This stone farmhouse in Kilkenny has been carefully restored to create a bright, calming space
Breathing new life into old buildings is as noble as it is daunting, but this project proves it's worth the effort.
Ballilogue is a series of expertly designed and lovingly refurbished stone buildings, all a few steps from each other in a tranquil, rural hamlet near Inistioge, Co Kilkenny. The properties, which include a renovated farmhouse, barn and dairy, date back to the 18th century and have been a labour of love for Irish-born, London-based architect, Mark Guard and the then-guest house’s creative director Pat McCarthy, for almost two decades.
They are a beautiful example of how modernist architecture and expert restoration can work seamlessly alongside each other. “Mark brought a contemporary, light-filled approach to it,” recalls Patrick. “Our interest was in keeping things simple and plain,” adds Mark. “While Pat’s interest is in finding richness and heritage – so we put the two things together and got something quite wonderful.” The result is a tasteful blend of old and new that celebrates Irish rural tradition and showcases contemporary architecture and design.
One of the more impressive modern features is a raised atrium made of galvanised steel and glass that’s part of Ballilogue. It overlooks the pretty and private walled garden and deck, making it perfect for al fresco gatherings. “I planted wildflowers and we’ve brought back all the original hedging,” says Pat. The gardens at Ballilogue are an important part of the overall design story, and cleverly serve as both a way to connect the individual spaces – which are hired out for private gatherings, events and small weddings – and create little pockets of privacy, making each building feel like its own oasis of calm.
And while the three buildings have their own unique personality and finish, for each there was the same central ethos driving the design and decor: Preserving the integrity of what was there, being as unobtrusive as possible with the architectural additions, and making each house a home through comforting, homely touches and great Irish craft.
Mark’s love of modernist architecture comes from a desire to keep things stripped back and simple, and this passion is very much at play at Ballilogue. “Architecture should be just the container of people’s activity and existence, albeit a nice container, with lots of natural light and the best proportions,” he explains. “We try not to let the the architecture overshadow what is going on inside or outside the property.”
Within each space, mid-century modern furniture sits with quality Irish craft pieces (such as bespoke Studio Donegal blankets, traditional woven baskets and quirky ceramics by local artists) while contemporary Irish art hangs from the beautiful, rough, old stone walls.
“I thought it would be very interesting to have the properties be a celebration of contemporary design and art, really linking the the modernist architecture with what was there,” says Pat. “We also felt this combination would work across the varied spaces, connecting the houses.” The soft furnishings and accessories proved such a hit with guests that a shop was opened up onsite, so that people could take their favourite finds home with them.
Ballilogue was a big undertaking for all involved, worked on in stages over the years. There were still renovations going on as recently as 2018, all with the same considered care, deep respect for the history of the area and stylish touches. “Our hope is that when people are here they can enjoy these lovely, luxurious contemporary spaces, but also connect to the tradition and that it means something to them,” says Pat.
Photography: Colleen Duffley
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Image Interiors & Living: the guesthouse is no longer operating.