“It’s the excitement of amazing design that I just love,” he says. “Also, encouraging people and designers to think outside the box; encouraging them to not stick to what they’re comfortable with, but to explore and push the boundaries.”
Hugh’s enthusiasm for his craft is palpable. His absolute passion is restoration – everything from humble farm buildings to the great houses of Ireland.
“My greatest passion is our architectural heritage. Seeing it re-envisaged and reimagined as homes, offices, restaurants, coffee shops etc., bringing the past into the presentis very special. It’s about keeping the fabric of our buildings so important to our social history, intact.”
Hugh says that great architecture is not limited to grand stately homes; you can make a statement even in the plainest of places, which brings us to Hugh’s latest project. Hugh Wallace has a genuine affection for a type of house that few of his fellow architects share – bungalows. And with 2021 being the 50th anniversary of the publication of Bungalow Bliss, it’s time to reimagine the humble bungalow.
Jack Fitzsimons self-published, self-sold ‘Bungalow Bliss’ booklet of 20 bungalow plans changed the face of rural Ireland in the 1970’s. Up until then many rural dwellers lived in homeswith tin or thatched roofs and outdoor toilets. “With Bungalow Bliss, they could buy bungalow plans that provided step by step instructions on how to self-build a warm, functional house with a bathroom cheaply,” Hugh explains.
Using the specifications set out in council guidelines, including a maximum size of 1200 square feet required for grant aid, Fitzsimons changed his life and that of his fellow rural dwellers. His layman’s bible provided a comprehensive blueprint of bungalows that covered everything from the foundation right up to the chimney pot. It made home building a viable DIY project for the first time in Ireland, and included sourcing of materials and construction costs.
“It’s hard to imagine nowadays, but in the 1970’s it seemed nigh on impossible to plan your own brand-new,ultra-modern home,” Hugh adds. “And back then 30% of houses did not have inside toilets.”
Hugh is adamant that bungalows can be upcycled and retrofitted to meet today’s needs. His latest project, setto hit our screens later this year, is My Bungalow Bliss. Instead of dealing with grand country houses,this series looks at how to revitalise Ireland’s most common rural home type. It follows the radical re-working of four jaded 1970s, 80s and 90s bungalows with the help of four young architects, each endeavouring to transform them into slick modern homes on a realistic budget.
Hugh’s own practice is familiar with bungalow conversions and he points to the recent example of a jaded Sutton home transformed by fellow architect Ken Furlong. While a bungalow can be bought for €80,000 to
€250,000, the budgets on the show to gut, reconfigure, insulate and extend the properties run from €140,000 to €250,000. “It means that you could buy one and renovate it for less than the cost of a similar modern property.” To bungalow owners looking for a change on a reasonable budget, the news is bliss.
Bungalows on a Budget
For those that do not have the budget for a complete overhaul there are several upgrades that deliver real bang for your buck.
Most 50-year-old houses need replacement windows but Hugh suggests thinking outside the box when replacing them. “A neat trick is to change the shape ofthe window by dropping the sills. It has an instant aesthetic effect, as does changing the roof tiles to make the house look crisper and more modern. If you can puta
narrow vertical glass panel that’s frosted into the internal corridor, it’s a nice Scandinavian touch.”
Always wanted an open-plan layout? The good news is that bungalows naturally lend themselves to this type of floorplan. If your bungalow is made up of lots of small rooms, converting the layout to open-plan can transform the way you use the space. Many 1970s bungalows were designed with a separate dining room, kitchen and living space. By combining one or all of these you could open up the main living area and bring a more practical, contemporary feel to the space.
The Great Outdoors
Perhaps more than any other style of property, bungalows lend themselves to indoor/outdoor living. With every room at ground level, there is potential for any room to be accessed from the outside.
A single-level house can lend itself to an external courtyard or a garden design that connects the outside with the main social spaces of the house.These transition spaces between inside and outside are often some of the most popular spaces, especially when designed with external living in mind.
Hugh says that the most important thingis to understand the orientation of yourbungalow. “Aspect is hugely important tothe siting of a home. South-west facing gardens suit us best because, at the end of a working day, they still offer us light and heat,” he adds. Sliding open a patio door and steppingoutside first thing in the morning for abreath of fresh air or an early morningcup of tea has to be one of life’s simple,but very great pleasures. “We aresunlight-deficient in this country so it isimportant to maximise aspect and light,”continues Hugh.
If you live in a two-storey house, it’sunlikely that you can access the gardenfrom your bedroom. But in a bungalow, it’s easy. Whether you install bifold doors, or just a large picture window, think about ways to maximise garden views and make the most of your close proximity to the outdoors.
That’s another great thing about bungalows Hugh professes, “you are often buying a well-established site with mature trees, good privacy and places for kids to play. Often you even have room to put in an office pod which is great separation for the home office or for older kids as a study space.”
It’s worth bearing in mind that bungalows have a lot to offer homeowners of all ages. They’re great for young families as you don’t need to worry about toddlers falling downstairs. And an open-plan layout can make it easier to keep an eye on children in the living room while you are in the kitchen, for example. But they are also perfectly future-proofed for the older generation. Bungalows offer access for all and inclusive design. With a bungalow, there’s no need to worry about stairs for older people, or people with physical disabilities or mobility problems. “Just as it was years ago, the bungalow today is a great starting point for building a house for a reasonable amount of money,” Hugh says. “They give people, particularly young couples, the opportunity to afford the dream. You might be able to afford only half the dream today, but you can design the other half over time, and get your kitchen in, or knock through to put in a main bedroom suite.”
Asking the experts is always a good idea but people are often scared off by the potential cost. Not so here. Hugh’s practice offers a consultation on WhatsApp or Zoom to homeowners for €350. It’s amazing what an hour long one on one consultation can achieve. “You can at least dip your toe in thewater with proper renovation advice. We do it because people are often scared of the cost of calling in anarchitect.”
For more information check out www.douglaswallace.com
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