, tel. 047 88015,

Building materials provider Imerys, especially well known in Ireland for its range of quality clay roof tile products, was sold to private equity firm Lone Star Funds and has changed its name to Edilians. The new name combines ‘edification’, or improvement, with ‘alliance’. This highlights the company’s move away from selling products and focusing instead on turnkey solutions. Edilians plans to expand its roofing, solar, cladding and insulation offering through enhanced specification and to increase its international sales. Roof tile sales increased for the company in the UK and Ireland in 2018 and Edilians has bold plans for 2019 to become a major supplier of complete clay tile roof systems and to further expand its position on the UK and Irish markets.

Go with the flow! A company with many years’ experience in the public sector in NI, Ace Drains Ltd has now officially launched its services across the entire island of Ireland. For both commercial and domestic properties Ace Drains can deal with anything from blocked drains and septic tank issues to guttering, property maintenance and emergency plumbing. Having recently increased its fleet from four to 12 vehicles, including up to 44 tonne vacuum tankers, Ace Drains is ready to tackle any desludging or drains blockage issues you may have. Their specialist dig team can be called upon to repair drainage systems or install treatment plants. Ace Drains now also has a new Tool Store for the trade and the intrepid DIYer. SPRING 2019 / SELFBUILD / 21

W H AT ’ S N E W / R E V I E W S

‘We shape the wood, and the wood shapes us’ The therapeutic benefits of working with wood as told by Joel Bird, the author of Table Maker

IN MY NEW BOOK I DECIDED TO GO RIGHT BACK to the source for my wood. I bought a freshly felled piece of ash directly from wood cutters. I wanted to use the tree to teach me about all the procedures involved in table making, from milling, to drying, to woodworking, right through to making my own beeswax polish. As a carpenter I would have used different kinds of woods for different functions, pine for its accessibility and value, beech for its hardness and durability and oak for its moisture stability and high tensile strength. This was a different process. By understanding and taking part in all the processes involved in a craft, we are learning to connect. Not just to the world around us, we are also learning to connect to ourselves. Something special happens when you make an object from start to finish that is difficult to fully understand until you have experienced it. The act of working 22 / SELFBUILD / SPRING 2019

with your hands to accomplish a series of tasks, the ability to simplify your thoughts and the focus required to do a job well

with skill and accuracy brings out the best in you. John Ruskin said: “The highest reward for a person’s toil

is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” I think this is what carpentry has taught me more than anything else. There are occasions in these solitary moments of work that it feels as though time has stopped, as if nature is showing you that there is peace in the world if you will just allow yourself to see it. Through the process you see the fruits of your labour and to step back and cast your eye over something that you have brought into the world brings feelings of not just accomplishment, but a sense of wellbeing. Carpentry has changed my life; it has provided me with a living and I can honestly say it has made me a more confident, calmer and ultimately happier person. The Table Maker by Joel Bird is published by 535,, hardback, 256 pages, £20, colour throughout, ISBN 9781788700030

R E V I E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

CURATORS OF THE 2018 VENICE BIENNALE – the world’s largest architecture exhibition – the duo behind Grafton Architects, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, have attracted a lot of attention of late. This large format book is no doubt an acknowledgement of these achievement and according to its publisher it’s “the first and only monograph to shed light on [the practice’s] acclaimed portfolio.” The book shares the architects’ work from small projects and extensions to their largest commissions, including the acclaimed Bocconi University in Milan. Each is given a set of photographs and plans with descriptions and introductory chapters guiding the presentation of the architects’ work to date. Houses featured in the book includes mews conversions and notably Long House, a narrow infill site 6.5m x 20m inspired by Frank Llyod Wright’s Robie House

Mews Houses, Dublin (Photography Ros Kavanagh)

Inspiration as far as the eye can see

in Chicago with alternating internal and external rooms. Self-builds are also represented in this compendium; taking centre stage is the University of Limerick President’s House nestled within agricultural fields near a thick stand of trees lining the River Shannon. As described by author Robert McCarter: “For Grafton Architects the vernacular is less about a particular style or set of forms and more about a way of being, and how the building constructs a relationship between the inhabitant and the landscape.”

Grafton Architects by Robert McCarter is published by Phaidon Press,, 290x250mm hardback, £55, 256 pages, colour throughout, ISBN 9780714875941

Long House, Dublin (Photography Dennis Gilbert)

University of Limerick President’s House (Photography Alice Clancy)




Living the dream It was always Dom Thorpe’s dream to build a contemporary home, but his wife Nicola wasn’t convinced it was such a good idea… at least at first. Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Paul Lindsay




ver since I met Dom I knew he wanted to build his home but to me it just sounded like a lot of hassle and stress,” says Nicola. “We’ve both always liked watching Grand Designs houses. It was more the idea of building from scratch that I found daunting.” “We had done what we could with our home and even though we loved what we’d achieved, we knew we could use more room with the three kids. Over a period of 14 years we had renovated our kitchen and ensuite.” “Then I don’t know if it was a midlife crisis or what but it was very much me who was encouraging Dom to have a look at sites, to a certain extent I think I got bored with our house. We put it up for sale before

we even found the land to build on.” “We’d originally thought of buying a second hand house but to really get what we wanted we realised we had to build new,” she adds. “A big appeal for me is that you get a house that’s built for your own needs. It’ll give us 20 years with minimal upkeep, we won’t be renovating room by room as we did in the previous house.”

The perfect site

“Dom looked for land but it was hard to find suitable plots, they were all compromised to a certain extent. When we found the site we were hooked. I knew we would never get this plot again; it was close to work and Belfast, close to the children’s school. A two acre site that ticked all the boxes. As soon as we saw it, we put in an offer and thankfully it was accepted.” 


Profile for Selfbuild Ireland Ltd.

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Spring 2019 Preview