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  • Beginning our self-build journey…
  • February 7, 2021
  • Monica Duggan

My husband and I had always thought we would build, we had land in our sights and had even engaged an architect. But one evening, Donal called me over to look at Daft, and there it was, our future. A small cottage down the end of a treelined lane in north Kilkenny. We fell in love.

Our original cottage.

The cottage needed work and more space, so we asked the same architect (an old family friend) to design an extension. In fairness, he did a beautiful job, but it was the exact opposite of what we had envisaged. He went left and we realised we wanted right, literally! It was the best thing we did though, it really made us slow down and think properly through what we ultimately wanted.

We moved in and spent a few years growing familiar with our home, trying to understand the fall of natural light, the wind direction and the overall flow of space in the house.

I also took inspiration from Cottagelogy, a facebook page full of information and ideas about cottages! Archilovers is one not many have heard of in the home build market but helped us to think outside of the box! Pinterest was another great resource as were following SELFBUILD hashtags on instagram. Seeing what others were doing really allowed us to dream about what we could achieve. 

Inspiration – loved the wood and big windows.
Inspiration – we have a gorgeous view and wanted of make the most of it.

We engaged an architect again – this time we had a much clearer vision of what we wanted. Sometimes I think people underestimate the value of an architect, but in my experience it is impossible to do your home without one. Even if you have a clear vision, they can often see things you didn’t and deliver innovative yet simple design solutions you never thought of.

Issues arise if there is a lack of understanding between the client and architect. The architect need to climb inside your head in order to understand what you want, but they can only achieve this if you articulate your needs clearly. Before meeting our second architect, we had a design vision and a wish list of items that we really wanted. I found it very useful as it kept us focused if and when we got side-tracked.

We used a local architect, Jenny Barnes, from Barnes Nolan & Associates (Jenny’s site is under construction but if you want her number just let me know). She’s an amazing lady, she got our vision, understood our wants but also pushed us to think big! Thank you Jenny!

Jenny’s original design – we just tweaked a few things.

Other residential Irish architects I find inspiring are Studio Red, DMG, Optimise Design, Lyons Kelly, DMVF, and 2020 Architects to name just a few.

So my advice when it comes to the first step on the road to your dream home is to take your time. Become familiar with your house or piece of land, see it in all seasons, in all light. Look for inspiration around you both on and offline. And finally, find an architect – one whose work you resonate with. Ensure you push your vision but also be very open to theirs until you find common ground! It’s the crossing of ideas that creates beauty.

Lucy our dog – just put here because…well isn’t she gorgeous!
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About Monica Duggan

Monica grew up with a screwdriver & bulb in her hands before she started to 'hassle' the boss! After gallivanting around the world & getting an education she worked in all areas of the business, and was a natural fit for developing Willie Duggan further. She does her best thinking struggling up a mountain, hiking a trail or beating herself up in the gym!