New House: Newell House


New Houses



Area: 316 sq m
Completion: 2001

The site is the lower end of a field, dramatic as it axially relates to the disused Lead Mine chimney at Ballycorus in County Dublin. It is all the more memorable for its view to other landmarks – Killiney Hill obelisk and Puck’s Castle. There is a cluster of old farm buildings. Acknowledging this context with its traditional language my wife and I set about the design of a contemporary house for us and our young children.

The brief was simply to create an informal arrangement of spaces and rooms which would be filled with light and in tune with the landscape.


We began with the making of a courtyard to the north using existing stone sheds as one edge. It became a hard space (apart from a single mulberry tree) with somewhat austere facades including a stone retaining wall to the east. A glimpse between the north gable and beech hedge is allowed to the mountains to the west. A composition of disparate elements signals the entrance to the house.

Once through the solid doors free-flowing space and light abound. Sunlight is unhindered due to the expansive glazing to the south and west, and the narrow plan width. There is constant interaction between the interior and the landscape, both visually and physically on both levels. A timber deck / bridge links the main bedroom and garden.

Despite rigorous design, the garden is in terms of planting understated and reflective, borrowing from the adjacent landscape. There is a lawn to the west, which relates to the repose of the sitting room and is framed by fruit trees, a terrace from which emerges a box hedge edged graveled path, native woodland, a beech hedged children’s garden, and both wide grassed steps and a timber deck to the south where meadow lawns merge with the field.

The construction is traditional plastered and painted concrete block walls, timber windows, and slated and corrugated roofs. The corrugated ‘haybarn’ roof over the main bedroom was the most economic element. We allowed ourselves an occasional extravagance of reinforced concrete and steel.

All buildings need to evolve and adapt throughout their lives. Our house is no exception. In 2010 the previously very important playroom became less relevant as the children became teenagers and now we use the space during the day as a design studio and a homework / study room at night.

Economy emerges not from investing in expensive materials and finishes which are superfluous and unnecessary but from Architecture concerned with light and space and their enclosure in a simple sculptural manner.