The Irish Cottage

The Irish cottage had a distinct and recognisable style. Notably, by using local materials, it blended seamlessly into the landscape – “even as a tree or a rock,” observed one Scandinavian ethnologist, adding that “built of stone, clay, sods, grass and straw brought from the vicinity, the house harmonises with the landscape to which it belongs.”

Wooden-frame construction methods used in ancient and medieval times gave way to mass construction methods, whereby solid walls supported the whole building and formed the outer skin against the elements. Stone with lime and sand mortar was the most common material used, followed by tempered clay, which was more common in the south-east of Ireland due to the slightly drier climate. In a worst case scenario, or where the shelter was only temporary, sods cut from the ground were used.

The roof is mostly thatched, reflecting locally available materials and ensuring the rain runs off. The hearth is the centre of the home, the centre of cooking, warmth, and water-heating, but also the social centre where stories were told, songs sung, and life shared.

Overall, a number of features are common: the Irish vernacular cottage is rectangular, divided into rooms which occupy the full width of the house with no central hallway or passage; it has thick strong walls, a steeply sloped roof supported by the walls rather than pillars or posts; there is an open hearth at floor level, with a chimney protruding through the roof ridge; they are usually one storey high, and have windows and doors in the sides of the house.


previousPrevious - Architecture today
Next - Variationsnext