Charlotte Verbeek’s home showcases her impressive collection of art and makes a feature of the spectacular setting

Words: Róisín Healy |Photography: Eoghan Kavanagh

It takes a brave person to knock down their house and start from scratch. But Charlotte Verbeek had a vision for what she wanted her home to be and extending the original 70s bungalow wasn’t going to cut it. The reward for this bold move is a house built to a very specific brief, to t around the lifestyle Charlotte and her husband had created for them- selves on the Beara Peninsula. With an extensive art collection, unique pieces of furniture acquired from years living around the world, and decades of work put into the gardens, there was a lot to factor into the design of the new build. She worked with architect Mark Dignam of Meitheal Design Partners on the design, which reflects her and her husband’s personalities and interests. “We feel a house and home should ultimately reflect the owner and their lifestyle,” Charlotte says. “We have had the house for 20 years, but didn’t live here permanently until five years ago. We had done bits over the years and added extensions but after talking with Mark we realised for the house to suit our needs we were going to have to bite the bullet and rebuild.”

What is most unique about this build, completed in 2013, is that despite its modern glass windows and contemporary feel, it manages to seamlessly blend into its surroundings. It’s an example of marrying a modern aesthetic with the sensibilities of country living, one of several boxes to tick on the detailed brief Charlotte gave to Mark. “We didn’t want a big ostentatious palace that would be visible from everywhere. Because the new house is completely stone faced and is done with local stone, it has a very understated presence and feels like an old structure,” Charlotte says. “It’s part of Mark’s signature style, the fact that his buildings do really t well in the landscape because he uses the local materials in an understated way.”

The materials Mark used echo the couple’s love of nature. “It’s their gardening sense and her artistic sense,” says Mark. “That’s why we decided to go with the whole polished concrete look and European white oak. The palette of materials is quite simple and they repeat a lot.”

There were practical elements to consider in the brief too, like room to prepare the foods they grow as well as ensuring the house was as environmentally friendly as possible. “The house had to meet the needs of rural living with a small farming enterprise. It had to reflect our lifestyle,” Charlotte says. “In the garden there is quite an extensive orchard. We have something approaching 100 fruit trees, we have a vegetable garden and we are beekeepers. A big aspect of our lives is driven by the setting, so it wasn’t just about having this contemporary stylish house.”

The beauty of the site was another driving force behind the design. “It’s a very important part for us, if not a bit cliché, to bring the outside in. We have it all around us here and I am sitting now in the orangery and I can see out to this big oak tree that shows all the seasons, with the mountains and farmland beyond it.” To link the interiors of the house with the outdoors, Mark extended the polished concrete doors that run through the entire house out to the patio. A reflection pond there reflects the birch trees, further linking the design into its surroundings. Mark explains that the concrete was an experiment. “You can’t see from the pictures but there is a lot of quartz in it and a white fleck to it which makes the space much brighter. People think of concrete as a dark grey product but in a house when it is polished, there is a lot of refracted light. It’s very suitable for gallery spaces as it throws its own natural light up at the paintings.”

Charlotte has an art gallery, Dawros, on the property, and her own artwork is displayed throughout the house as well as paintings and sculptures she has collected over the years. Her collections dictated the interior design of the house, with Mark opting for clean lines free from architraves and skirting. “I wanted to be able to change the art we have displayed and I have a lot of carpets from when we lived in Damascus in the Middle East. To display them, rather than having to change holes in the wall, I opted for a railing system with hanging rods so I can change the pictures,” Charlotte says. “If you love art it’s brilliant because it allows you that exibility to change the look and feel of a room.”

Charlotte worked with an interior designer to ensure that the house had the right ambience, with a particular emphasis on lighting. “I would recommend to anyone who contemplates a new house to work with a professional. Considering the placement of lighting alone is a profession in itself,” Charlotte says. “I am Dutch myself, and I worked with an interior design in Holland, Does Interiors in Laren. He really made me think through the furnishing and the light, to make the right choices for the space in terms of size and what complements the room. It meant I was able to think about things and plan ahead with the placement of sockets for example, so now I don’t have exposed cables around the place.”

The styling of the home is considered and focused on showcasing the beauty of the pieces. “There are very personal touches, such as all the pieces of furniture we collected during our period of living abroad. We have been in Africa, the Far East, North America. There is quite an eclectic collection there. Glass is another pas- sion of mine, in the orangery where it is difficult to have fabrics or anything that fades, glass is fantastic to have there as it works incredibly well in the light. I wouldn’t call the house minimalistic but keeping a feeling of space was important to us, and I don’t do clutter.”

The finished home proves starting over paid off. “It’s a good idea to look at what you have got with a critical eye and examine what options are available,” Mark says. “But it takes a brave person to say that their home is something they are willing to destroy with all its memories but sometimes it is just the right thing to do. Your average house that was built in the 60s, 70s or 80s, they have a 60 year life span and they were not built very well. It can often be better to start over again, and it certainly worked here.”