Studio Negri News

A Life Less Ordinary

A 1940s semi-detached bungalow in Dundrum was given a super energy efficient Dalí-inspired make-over by design-conscious young couple John Healy and Ailish Gavin.

A modest post-war bungalow with a G energy rating might not have been an obvious choice for a couple keen on modern design and energy efficiency, but John Healy and Ailish Gavin saw potential in the large footprint of the house and garden. Having enjoyed living in an apartment for the previous four years, they wanted to bring the best aspects of apartment life – open-plan living spaces, low heating bills, and contemporary styling – to a larger family home.

“We viewed a few traditional semis but they were too formulaic,” says John “When we found this bungalow, we knew it would give us scope to create something quirky and individual.”

The couple worked with architect André Negri of Studio Negri to re-configure the internal layout, incorporating design elements inspired by a trip to Barcelona, and to refurbish the whole property to the highest energy standards. The result is a stylish, free-flowing interior, which provides plenty of exhibition space for John’s photographs and a crisp backdrop for the bold fabrics that Ailish loves to mix and match.

Words: Joanna Marsden | Photos: Anew McKnight (and Barbara Corsico)


Type of house: Semi-detached 3-bedroomed bungalow built in 1947

Location: Dundrum, Co Dublin

The renovation: Total refurbishment and reconfiguring of internal layout, including removing a chimney breast and demolishing walls between the original kitchen, dining-room, and garage to make an open plan kitchen-living area with access to the converted attic. Extensive energy upgrades and installation of a heating system to A rating standard.

The cost: Approx. €100,000

Timeframe: Three and a half months


The existing bungalow had sufficient square footage without the need for an extension, but initially, John and Ailish struggled to see how they could achieve a spectacular open-plan kitchen-living area. André soon convinced them that the answer lay in utilising previously wasted garage and attic space. A chimney breast was removed, the ceiling was opened up to the eaves, and walls between the old kitchen, dining-room, and garage were demolished. The result is an impressive dual-aspect, double-height space which benefits from large sliding doors to the rear and a dramatic south-facing roof-level window to the front.

Although alterations to the facade required planning permission, the modest nature of the changes made the process straight-forward and there were no objections from neighbours.


The house had no central heating when purchased. “From an energy perspective, a bungalow is a challenging house type to make energy efficient because you have so many external walls,” says John. “But we’d come from an apartment where we’d only had to turn the heating on from November to March, and our aim was to maintain that comfort level.”

Their radical energy upgrade programme caught the attention of RTE’s About the House which began to document John and Ailish’s quest for an elusive A energy rating. Spurred on by Duncan Stewart, the final specification included 180mm of wall insulation, airtight membranes in ceilings, an air interchange and heat recovery system, a combi-boiler and solar panels. High performance triple glazed black PVC windows and doors were supplied by Grady Joinery. The challenge of accommodating so much external insulation without interfering with the overhanging eaves was solved by fitting an aluminum channel to capture water. The only compromise was in the attic space, where height limitations restricted the volume of insulation, but a creative solution was found by insulating ceilings and walls around the attic, thus leaving it outside the thermal envelope of the house.


Regular filming visits helped keep the project team motivated, and the renovation, which began in August, finished on schedule three and a half months later. Ailish says, “Our builder, Elia (of Ares Construction), managed the project from start to finish, and his team was here day and night until we had to reign them in for the sake of the neighbours! The only downside was the pressure to make decisions. We’d get a call asking how we wanted to finish a particular detail and one of us would race back from work. Often it was hard to visualize the finished product and I think it would have been helpful if I’d read more magazines before we started.”

The couple was thrilled to eventually qualify for an A3 rating. John says, “It’s fantastic not to have to worry about unexpected bills. At first, I was a bit obsessed with how much energy the solar panel was generating, but Ailish discouraged me by placing our projector screen in front of the access to the boiler!”


The new living space includes a kitchen and dining area, a discreet utility room, and a relaxed TV area. In the corner, a curved plaster staircase, inspired by Dalí’s home in Port Lligat near Barcelona, leads up into a snug attic cinema room.
The kitchen is by Danish Design, and features quartz worktops and dark oak doors. The absence of overhead cabinets and the consignment of bulky items to a large larder unit and adjoining utility room gives the room an elegant, uncluttered feel.
In addition, the couple has a more traditional living-room with a fireplace set into a wall of chunky recessed shelving. “We like having a choice of areas that we can use depending on our mood!” says Ailish.

The main bathroom is tiled with iridescent glass mosaic tiles, and adjoining the master bedroom is a spectacular en-suite wet room with a glass door to an enclosed Mediterranean-style courtyard.

“It goes without saying that the house wouldn’t be anything like it is now without André,” adds John. “He came up with a fantastic layout that really makes use of the light and aspect, and we’re delighted with how it’s turned out.”

Ailish loves the unfussy modern feel of her home and is looking forward to filling more walls with the beautiful photos John has taken on their travels. “This house provides all that was good about apartment living but without the hassle of having to walk miles to our car!”

With the house complete, Ailish says they are turning their attention to the garden. “We were inspired by Dalí again recently when we visited The Dalí Museum on a recent trip to St Petersburg, Florida, so we’re thinking of doing something brave, perhaps covering the concrete walls with graffiti art!”


Architect: André Negri, Studio Negri, Unit 87, The Academy Building, Parkwest Pointe, Dublin 12
Tel: 01 658 0431 Email: Web:
Builder: Elia Cassandro, ARES Construction, Tel: 087 649 6777 Email:
External doors and windows: Grady Joinery. Tel: 094 929 1000 Email: Web:
Hardwood flooring: Brooks. Web:
Bathrooms: H & V Bathrooms & Tiles, Unit 9, Finglas Business Centre, Jamestown Road, Finglas, Dublin 11. Tel: 01 465 6850 Email: Web:
Heat Recovery Unit: Lindab Web:
Combi boiler and solar panel: Alpha Therm (Ireland) Ltd, Peamount Business Centre, Newscastle, Co Dublin. Tel: 01 621 2939. Web:
Kitchen: Per Ploug, Danish Kitchen Design. Tel: 086 822 7850. Email: .
Web: (Worktops by
External insulation (fitted by ARES Construction): Knauf Ireland, 87 Broomhill Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24. Tel: 01 462 0743. Email: Web:
Internal Insulation: Isover Ireland, Unit 14, Park West Industrial Park, Dublin 12. Tel: 01 257 5400. Email: Web:

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