An Out Of The Box Home For A Historic Farm

Julia Thomson Julia Thomson
Grillagh Water, Patrick Bradley Architects Patrick Bradley Architects Modern houses
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The beautiful pastoral landscapes of Northern Ireland may well be what poet William Drennan had in mind when he first called the country the Emerald Isle. Verdant green fields, flocks of woolly white sheep and rustic stone walls are what many of us picture when we think of Ireland. We also likely think of quaint country cottages dotting this rural setting.

However, when faced with a quintessential Irish landscape, Patrick Bradley Architects took a distinctly non-traditional approach to home construction. The result is a unique house that has garnered much attention. It was the focus of British TV show Grand Designs and has also been recognized with numerous awards.

We can't help joining the party when the subject is as special as Grillagh Water. From its sculptural form to its unique materials to its stunning rural setting, this home challenges our preconceptions of a country house and makes us reconsider how architecture interacts with location.

A beautiful rural setting

We start at the bottom of a country lane, where we're greeted by the local residents. The flock of sheep, the lush pasture, the mature trees, the dry-stacked stonewall all set the tone for this very rural environment.

But follow the country lane that runs alongside the wall and you may start to hear a different tune.

In the distance we see very irregular geometry emerging from the landscape.

A modern sculpture

Drawing closer, a modern--very obviously man made--sculpture rises from the fields. The first surprise is the form of the house itself. In this incredible natural environment, the house is a strong non-organic presence. Boxy and linear, the house presides over the land, but it is obviously part of the land as well. Subtle earth tones--cool greys, warm browns--connect the home to its surroundings.

Unique construction materials

The second surprise is the material the architects chose to employ in constructing this house--shipping containers. Shipping containers have emerged as a trend in home construction over the past few years. They are affordable and readily available.

Four 45ft shipping containers form the house. The two base containers are nestled close to the slope of the hill, further connecting the house to the land. The two upper containers are set crosswise on the base, so they cantilever over the lower level and the surrounding fields.

Unassuming entry

Thanks to its position against the hillside, the profile of the house is not imposing. This is especially the case at the top of the laneway where we find the main enterance.

Just one end of the containers faces the lane, presenting what appears to be a very small facade. The containers are clad in metal sheets, which creates a very simple, uniform exterior.

Bright and modern upper floor

Step inside the house and we're greeted with a clean, modern interior. The upper level, where the public spaces are, is bright and fresh. Grey tile floors and white walls allow the furnishings, lighting and accessories to take centre stage. Large windows on all sides connect the occupants to the lush Irish countryside.

Dark and dramatic bathroom

In contrast to the light-filled upper level, the lower level of the home has an intentionally different feel. The master bedroom and bathroom are situated on this floor, so the architects wanted to create a sense of intimacy and privacy. The showpiece of this dramatic, dark bathroom is an incredible hammock-inspired tub that is suspended from the walls.

Bridging inside and out

Connecting indoors and out was a priority for Bradley and his team. The rooftop of the lower containers provides a perfect terrace just off the main living area in the upper level. Large sliding glass panels not only allow occupants to access the terrace, but also provide a view right through the house, further blurring the lines between interior and exterior.

Showcasing architecture through lighting

This unique home becomes even more dramatic at night. The cantilevered construction, metal cladding, stone base and large glass doors are all showcased through carefully placed exterior lighting. The lower level clad in rusted steel panels appears more solid, an anchor to the upper level which is characterized by glass and perforated steel.

Curious about container homes? You can learn more here.

What do you think of this modern house and its rural setting? Would you have guessed this home is constructed of shipping containers?

What do you think of this modern house and its rural setting? Would you have guessed this home is constructed of shipping containers?

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