How I turned an old store house into my dream home

February 4th, 2020 6:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

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With spiralling rents pushing mortgages out of reach for most West Cork people, one woman created her dream home with a bit of creative thinking and a lot of style.

A WEST Cork teacher was so frustrated with the cost and quality of rental accommodation in the area that she took things into her own hands – literally.

And the result is an incredible, custom-designed space for her family to live in that cost her €30,000.

Now she feels so passionate that dream homes don’t have to cost the earth or involve compromise, that she’s launching a new career to help other people’s property dreams come true.

Rewinding to several years ago, Ciara Deasy Murphy an artist/art teacher and native to Clonakilty, found herself looking for rented accommodation in or around the area.

‘Having viewed several places I was left feeling very deflated, rents were not cheap and the house-hunting was an experience, to say the least.’

But rather than admitting defeat, her frustration inspired her to take a less conventional route to finding a home.

An old storehouse on the grounds of her family property that was built in the early 80s to store products for a family business presented itself as a solution – albeit an unconventional one.

It had been idle for 15 years, and there was a generator room to one side that was covered in oil, a big hole in one of the walls, a bird’s nest in the rafters, and a rusty corrugated iron roof.

‘But the more I looked at rental properties, the more convinced I became that this building had the potential to be restored into something special; a clean, bright, warm and cosy home,’ remembers Ciara.

Over the coming weeks, she visited the space at different times and really got a feel for it.

‘Light and heat are the two most important aspects in a home for me, so I wanted to give a lot of thought to where would be the best possible place for the windows and doors and what heating system to use etc.

‘Then once I had a style, design and measurements for the space somewhat figured out, I went on the hunt for good quality and aesthetically pleasing materials at a fair cost.’

Next up was the funding, but with savings and a small loan from the Credit Union, she got everything she needed – along with a few special pieces of furniture that she loved – and reworked the original design to suit her new purchases.

She was so determined to get her vision over the line that she worked three jobs to make it happen.

‘I worked full-time art teacher hours in Bantry. I drove to Clonakilty after school to give grinds in the evenings, and worked as a waitress in Rosscarbery at the weekends. Any spare second in between went into reworking the design. It was an organic, fun and empowering process.’

And within a year – six months of planning, saving, designing and collecting and a further six months of building work – her new loft apartment was ready to live in.

From start to finish the project cost around €30,000. ‘Rents for one-bedroom apartments can go from approx €800 a month, which means I paid for the renovation with the equivalent of three years’ rent.’

Ciara is now married to Rob Murphy and they are parents to one-year-old Bobby.

‘Of course we foresee a bigger forever family home eventually, so we are just taking our own route at getting there, a route that avoids putting ourselves under too much financial debt, keeps us mortgage-free and allows us the freedom to live a comfortable and fairly carefree lifestyle. Most importantly, this gives us the opportunity to spend more quality time together as a family, which is number one for us.’

Her experience was so fulfilling that she was inspired to study and work as an interior designer.

‘I love the idea of being able to help people create a happier environment at home, along with the challenge of developing spaces for clients with different tastes and budgets to me.

‘I genuinely believe that every single space, no matter what size or shape, has the potential to be special, even on a budget.

‘I love the idea of being able to help people figure out what is special to their taste and how this can be developed or recreated within their own spaces.

‘Some money will always need to be spent, but I think with a bit of creativity, the amount can be reduced considerably.

‘When I was growing up, most people did it the one way – you saved for your deposit, you got your mortgage, you bought your forever home, and that was often seen as the only option.

‘In today’s culture with extortionate living costs and a housing crisis, this is just not possible for so many people.

‘My advice to anyone thinking of going down the route of a conversion project would be to go for it, give sufficient time to the research and design stage, know your budget, insulate well, stick to your vision, and work hard. It is possible.’

*Get in touch with Ciara at [email protected] and follow her on Instagram @ciaradeasyinteriors.

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