Five years ago, when Michelle and Stephen Spoor inherited their 1950s bungalow from Stephen’s uncle, it was dark, damp and architecturally ill-conceived.
The interior layout consisted of a series of small rooms, a very basic kitchen and three bedrooms, but the couple could see the huge potential that the property had to offer.
‘It had a large south-west-facing garden, so there was plenty of space to extend,’ recalls Michelle. ‘We immediately knew that we wanted to create an innovative design that would cleverly incorporate the old building and make the best use of the space available.’
- The owners: Michelle Spoor, a secretary, and her husband, Stephen, a sound engineer, live here with their two children, Stephen, 23, and Caitriona, 19
- The property: A four-bedroom, detached 1950s bungalow
- The location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
- What they spent: The couple inherited the property in 2009, when it was valued at £450,000, and have spent around £138,000 on its renovation. It has recently been valued at around £725,000
To turn their ideas into reality, the couple approached Dublin-based architect Larry Pierce to come up with a solution to reconfigure the space, giving them four bedrooms and a large, open-plan kitchen, dining and living area. ‘The architect was fabulous and understood that we wanted an extension that was light, bright and very contemporary in style,’ explains Michelle. ‘He worked very closely with us to come up with a design that would give us the space we wanted.’
The planning process went smoothly and the couple secured permission relatively quickly, because, even though the whole house was going to be gutted, the facade of the house wasn’t being altered. As the plans involved redesigning the entire space, the couple decided to continue living in their old house in Dublin for the duration of the 18-month building project. ‘We were lucky that we had the option of continuing to live in our old house, which we hadn’t managed to sell yet because of the downward spiral in the property market,’ admits Michelle. ‘It was sort of a blessing in disguise, as it meant we didn’t have to find a property to rent, and, as we were nearby, we were able to keep a close eye on the different stages of the construction and tackle any problems that might have arisen.’
With the work underway, many of the bungalow’s walls were demolished, and the only remaining room from its original layout is the master bedroom on the ground floor at the front of the property. At the back, the whole area has been opened up and extended to form an open-plan space that is unrecognisable from the original small, dated rooms.
Large sliding doors on two sides of the extension ensure that this area is always filled with light. ‘I wanted the doors to open right back, leaving a large opening at the corner of the space with no visible supports, but this would have been hugely expensive to do, so we realised that we had to make a compromise,’ explains Michelle. ‘There is now a support in one corner of the space, which I thought would ruin the overall look but actually we don’t even notice it.’
The kitchen, housed in the extension, is a streamlined, modern space with cream-coloured cabinets, solid marble worktops and integrated appliances. ‘I enjoy cooking and wanted a kitchen that had plenty of work space for food preparation, was easy to keep clean and had plenty of storage, so this design works perfectly for me,’ says Michelle. ‘The large central island provides extra preparation space, and, with the bar stools, makes the perfect place for more casual dining.
‘The kitchen/dining area in the extension is my favourite space in the house,’ she adds. ‘In the summer you can open it up to the outside, and, if you are outdoors for a barbecue, you still feel connected to the inside, making it great for entertaining.’
Elsewhere on the ground floor, the redesigned living area is separated from the dining area of the extension by a double-sided electric fireplace, providing a striking focal point in both spaces.
Creating an extra floor
The architect also incorporated a first floor into the new extension, which not only gave the couple the extra bedrooms they wanted, each with its own modern en suite, but also provided space for an additional living room. ‘We decided to use this for our two children as they were getting older and were keen to have an area where they could relax and bring friends without intruding on our space.’
Designing the staircase was a challenge for Michelle and Stephen. ‘We wanted a stylish, modern design that would allow plenty of light through, but we didn’t want to break the bank trying to get the right design either,’ explains Michelle. After extensive research, they found a company that could create the open glass and timber design they wanted at a reasonable price. ‘I prefer simple designs, so I wanted to make sure that the new staircase echoed the clean lines of the extension,’ Michelle adds.
‘We positioned a rooflight directly above to allow light to filter down into the space.’ In addition to finding the right staircase supplier, Michelle did a huge amount of research to find the most competitively priced products for the build. ‘I love looking at interior magazines and searching for bargains and products on the internet, so I really enjoyed this part of the project. It was great to be so involved in sourcing designs, and, working closely with the architect, we were a really good team,’ she recalls.
Michelle decided to keep the décor for the redesigned interior as neutral as possible, so she used off-white paint colours and natural cream tiles in the kitchen area, while honey-coloured timber flooring adds warmth to the entrance hall and the living and dining areas. ‘I also wanted to introduce texture, so in the kitchen we’ve chosen brown marble worktops, which add visual interest and make the space seem less stark.’
As there was so much work being carried out on the property, the couple decided it was the perfect opportunity to give the garden a makeover, too. ‘Stephen really wanted a hot tub and a sauna, so we had a separate studio and gym space built for them outside,’ says Michelle. ‘The building also has plenty of room for storing clutter and all our gardening tools.’
A low maintenance garden
The couple both love gardening, but they wanted a relatively low-maintenance outdoor space. ‘We decided to pave most of the garden so that Stephen wouldn’t have to spend lots of time mowing the lawn,’ continues Michelle, ‘and then planted trees and shrubs that would grow relatively large to give us more privacy at the rear of the house.’ Michelle was also determined to have somewhere she could grow vegetables and herbs.
‘We set aside an area outside the kitchen, so that I can easily dash out to cut herbs and pick fresh produce when I need them for cooking,’ she adds. The architect’s design for the property has more than fulfilled the couple’s wishlist for a light, contemporary home that makes the most of the space available. The end result is a modern, airy and uncluttered interior, with an open-plan layout that’s perfect for both everyday family life and entertaining. ‘The bungalow looks so different now. It has been totally transformed from the dated space it once was,’ says Michelle. ‘The renovation has paid off – we love it.’