Contemporary renovation of a farm cottage

Louise McGuane used natural light, modern design and open spaces to transform her 18th-century stone cottage into a contemporary home

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When Louise McGuane decided to return to her home country of Ireland, she knew exactly where she would stake her claim: in an old stone cottage on the family farm in County Clare that had lain derelict since her great-aunt’s death. Louise felt it would be the perfect opportunity to reconnect to the life she’d left behind decades before, and to create a weekend bolthole that the whole family could use.

The cottage has a long connection to her family. ‘My grandmother was born here and the property has been in the family since the 1700s,’ she says. ‘It was used as a hideout by Irish rebels in the past, and during the renovation we found an old flintlock pistol, which we dated to around 1780, plastered into the rafters. I met Dominic shortly after the project started and we named the cottage The Safe House as a nod to both its history and to the respite it offers from our busy London lives.’

Louise’s vision was shared by her friend Jean-Claude Girard, a Swiss architect, who worked with her on the project.

Together, they came up with the idea for an extension that would follow the cottage’s original footprint but also incorporate a series of sheds, resulting in an L-shaped design nearly twice the size. The existing downstairs rooms would be reconfigured to create a light, open layout and a new first storey added in the roof space. In total the number of bedrooms would be increased from two to four.

The 18-month build began in December 2012 while Louise was working in Singapore.

Fact file

The owners: Louise McGuane, founder of The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company, and her husband Dominic McCarthy, who works in public relations, live here with their Jack Russell, Ruby

The property: A four-bedroom, extended stone cottage, dating back to 1890, in County Clare, Ireland

Project cost: The renovation project cost £150,000

‘No two views are ever the same,’ Louise, homeowner

farm cottage before renovation

The 18th-century stone cottage on the family farm in County Clare had lain derelict since Louise’s great-aunt’s death.

modern farm cottage renovation living area

The cathedral ceiling and extra-wide picture window are among the wow-factor features of this unique home. Louise centred the living area around the suspended fireplace, an echo of the hearth traditionally being the heart of an Irish home.

For a similar design, try the Zinc fireplace from Modus Fireplaces. Glazing, Glas Trösch. Sofa, Checked throw, Natural Calico. Yellow cushion, Next. Sideboard, Liberty. Louise bought the Madonna picture by Artur Fidalgo while staying in Rio and the Noguchi coffee table at an antiques show

modern farm cottage renovation lkitchen

The metallic finish of the Metod cabinet doors from Ikea reflects light around this bright space. The island is clad in maple reclaimed from a parish hall that was being demolished.

Eldslaga hob and oven, Ikea. Toldeo stools, Cult Furniture. For similar blackboard wall paint, try Rust-Oleum

modern farm cottage renovation open plan living

Polished concrete flooring – for similar try Lazenby – and stylish accessories give the living/dining room a contemporary feel.

Stockholm leather sofa and Regolit lantern, Ikea. Swivel chair, Retrozebra. Mid-century-style nest of tables, Ebay. Christ the Redeemer picture, Artur Fidalgo

modern farm cottage renovation seating area

Previously the kitchen, this space still has its original flagstone floor.

The bookcase was custom-made in Dehli. Orson chairs, Metal platter, Alessi

modern farm cottage renovation feature staircase stairs

The cantilevered staircase was custom-made by the builder using railway sleepers as stair treads, fitted toa steel structure built into the wall.

The copper bedpan and earthenware pot are original to the house and the Hackney Station sign is from a junk shop. Bespoke bi-fold doors, Munster Joinery

modern farm cottage renovation blue bedroom

Artwork is central to Louise’s scheme for the whole house.

Prints, Yue Minjun. White waffle throw and square pillow shams, Natural Calico. Forsa lamps, Ikea. Nest of tables, Ercol

modern farm cottage renovation bathroom

Louise clad the Soho bath from Bathstore in the same reclaimed maple wood as the kitchen island, and also used it for the flooring.

Waterside basin and tap, Bathstore. Ragrund towel rack chair, Ikea

modern farm cottage renovation yellow bedroom

More reclaimed maple is used in this room.

For a similar basin, try the Karl Rectangular wash bowl from Bathstore. Rooflight, Velux. Metro wall tiles, Topps Tiles

modern farm cottage renovation shower bathroom

Picture, Pure Evil Gallery. Kajuta bedside light, Ikea. For a similar rug, try the Moroccan Tile design from Rugsville. Bedlinen, Natural Calico

modern farm cottage renovation dining room

Dinner parties tend to linger around the table with its panoramic view across the wildflower garden to the countryside beyond. Louise made the table herself using Finnvard legs from Ikea and a glass top from a salvage yard.

For similar Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs, try Swivel UK. Regolit floor lamp, Ikea

modern farm cottage renovation exterior

Louise and Dominic created a wildflower meadow around the cottage, which attracts wildlife such as foxes, pheasants and hares for them to watch through the huge window.

The contacts

  • Architect: Jean-Claude Girard,
  • Bespoke glazing: Glas Trösch
  • Bi-fold doors: Munster Joinery
  • Kitchen: Ikea
  • Bathroom fittings: Bathstore