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This Schull home was designed to maximise its stunning sea views

This Schull home was designed to maximise its stunning sea views


by Megan Burns
10th Nov 2023

Architect Niall McLaughlin’s design is tucked into the foothills of Mount Gabriel, with a sleek zig-zagging form that works with the rugged coastline.

This sleek home with high ceilings and light-filled, pared-back spaces, Skyros certainly makes the most of its beautiful surroundings. Situated on the coast looking out over Roaringwater Bay and its collection of islands, it has been designed by architect Niall McLaughlin to work in harmony with this unique location.

Owner Lyons O’Keeffe explains that this site has a particular significance. “The house is located beside my childhood home on wild scrub land on which I used to play. That wildness is intentionally kept as you proceed along the avenue, up the rough driveway to the top where wildness temporarily gives way to very sharp and clean lines of the building and surrounding lawns and patio.”

This single-storey house makes the most of a long, sloping site which had limited depth. “Happily, the long dimension is south facing to the sea view. The primary objective was to maximise the various views from as many parts of the house as possible,” Lyons O’Keefe says. 

“I remember the architect saying that we were not only lucky to have a view of the Atlantic and islands but also a ‘near view’ of magnificent Scots Pine trees – which gave the wider view more context and a somewhat Mediterranean feel. Inside the house gives the impression of being much larger than its square meterage owing to the massively high ceilings.”

Rather than a simple rectangular shape, the house makes use of sharp angles to create points of interest and work with the site.  

“It provides surprises around every corner and incredible shapes that add real interest and complexity,” Lyons O’Keefe says.

“It’s a wonderful house to just be in and around because of this. Inside, the angles keep the views from revealing themselves all at once – you have to move around to see them, which keeps it interesting and varied. Outside, I love placing my cheek against the limestone at the sharp, easterly end to get my eyeline as close to the surface of the building as possible to peer down and take in its sheer length.”

The material palette adds to the overall effect of this serene, pared back space. Clad in Kilkenny black limestone, inside resin on poured concrete floors creates a minimalist softness, while the large windows are set into white, adding lightness. 

Despite its size, Lyons O’Keefe explains that it’s surprisingly unobtrusive in the landscape. “For quite a big house it is almost invisible from the road and very private. It’s also quite hard to see from the sea. The limestone, as it has gradually lightened, helps the structure blend really well into its environment, and the roof never breaks the ridgeline behind it.” 

The surrounding area of the house has been kept very natural, helping it to blend in. “It is as wild as it has ever been around the formal boundaries of the house, dominated by gorse, heather and fuchsia.” 

Of course, inside, the sea takes centre stage in this home. “The sea view is extraordinary and presents itself in layers before you,” Lyons O’Keefe explains. “Firstly, you have views into the mouth of Schull harbour and Long Island sound with near sight of sailing and other boating activity – the sounds of flapping sails and gulls chasing fishermen carry up to the house. Dolphin schools visible from the kitchen have, on occasion, forced us all to ‘abandon ship’ mid dinner to race down to the sea and get into our boat to get a closer look. 

“Second you have Long Island dotted with perfect cottages, sunsets illuminating its entire length when it seems the rest of the countryside has grown dark – the sunlight lingering for what seems like an age and occurring even during dull grey days overhead when the sun finds a clear angular path as it dips down over the western horizon. 

“Beyond that, Carbery’s Hundred isle gives great texture to the view and almost daily there are Naval, Coastguard and Irish Lights vessels carrying out their various missions, and always boats visiting nearby islands for days of pleasure.

“The far view to the Southwest hosts the Fastnet Lighthouse, its lonely towering structure visible during the day and its 5 second beam clearly visible at night. Beyond that again, to the horizon, the big super tankers and container ships ply their trade to the Americas and back.”

The good news is that it’s possible to rent Skyros through Unique Home Stays, visit uniquehomestays.com to find out more. 

Photography: Ruth Maria Murphy

This article was originally published in July 2023

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