With small windows that weren’t making the most of the beautiful ocean and garden views, and dated décor, this 20-year-old two-storey house in Cappanacush, Greenane, Kenmare was in need of an overhaul.
The owners, Angela and Dennis (an English/Irish Couple) who live in Athens, purchased the property in 2019 as their holiday home, named The Little Red Bridge. When not being used by the couple, the house is also let out to others and their ultimate goal is to retire to the house. Keen to give it a new lease of life, they engaged Justina Gruzdyte and Nathalie Vos of Edit Interior Design Studio, Kenmare.
“Before we started working on the nine-month project, we always thought the house had a lovely feel about it, but it was definitely of its time. It was stuck in the 1990s, pine everywhere from the floors and ceiling to the walls and staircase. The whole interior had a very orange glow. However, essentially, it was a good space to start working from,” said interior designer, Justina.
“The brief that we had was to create a comfortable and inviting holiday home with soul and warmth for Angela and Dennis. As the home is also let out to other holiday makers, the interiors had to be able to appeal to families or couples looking for an escape. The living spaces needed to be maximised and had to be able to deliver a great space to entertain. Style wise, it was important to maintain a modern country vernacular,” she outlined.
“The house is located in a beautiful country-side setting with fantastic views taking in Kenmare Bay and the Beara Peninsula. The green fingered previous owners had also done a great job with the garden,” Nathalie, an interior architect, said. “However, small windows and French doors opening onto the deck failed to optimise on the vistas. The interior needed to open up to those views and bring them in. So the owners, Angela and Dennis, opened up the whole ground floor living space by knocking out the back façade, and incorporating floor-to-ceiling sliding doors along the whole length of the ground floor living area.”
“The ground floor needed the most reconfiguration. The bones were there, but the flow wasn’t great,” she remarked. “The kitchen, dining and living room had all been housed in one room making it rather cramped. What is more the front door entrance and the stairs to the first floor bedrooms also opened up on to this single living space. To the left of the front entrance was a small cold utility room. And leading directly off the kitchen, dining and living room through a set of double doors, was a ground floor bedroom with an en-suite shower room.”
“We started by building a partition wall down the side of the staircase to create an entrance hall and define the living spaces,” said Nathalie. “Next, being in the country side, a boot room was on the couple’s wish list. The area in on the Kerry Walking Way so there is great walking and hiking all around right from the house’s doorstep. We took the small existing utility room, and knocked through into some of what had been the downstairs bedroom space; by taking in the en-suite shower room and some wardrobe space, we created a fully functioning boot room with utilities and a lovely new walk-in wet room that doubles up as the downstairs WC. The previous single living space was converted into a large kitchen and dining room with a brand new bespoke fitted kitchen and a three meter long dining table. The downstairs bedroom was converted into a spacious and airy lounge or sitting room with a wood-burning stove and folding doors onto the Kitchen/Dining room to give the occupants the choice of semi-open plan living or separate rooms if they so wish.”
“Upstairs was less of a job, however, the en-suite bathrooms were exceptionally small, so we extended them by going back into the dormers of the roof. And there was no storage what-so-ever, so we commissioned some built in wardrobes,” said Justina.
The ground floor now comprises an entrance hall with boot/utility room and wet room to the left; and two large living areas – the Kitchen and Dining Room, and the Lounge, both with fabulous views and large sliding doors that open onto an outdoor deck. Upstairs there are two en-suite bedrooms with super king-size beds and also a little writing area at the top of the landing.
“The vision for the whole space was really to create a home that flows well and is functional, but at the same time, create a home-away-from home that has everything it needs to be comfortable and familiar and space you want to spend time in, “ Nathalie said.
“We kept it very simple and used a base plate of white and then introduced a lot of intense blues and greens and they flow throughout the whole house. The idea was to bring the outside in and reflect the colours of the ocean views and the garden. For the furnishings, we also used a lot of natural textures and fibres such as oak, cane and wool,” outlined Justina.
“Perhaps the biggest obstacle on this project was that we were trying to achieve a very high end look on what was quite a tight budget considering all the work that needed done. We overcame this by mixing high quality bespoke joinery and the loose furniture and accessories are a mix of designer pieces and high street finds such as made.com and Ikea. We kept the design very simple and we used colour for effect,” she said.
“Key pieces in the project included the bespoke joinery. Wherever possible we used local tradespeople to carry out the work. All of the joinery was done by a local company. We tried to introduce some Irish elements as decoration as well, bearing in mind that this would be a holiday home for international people to come and stay in,” said Justina. “The traditional Irish Skib baskets hung as an installation on a wall in the kitchen is an example of this. And we used Irish woollen throws and blankets in the bedrooms and lounge.”
The designers’ advice to anyone contemplating a revamp is to consider the power of paint, especially if there is a lot of timber. “We painted the pine ceilings and walls the same off-white – Dulux Subtle Muslin – which gave all the rooms a warm clean look and it bounces the light well. Also it’s a perfect backdrop for other colour accents,” Justina said. “Paint is the least expensive way to achieve a transformation. Our advice would be to use no more than three colours and different variations in hue,” she said.
“Also consider updating light fittings. Add mood lighting; replace accessories such as rugs and cushions – that doesn’t cost much but has a huge effect.”
Interior design: Edit Interior Design Studio, Roosacoosane, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Tel. (087) 9222290
Kitchen and fitted joinery: Designed by Edit Studio and built by Holbein Carpentry and Joinery, Kenmare.
Furniture: Made.com; Ikea; Various other design brands available through Edit Design studio
Throws and blankets: Cleo Gallery, 2 Shelbourne Street, Kenmare.
Skib baskets: Hanna Van Aelst, Tipperary, Tel. (086) 0840091
Artwork: Justina Gruzdyte, Kenmare, Tel. (087) 6932497.