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Stilt House: A Raised Contemporary Cabin on a Lakeside Farm Retreat in Connemara, Ireland

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Stilt House: A Raised Contemporary Cabin on a Lakeside Farm Retreat in Connemara, Ireland

May 17, 2024

Anne and Simon Ashe moved with their two kids to Fernwood, a lakeside property in Connemara, Ireland, with big plans: in addition to becoming self-sufficient farmers and conscientious stewards of their land, they wanted to build inventive, eco-conscious structures sized for two, so that they could entice vacationers to visit.

Just over 10 years later, the Ashes report that it’s been nonstop work, but things have gone as planned: last year, their 140-acre vegetable and cattle farm received organic accreditation, and they now offer five retreats, each in a choice location: “Identifying the sites for our cabins was a process of walking the land every single day and understanding the light, terrain, and privacy,” says Anne. Their goal: to build “considered spaces for immersing in nature in a completely uninterrupted way.”

Fernwood’s most recent and most ambitious hideaway is a curved modernist cabin that sits treehouse-style on 57 stilts in the middle of the woods with its own Swedish wood-fired hot tub—a rope bridge leads to a sauna and plunge pool on the shore of a salt lake. Our friends Jo Anne Butler and Gearóid Muldowney of art/design studio Superfolk tipped us off about Stilt House as an architectural wonder and great place to stay. Join us for a look.

Photography by Doreen Kilfeather and Superfolk, unless noted, courtesy of Superfolk.

architect aidan conway had worked on the ashe&#8\2\17;s own house just afte 17
Above: Architect Aidan Conway had worked on the Ashe’s own house just after they bought their farm. When Aidan announced the opening of his own firm, MarMar, they immediately signed him on to design Stilt House. In keeping with Fernwood’s minimal impact approach, they envisioned a raised cabin; Aidan came up with the surprise elliptical shape. “The site was chosen for its sense of enclosure within a dense patch of woodland—it allowed us a moment to step off the hill and into a tree canopy,” he explains. “The curve adds a dimension to the building that invites you to discover what awaits around the corner,” says Anne. Photograph by Simon Ashe.
the cabin rests on douglas fir stilts and is clad in galvanized corrugated meta 18
Above: The cabin rests on Douglas fir stilts and is clad in galvanized corrugated metal—”as you approach, it’s quite rectilinear and hints at an agricultural structure,” says Aidan. He describes the color as a “goose-wing gray finish.” Adds Anne: “The color choice was quite specifics—we found that it blends with the typical gray skies and doesn’t stand out in the woodland as you might expect.”
&#8\2\20;one of the most joyful things about the cabin and the build has be 19
Above: “One of the most joyful things about the cabin and the build has been seeing how quickly the groundscape reestablished itself,” says Aidan, “the ferns and shrubs quickly skirted in and around the stilts within weeks of completion.”

Anne says the construction process was tricky but that their builders, Colin Ritchie and Johnny Walsh, rose to the challenge. They even lived on site in camper vans during the process. “The reason Colin and Johnny were so fantastic is they were prepared to do everything by hand meaning no big machinery was involved apart from lifting in windows. Every piece of wood was carried through the woodland and the building was constructed entirely without mechanics. They brought a special energy to the process and to Fernwood that remains.”

local artist paddy o&#8\2\17;malley, who often works in concrete, gathered  20
Above: Local artist Paddy O’Malley, who often works in concrete, gathered leaves from the surrounding forest floor and created this pattern on the entry steps.
&#8\2\20;upon entry, you&#8\2\17;re immediately confronted with the cur 21
Above: “Upon entry, you’re immediately confronted with the curved wall and rich dark interior,” says Aidan.”Light sources draw you left (to the living area) and right (to the sleeping space), both culminating in a view of the canopy.” Shown here, Superfolk’s Rowan block print on washi paper and a set of Muuto Dots hooks under a dramatic skylight.
the walls are paneled in pine plywood stained a deep forest green courtesy of m 22
Above: The walls are paneled in pine plywood stained a deep forest green courtesy of multiple coats of Tikkurila Valtii Color. The flooring is durable, sustainable cork that Anne sourced through a company in Ireland.
all of the paneling and cabinets are the work of local master cabinetmakers ron 23
Above: All of the paneling and cabinets are the work of local master cabinetmakers Ronan Joyce and Conor Folan—”They have worked on all our projects and are second to none at their craft,” says Anne. The living area has a kitchenette with a combination microwave/oven from Ikea and an induction cooktop.
each room has a big   view of the landscape. admiring the toaster? see compact  24
Above: Each room has a big-picture view of the landscape. Admiring the toaster? See Compact and Colorful: Three Good-Looking Countertop Appliances from Hay.

The windows are triple-glazed and the house is fully winterized and available for stays year-round: it’s solar powered and heated by an an air-to-water heat pump complemented by a mechanical heat recovery ventilation system.

anne sourced a lot of the furnishings from the finnish design shop, including h 25
Above: Anne sourced a lot of the furnishings from The Finnish Design Shop, including Hay’s Loop Stand Table. The plywood’s green stain allows the wood grain to show through.
&#8\2\20;the experience within the space is a calming journey of moving fro 26
Above: “The experience within the space is a calming journey of moving from dimly lit to wide open vistas,” says Anne.  The Bug Armchairs are Aino Michelsen designs for Interface.
superfolk&#8\2\17;s limited edition giant kelp forest print is currently ma 27
Above: Superfolk’s limited-edition Giant Kelp Forest print is currently marked down to £800 from £1,000. That’s also Superfolk’s Boot Stool paired with a jute armchair by Irish designer Helen James for Dunnes Stores.
designed by aidan for the space, the bed frame has storage drawers and a bench  28
Above: Designed by Aidan for the space, the bed frame has storage drawers and a bench at the end with space for stowing luggage—and one of the Merrion Hotel Dublin’s famously comfortable mattresses.
the view from bed. 29
Above: The view from bed.
an isak throw from roros tweed pairs perfectly with the bathroom tilework. 30
Above: An Isak throw from Roros Tweed pairs perfectly with the bathroom tilework.
classic white square tiles are outlined in red grout. see more cases for a bit  31
Above: Classic white square tiles are outlined in red grout. See more cases for a bit of red in our recent Unexpected Color Trend Alert.
the sink, too, comes with a big view. 32
Above: The sink, too, comes with a big view.
the farm—home to a herd of native irish dexter cows—and stilt hou 33
Above: The farm—home to a herd of native Irish Dexter cows—and Stilt House are located at the start of the Connemara Greenway only minutes from Clifden town. For reservations, go to Fernwood, where you can also see shots of the hot tub and sauna, plus four other lodging options, two of which are in a nearby seaside location.

Floor Plan

&#8\2\20;a singular curving wall carries through the plan,&#8\2\2\1; sa 34
Above: “A singular curving wall carries through the plan,” says Aidan, noting that everyone feels compelled to run their hands along the walls. “As you approach, the cabin it is quite rectilinear and hints at an agricultural structure in a plain gray finish. Upon entry, you’re immediately confronted with the curved wall and rich dark interior.”

Here are three more favorite rustic retreats:

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