The sky, and sea, are the limit

The last thing on most self-builders’ minds is to rent out their home. But as an alternative source of income it’s becoming increasingly commonplace, especially for those who have alternative accommodation or who have built their house as a holiday retreat in the first place, as was the case of Lyons and Nicci O’Keeffe.

What materials did you use to build your home? Our architect’s design, fusing modern architecture with minimalist style, was entirely executed with reinforced concrete to cope with the large spans and the building’s seaside location. The roof is poured reinforced concrete with reinforced concrete vertical support pillars filled in with concrete bricks and PIR insulation; all windows are triple glazed. Then the whole structure, walls and roof was clad in Black Kilkenny Limestone.

How long did it take you? It took us two years, from 2009 to 2011 to build the home due to the complexity of the building. The most important thing for us was to get the design and execution absolutely right.

House size: 235 sqm
Site size: ¼ acre

When building your home, did you consider the possibility of home exchange or letting it? When we built the house it was to provide a long term base for the family. We were living in London, unsure where we would end up, but really wanted our kids to have a permanent ‘mooring’ in Schull. So at that point, it didn’t feature in the thinking or design. Everything we did was to produce a beautiful house that maximises the view in this stunning location and not with any commercial considerations.

Which of your home’s features do you think are most attractive to renters? It has to be the extraordinary views from the bank of enormous floor to ceiling windows. The weather on the coast is constantly changing and sitting back watching the systems marching in from the Atlantic is a real pleasure. The light and height of the living area means you can be indoors all day without ‘cabin fever’ – helpful in West Cork in December! Likewise the ability to open the huge sliding doors brings the outside inside during the summer. The black Kilkenny limestone exterior adds to the drama of the setting. The house is also very private and discrete.

Self-builds tend to feature the newer technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels. Do you find that you need to give extra help to familiarise people with using these? We have solar panels and a very efficient boiler with little interaction required from people staying. The only heating is underfloor which gives such a lovely quality of soft heat. We have a state of the art electronic programmable Aga which definitely needs the instruction book! Switched on or off however, it is one of our favourite bits of ‘furniture’.

What advice would you give others considering renting their home? It helps if you actually want to do it! We are treating this as a really exciting business project rather than ‘having to have people in to help pay the bills’. We are very much thinking ‘boutique hotel’ and that level of service rather than ‘holiday let’. That’s why we chose to partner with Unique Home Stays. We think it is really interesting to have this as a separate business with clients rather than spending our time worrying about the house and its contents.

Do you sometimes live in the property? How many years have you been involved in this? We have never lived at the property although in the past we visited almost every month. We started to rent a year ago, since then have made lots of improvements to the interior look and feel.

Lyons and Nicci’s house is available to rent on uniquehomestays.com; renting this house costs £2,000 to £3,000 per week with Unique Homes Stays taking care of the bookings, handing over of keys and enquiries.


What do you think?

Written by Astrid Madsen

Astrid Madsen is the editor of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home magazine. She previously held the same role in an Irish trade publication, before that she worked at the National Standards Authority of Ireland. She graduated with a BA in Urban Studies from Columbia University in New York and holds an MBA from the Instituto de Estudios Bursatiles in Madrid. France of origin, she now lives in Portarlington, County Laois, where she's taken on the task of renovating a listed building! Email astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

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