Home-hunters who go down to the woods today could be in for a big but pleasant surprise if they venture as far as the wilds of Killiney in South Co Dublin.

While well known as one of the city’s most sought-after suburbs, it’s not an area usually associated with forests and tree-lined trails. Yet off Ballinclea Road, you can find a little piece of New England close to Rochestown Avenue roundabout.

Approached by a winding driveway along the perimeter of Killiney Golf Club, Denecroft is one of nine individually designed houses within this quiet enclave that has more of an air of forest retreat than busy burb. There are no garden walls here, only clusters of trees and shrubs marking boundaries between neighbouring houses.

When Johnny Bennett of Extend Architects and his wife Suzanne bought in 2007 they found themselves dealing literally with a stilted construction design – a house on stilts with a half-acre garden set on an elevated site. Now it’s one of a pair of adjoining homes that are mirror images of each other.

“I suspect the original builder picked up his design ideas on holiday in the States, but a stilt house was impractical in this setting,” says Johnny. “We turned it inside out and upside down to bring it up to modern standards.” To do this, they gutted the house, filled in the holes where the stilts had been to create a garden level and in doing so, increased the floor area from 4,000 square feet to over 5,000.

“We didn’t need that much space, so we split it and made two four-bedroom family homes, each 2,291 square feet,” says Johnny.

Today, Denecroft is hardly recognisable from the original stilt house. Its sleek, ultra-modern exterior has block walls, cedar cladding and solid teak front door. While creating a bold, statement house that would showcase Johnny’s architectural talents for visiting clients, the couple wanted their home to be filled with light and space, and not least, be warm all year round.

“One of the biggest challenges was to bring it from the lowest energy rating of G up to B1,” Johnny recalls. “To do this, we drilled over 300 feet into the ground and installed a geo-thermal heating system, which is an efficient heat-exchange unit that brings heat from the earth in winter and uses it as a heat sink if needed in summer. We insulated the house throughout and imported high grade double-glazed windows from Germany.”

In other circumstances, such a volume of large glazed windows in every room could be in danger of overheating the house in warm weather, but the combination of geothermal heating and dappled light from the trees outside ensures a comfortable temperature all year round.

The spacious entrance hall with its cream ceramic tiled floor, guest wc and cloakroom is impressive. Two steps down and you’re in the piece de resistance – an atrium that runs right up to the rooftop, from where a glass ridge window pours natural light into the centre of the house. The flooring at this level is engineered wood, with underfloor heating adding extra warmth. At either side of the atrium are two rooms to the front of the house, one used as a study, and the other a living room with a wooden log feature which can be converted to accommodate a stove or raised fireplace. There are walls separating these from the rest of the ground floor, but no doors, and with Johnny’s signature long windows in every room, there is literally light coming from every direction.

Straight ahead is a big open-plan kitchen, living room and raised dining area. The integrated kitchen is new, and there’s a big island unit with a sink, integrated dishwasher, seating and storage. A large, quirky wooden door leads to a good-sized pantry and/or utility room. The dining area has a ceramic tiled floor, box roof window and folding doors that open on to a granite and gravel patio that screams barbecues and summer parties.

Four steps lead up to a lawned south-east facing back garden where signs of recent playtimes include a swing and a slide.

Upstairs the landing runs along a balcony overlooking the atrium. To the front of the house, the main bedroom has floor-to-ceiling windows that open out to reveal a glass panel, creating a Juliet balcony. This room also has a dressing room with access to the attic, and an ensuite. A small double bedroom also overlooks the front, while two good-sized double bedrooms, also with Juliet balconies, overlook the back garden. The family bathroom is as luxurious as you would expect, with floor-to-ceiling ceramic tiles, walk-in power shower, wc, whb, heated towel rail and a raised area with modern free-standing bath.

The rooms throughout have inset lighting with oversized light shades adding a touch of drama – perfect for modern day Juliets to take a bow after hailing Romeo from those balconies.

With a new kitchen and new bathrooms recently installed, the house needs no work apart from shelving the pantry, decking out the dressing room and putting in a few wardrobes. Denecroft is expected to generate great interest both among locals looking to trade up within the area and returning emigrant seeking a family home.

Johnny and Suzanne say they’d still be there but for a big change in their circumstances in the past decade.

“We had two children when we moved in,” says Johnny.

“Now we have five, including two teenagers who don’t want to share bedrooms, plus three dogs. We’ve loved living here. You feel you’re in the countryside, and yet you can be in town in 10-15 minutes. Autumn is my favourite time, when we can sit and look at the changing colours of the trees all around, like being in our very own piece of New England in the Fall. My office is in Dalkey, and the kids are in local schools, so it’s convenient for all of us. We plan to stay in the area and build a house to suit our needs in Killiney or Dalkey, and that’s it – this will be our forever home.”

Denecroft is on open view tomorrow from 10-11am.

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