The "Inspiration" behind Inspirational Homes

Inspirational Homes Leitrim & Leitrim Development Company

The Leitrim Development Company (LDC) LEADER (RDP 2007-2013) business plan (http://www.ldco.ie/downloads/LIDC%20Application%20Final%20Version.pdf) includes a commitment to help refocus the construction sector in the County and also a large element of proposed activity relating to alternative and renewable energy technology. The Company was aware of the fact that there are a significant numbers of houses and buildings in Leitrim which have many unique characteristics including design, materials, construction methods, and which incorporate old buildings and a variety of alternative technologies in particular in relation to energy use. Theses buildings have been constructed and developed over the past twenty years and they are now a significant part of the built heritage in the County. It was felt that the significance of this element of the built heritage could be related to the relatively large organic horticulture & farming sector in Leitrim, to the recent development of the Greenbox eco-tourism project and also to the high level of activity in the creative / artistic sector in the County.

LDC was also aware that within Leitrim there is a significant level of expertise among architects, engineers, builders and trades, suppliers, self builders etc and that this could contribute to Leitrim becoming a hub or focal point for such expertise and experience in this niche within the construction sector. The development of such a hub could capatilise on the existing building stock and expertise. Consultation took place with Leitrim County Council planning office and a number of other interested parties and a steering group was established to move this idea forward. 

Research and Analysis

This led the Board of Leitrim Development Company to conduct research and analysis of such building stock and also to conduct more in-depth consultations with the various interested parties including architects, suppliers, builders, trades, self builders, tourism interests, Leitrim County Council and the community. This research was carried out in 2010 and it showed the numbers and significance of this element within the built heritage in the County. The consultations indicated the all those involved were very willing to share the experiences they had, the expertise which has been built up and also to allow the buildings to be opened and displayed to the public.  This research project was grant aided from the Leitrim Development Company Rural Development (LEADER) Programme which is financed by the Irish Government under the Rural Development Programme Ireland 2007-2013 and by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in Rural Areas. The research was conducted by Dr Jo Lewis.

Research Conclusions and Outcomes

One of the strongest conclusions from the research was that establishing an event modeled on the new and recent “Open House” events in Dublin and Galway (http://architecturefoundation.ie/openhouse/dublin/home) would help to highlight this unique aspect of the built heritage in Leitrim. Such an event would also allow for the development of other activities including networking between the various interested parties including architects, engineers, builders (including self builders), trades, suppliers, and the public who are interested in or planning to construct themselves. It was also felt that a website documenting the various properties and highlighting the unique aspects of each would act as a forum for the exchange of information and a centre for the networking. The Board of Leitrim Development Company then agreed to lead and develop these elements of the project. This project is also funded under the measure conservation and up grading of rural heritage by the Rural Development (LEADER) Programme which is financed by the Irish Government under the Rural Development Programme Ireland 2007-2013 and by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in Rural Areas. Leitrim Development Company is working very closely with Leitrim County Council who is assisting to co-fund the project.

Green Door Leitrim.

The inaugural event in 2011 is led by Leitrim Development Company. Leitrim County Council and in particular Mr Ciaran Tracy Senior planner have made an important contribution to the project so far as have Leitrim Tourism and the other member of the steering group. This will become an annual event and the hope is that as the network of people who are contributing to Inspirational Homes Leitrim and Green Door develops they will build on this very unique element of the Built heritage in the County. It will also become an event which will attract a diverse group of visitor to the County from around the country and from abroad. Dr Jo Lewis, and her associates, as the contractors to deliver this event (and the research element) have been very professional and Jo’s inspiration, commitment and interest has certainly enhanced the projec


Jo says:

"Since 2001 myself and my partner Mike worked to renovate and extend a 100 year old traditional three-roomed stone cottage. Our aims were to self-build a family home in the most sustainable way possible.

As non-builders we were starting from scratch in terms of what to build and how. We gathered information from books, magazines and friends. However at times, we still felt that we were working in a void. Information on such things such as which source of heating to choose, how does lime work on earth floors, although used by others before us, was not easily available to us. The choices were many and the information we were looking for often needed to be based on local knowledge and we didn’t know who to ask.

Over the next seven years, we continued to live in a mobile home while the work carried on. Some things worked out well such as finding the right architect and making the straw-bale walls while others, such as crumbling chimneys, were problematic; and of course it all took a lot, lot longer than anticipated! In 2009, we moved into our almost complete home, which we are now really very happy with although, work still needs to be done.

During this time I heard of and came across many beautiful new, extended and restored homes hidden away in the Leitrim landscape and realised that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there that deserves to be shared. Nothing can beat first-hand honest information, experience, and advice.

At the same time, during the economic boom there was a huge amount of building, much of which was insensitive to the environment. As we all now know, many of these houses have been left standing, unsold and empty. As a reaction to this and to new economic and environmental factors, more people are now looking for different ways of building and living; ways which are more sensitive to the Irish vernacular as well as to the environment.

By making available examples of homes and work by builders and architects who have worked hard over the years to experiment with alternative ways of building, living and designing, Inspirational Homes Leitrim hopes to respond to the need for more information, dialogue and on-the-ground advice about building for the future. We are placing emphasis on the importance of local networking of information, resources, skills and technologies.

Through the easy to search website we hope to showcase what building designs and techniques have been used in Co Leitrim with the aim of offering support and encouragement to home-builders/architects and designers, from very basic shelter making to more elaborate and substantial structures.

The Green-Door weekend is the annual highlight of IHL and offers a weekend of sharing and networking with the aim of celebrating what has been achieved, highlighting design for the future of rural living, and allowing people the opportunity to share and network."