Hearth was approached by the NI Tourist Board in 1993 to provide a design guide for rural cottages, prior to their launching a project to encourage people with disused buildings in the countryside to restore them to provide holiday accommodation with character.
With funding from NITB and the International Fund for Ireland, a pilot project of six cottages was identified and carried out in 1994-95. The buildings were all unlisted but had strong vernacular character, and the brief was to retain original features inside and out where possible while providing comfortable modern houses for visitors to stay in.
The houses included four houses above
Glenarm and another on Islandmagee. One was an interesting two-storey house at
Bellair with attached byre and hayloft accessed from an external stone
staircase. The challenge here was to provide bedrooms and living space in the
byre and hayloft without changing the character of the design, and sash windows
were provided while retaining the sheeted doors to the openings in that part,
so that when the house is unoccupied the doors can be used as external
shutters. The external staircase was a concern because of health and safety,
but it was agreed that visitors would be warned about the possibility of falls
rather than changing its character by providing safety rails.
At another one, Tully Cottage, it was
not possible to use the existing sash windows as escape windows as required by
regulations, but a detail was devised whereby a sash window was retained inside
a small casement window that was big enough to act as the escape: when not in
use it appears to be a conventional sash window, but in emergency it can be
hinged open as a casement.
At Rectory Cottages a pair of small
houses were converted into one larger house, which enabled the steep historic
stair to be kept in one house while providing a conventional modern one in the
other; the two houses retain their different paint schemes so they remain