We are an award winning design led practice who are passionate about  delivering excellence for our clients...

Leap of Faith

Build Your Own House and Home, 2007

Despite having an architect in the family the Co Fermanagh Callaghan’s were still unsure about the design of their modern home until the day they moved in.  Now they love it, as did the judges in an architectural competition who bestowed it with a design award.

The Owners:  Tommy and Joanne Callaghan.
The Location:  Roslea, Co Fermanagh.
Type of House:  Modern barrel-vaulted barn-style home with three bedrooms incorporating an existing cottage on the site.
Size of House:  1,900 sq ft.
The Architects:  Aughey O’Flaherty, Dublin.

The Brief:  Biggest Challenge:  When the barrels arrived and couldn’t be transported up the winding lane that approaches the site. They had to be cut in half and then bolted together when in place.

Best Decision:  Sticking with the architect’s vision.  Seeing the whole thing finished, with the copper roof contrasting with the rendered walls and the Iroko timber.

Build Route:  Main contractor and sub-contractors supervised by architect.

Method of Construction:  Traditional block build with steel framed barrel roof finished with ply and copper.

Planning Time:  Build Cost: 18 months.

Budget:  €260,000 approx.

Verdict:  We wouldn’t swap it for the world.  It was probably a bit more expensive to build but it is probably worth a lot more than that now.

Neither Tommy nor Joanne Callaghan was born in a barn, but these days, the couple and their growing family are quite happy to live in one. Tommy inherited a small farm, about 20 acres near the village of Roslea on the border with Co Monaghan and the couple wanted to build a home, settle there and have a family.  But they had in mind something altogether more traditional than the dwelling pictured on these pages.

They had no plans to build a modern house, but some persistent familial persuasion eventually prevailed.  Joanne’s sister Lora is an architect practicing with the Dublin-based firm Aughey O’Flaherty, a practice with a bulging portfolio of contemporary new-builds and refurbishments, both rural and urban.  Lora agreed to look at the site for the Callaghans, but the sisters had entirely different ideas of what should get built there.

Site Surveillance

"The site had excellent views and all we knew really was that we wanted to maximise those.  But apart from that we wanted something quite traditional, maybe a Tudor-style house we thought."  Joanne explains, "But then when Lora saw it, she talked us in to doing something different."

Lora showed the Callaghans around a number of homes in Dublin with barrel-vaulted roofs and then showed them a house in Galway with a copper roof, in an effort to convince them this was the best way to go.

But the Callaghans remained unconvinced, right up until the day they moved into the futuristic looking barn in fact. They didn’t flinch however, and Tommy Callaghan has no regrets.

“We were doing something that was really outside of the circle, so to speak,” he says, “And we were very nervous about it. People thought we were quite mad. But I think our best decision was to go with our instincts which told us to trust what the architect was doing.”

Joanne agrees: “We were apprehensive. Up to the end we were apprehensive. It wasn’t until after I moved in that I realised what a comfortable and practical house it is to live in.”

Almost straddling the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, the Callaghans live in a home whose lifestyle necessities are catered for by different states.  For petrol and diesel, they foray into the southern jurisdiction, while for general shopping they tend to stick with Enniskillen.  Roslea village itself has a couple of pubs and shops.

Their home meanwhile straddles different states of the mind, the modern and outward-looking juxtaposing the old and small-windowed.  There was an existing 18th century cottage and outhouse on the site, so the new dwelling was designed around this cluster.  The idea was to construct a barn-shaped building parallel to the derelict cottage, in order to create an informal courtyard, reminiscent of a traditional farmyard.

Floor Plan

The new house is a long narrow building running from east to west, the barrel-vaulted roof completing the barn building appearance.  On the courtyard side of the house, is a porch, which leads into and contains the main entrance.

It has three bedrooms, though it was originally designed as a four bed until the couple made the decision to turn the fourth into a mezzanine overlooking the main living area.  Joanne says: “It is a sort of relaxing zone overlooking everything else.  It has a different feeling than the downstairs.  For example it has carpet, whereas the downstairs has timber flooring.”

Outside, the most striking element is an ultra-modern, copper roof.

It took about 15 months to build on a budget of about €260,000.  Tommy visited the site about three times a week and it was mostly a happy build he says, apart from the moment when the pre-fabricated steel barrels for the roof were being delivered.  “They couldn’t get them up the lane,” he says.  “So they had to be cut in two and then bolted together when they were put in place.”

It has a large open plan living space containing the dining, living and kitchen areas and it is Joanne’s favourite room in the house.  She says: “The reason I like it so much is that it is the centre of activity in the house.  Everything goes on there and you can light a fire in the centre.  We make lots of use of it.”  An L-shaped sofa by Ligne Rosset sourced by Joanne in Arnotts Dublin, has become the centrepiece of the living space.

Kitchen Space

Tommy says the dimension of the kitchen worried him when he first saw the foundations dug.  “I got a shock when I saw them.  I just thought ‘the kitchen is going to be too small’, but Lora reassured us, and in the end it worked out fine.  It isn’t the biggest kitchen in the world, but it is very practical and everything is within reach.”

The Callaghan’s home won a gong for its designers Aughey O’Flaherty Architects, in the 2005 Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland Awards.  In its citation the Institute said that the jury was “particularly impressed by the subtlety of the forms used redolent of traditional buildings in the countryside.  This distinctive house takes its place almost as an integral element in the rural landscape.”

Winning the award had some unexpected consequences for the Callaghans.  The phone started to ring, after the interest of local journalists was peaked at first and then interest from national media quickly followed.  Joanne says: “We didn’t really expect much to come of it when Lora said she wanted to enter it, but it won and things really took off.”

Tommy is looking forward to the day when the roof turns from brown to green.  He says: “It was expensive, almost one third of the entire budget.  But when I drive past other houses roofed with tiles and slates I think of them getting discoloured and then mossy and then having to be replaced and repaired eventually.  Our roof meanwhile, will last about 100 years and in about 15 years it will just about be turning a nice shade of green.”

Tommy’s favourite time of day in the house is between three and six in the afternoon in the summer.  This is when, he says, the sun has made it around to the back of the house where the decking is and there are beautiful, clear views out over the surrounding countryside.

He reckons the house has proved a lot of its sceptics wrong.  He says: “Okay, we could have bought a house for the same money or built one for a bit cheaper, but now it is probably worth two or three times what it cost us to build.”

Sceptics they may have been, but now the Callaghans and their son Adam wouldn’t swap it for the world.