The Origami House: Kells, Co. Antrim

Each September, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency bring us European Heritage Open Days – a weekend event which sees hundreds of properties opening their doors to the general public in the name of celebrating local art, culture and history. My typical EHOD weekend consists of burying myself head to toe in the old and grandiose, but this year I decided to go for a little bit of a modern twist…

This is the house that Jane built.

origami house Jane burnside

Jane Burnside is one of Northern Ireland’s greatest champions of contemporary design and modern architecture. And this is The Origami House, her family home nestled in the secluded countryside of Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.

As part of 2014 European Heritage Open Day weekend, Jane very kindly invited us across the river and into her home, for a hot coffee and an intimate guided tour of her most famous work to date.


As you approach the house, that feeling of leaving the hustle and bustle of the world behind embraces you. Journeying across the bridge before entering the main house provides the opportunity to absorb the calming effect of the surrounding woodland and listen to the trickle of the flowing stream.The Origami House is a type of sanctuary; a refuge from the 9-5 routine.

For a house which showcases the beauty of glass and open space, it is incredible how secluded it feels as I stand inside. Until this moment I have been quick to categorise this type of house as attractive, but decidedly impractical – yet it is clear that The Origami House is very lived in, and somehow it works. Better than that, it works effortlessly.

The walls are all painted white, both inside and out, yet the house vividly pops with colour through the clever positioning of artwork and one-of-a-kind sculptures.




What is most impressive to me, is the strategic use of space, which makes the house appear bigger than it admittedly is. The house is single story, yet its high ceilings draw your eye to each room’s X-axis and make it appear very extensive.

Jane has also created the illusion of space through building shelf and drawer space into the walls of each room (perfect for hoarders like me!).


For me, this is a house of contradictions which somehow blend together perfectly to create a prototype for modern architecture. A building with strong design elements of pushing and pulling frames; of open, white space yet visual warmth; of transparency yet privacy.

The Origami house is the perfect example of how to make big use of a small space, and how to place contemporary architecture within a rural backdrop.

To find out more about this award-winning architect and view a portfolio of her recent work, you can visit  or pick up her book Contemporary Design Secrets at your nearest bookstore.


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