A beauty in the cliffs of Donegal…

Declan McCabe of McCabe Architects discusses a phenomenal project!

Story Highlights
  • “We played around with angles to create drama.”
  • “There was no problem extending the house once we kept the scale in proportion and the existing cottage intact.”
  • “The living space gets nearly 200 degrees of panoramic view which is amazing.”

The McMorrow family share their home with their dance school and it can be very difficult to switch off and have their own alone time as a family. They bought a 1990s bungalow an hour away from their familial home in Donegal and since it was renovated by Declan McCabe and Anita McDermott of McCabe Architects, the family now use it as their family home.

Jonny, Claire and their two children are a family of Irish dancers from County Leitrim. Claire and Jonny met in the 1990’s as dancers in the original Riverdance lineup and after many years dancing for their living, the young family moved back to Ireland in 2013 to set up an Irish Dancing School.

McCabe Architects, based in Donegal Town, provide a variety of services including architecture planning, interior design, energy consultation and more. Their team of experienced and qualified architects and designers will plan and manage your entire project from start to finish. Accredited in Conservation, they handle both large and small projects including domestic, commercial and industrial builds.

McCabe Architects’ speciality are bespoke designs all along the Wild Atlantic Way with many fine projects completed from Donegal to Galway and beyond.

Here Declan McCabe discusses this phenomenal project…
“Animo Productions came up with the idea for ‘My Bungalow Bliss,’ which aired on RTÉ 1 and they chose a number of Irelands top architects for the show. The production company then put out expressions of interest for homeowners who had bungalows. The show was put out on the 50th anniversary of when the ‘Bungalow Bliss,’ magazine first hit the shelves. They also thought it was a good opportunity as there are a lot of bungalows that may not have been touched since the second or third magazine publication,’’ explained Declan McCabe.

“A load of enquiries came in from homeowners and then basically we were paired up with Jonny and Claire. Their house had huge potential and it was on a beautiful site although it had many challenges. I’m a firm believer in that when there are challenges, they bring huge opportunities as well. Sometimes you need some restrictions to do something different.

Claire and Jonny were great clients and they were very open to what we suggested. They wanted to feel like they were staying in a lovely relaxing hotel, the rest was up to us!
“The house is in a high scenic amenity area so there were certain planning policies that we had to adhere to. The building was 30 years old and it had nice proportions of the quintessential cottage. There was no problem extending the house once we kept the scale in proportion and the existing cottage intact.“We looked at options and we could either extend to the left or the right, which would have been an easy option from an engineering point of view. It made sense to extend to the back as you were tucking the bulk of it into the existing house and it was hidden away from the public realm whilst also being pretty much immersed in the seascape,’’ he enthused.

“You arrive at this unassuming bungalow or cottage and then the view just hits you! There are little windows at the front and then we added this big striking curved wall as you come in. We played around with angles to create drama.

“This project was definitely a case of when old meets new and you get the best of both worlds. When you come in the front door, there is a lovely distressed pattern tile that sets the tone for your arrival into the original space and when you move off that there is a nice herringbone floor that flows right around the open plan space. The small PVC windows at the front of the original house were replaced with a heritage window which was a nice little touch,’’ continued Declan.

“There is floor to ceiling glazing wrapping around three sides of the extension and there is a lot of steel structure hidden away. The living space gets nearly 200 degrees of panoramic view which is amazing. To look at the clouds coming in over the bay is beautiful, sitting around the fire pit or in the hot tub in the summer would be equally as nice!

It was nice to be asked to take part in the show and work on this project. When the clients are happy it is great and it is all that matters at the end of the day. Hand on heart, we’re delighted with this project and nine out of ten things that we suggested Jonny and Claire went with it. These projects are about collaboration and I’m delighted with how everything turned out. It was a pleasure working with Jonny and Claire, finished Mr McCabe.



Declan McCabe
McCabe Architects

Main Contractor:
John Fox
Ardvoca Properties Ltd
Neil: 086-2214093
Patrick: 086-8396164

Words: Emer KellyImages: McCabe Architects

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