Located in the beautiful County Kilkenny of Ireland, the River House contains a unique mixture of Portuguese design influences and sustainable elements. The design comes from Isabel Barros Architects, who said that the project started with the desire to preserve the region’s ecological heritage while meeting contemporary lifestyle demands. The site presented several challenges, such as its proximity to a special conservation area along the River Nore and an existing house that was over 150 years old. As a result, the architects inserted several eco-friendly features within the design, which included the preservation and extension of the old home.

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The project was guided by climate-responsible principles, including passive solar techniques as well as concrete floors to increase thermal mass efficiency. The project also highlights a design process that took full advantage of the river views while maintaining respect for the existing Rathsnagadan Wood (a Proposed Natural Heritage Area) and River Nore near the site.

Related: Metal-clad Eco Cottage puts a modern spin on Irish rural architecture

white living area with gray sofa facing glass wall
long wood dining table with gray, white and black chairs across from glass wall

The remodel called for additional accommodations, so the architects added an airy, functional and adaptable family room to foster social cohesion. The living space also has full, open views of the river, supplementing further connection to nature with easy-access outdoor terraces. Windows are placed strategically to maximize natural light, and the extension faces the southwest to take full advantage of the sunlight. The architects chose wooden frames for the windows and doors to preserve the character of the original house and provide a lower carbon option; the openings on the extension are fabricated from a combination of wood and aluminium for a modern touch. Triple glazing ensures overall thermal performance and reduces embodied carbon.

sofa facing wood-burning stove in white room with glass wall
bed facing window

External building materials include natural stone slates to reflect the traditional character and remain durable to perform within the harsh Irish climate. The River House’s garden adds sources of nectar and pollen for the region’s pollinators with the inclusion of diverse grasses, fruit trees and flowering plants.

+ Isabel Barros Architects

Photography by Robert Mullan via Isabel Barros Architects

white gabled home with glass end wall