After touring with Altan (we used to be away nine months of the year but we've cut it down to just three or four), there's nothing I like better than returning to my piece of paradise in Donegal. Set on a heath by a river estuary, framing views of Mount Errigal, the house has the acoustics of a medieval church. Fiddle player Steve Larkin, formerly of Donaghy and Dimond Architects, who has since gone on to establish his own practice, was the project architect.
I'd just bought a Victorian house in Dublin at the time when an auctioneer friend called to say he'd found the perfect site for me. I told him I didn't want to know but once I saw it I fell in love with it. The location is idyllic and near to my mother, brother and sister as well as being close to an airport. Being here also allows me to bring up my daughter Nia (5) in a Gaeltacht area.
Steve really understood our lifestyle. My only requirement was that everything should be made from solid, natural materials. Having had the site for a while before building on it, I had a sense of what I liked about it. The views of Errigal were fundamental and so the house is positioned to maximise them.
I love the contrast between the concrete which uses local sand and stone, sandblasted to expose the stone, and the sand rendering which has caused locals to call the house 'The Sandcastle.'
I'm also thrilled with the way the house hunkers into the landscape, hugging the water from which I often pick mussels for dinner.
The front entrance is through a forecourt, sheltered by walls. The concrete steps are plastered with lime and local sand. A low wall with the ground banked up against it in concrete protects the space.
Inside we've used concrete too, only it's not coarse and pebbly like outside, it's smooth and polished.
Inside the door, there's a shower room/cloakroom. Storage that forms part of the hallway provides a place for all my CDs. There's also a triangular void for everyday paraphernalia.
Three steps down is the kitchen area. There's a great length of reverberation in this central space, important for traditional music.
The Douglas Fir linear kitchen is topped with concrete worktops. The oak dining table was designed by the architects with an Aalto pendant light overhead. A terrace off this room allows us to soak up the majesty of Errigal.
The wall in the middle of the living space contains two fireplaces; one facing into the kitchen/ dining room and the other into the living area. The raised concrete fireplace in the dining area was designed to accommodate groups congregating around it.
In the living area there's Hans Wegner chairs, a two-seater sofa and Nogushi lamps. I liked the lamps' lines. They seem to blend in with the wood and you can see the beautiful scenery through them.
Behind the chimney is a hidden staircase which leads to a sittingroom and our mobile studio.
The bedrooms are off the kitchen. The main bedroom has its en-suite behind the wall headboard of the bed. The bath is cast into polished concrete which continues onto the floor. It uses the pipes of the underfloor heating to heat the bath and keep the water warm.
The beds in all the rooms were designed by the architects.
The guest en-suite is fashioned from poured concrete and has an open shower. A loft over Nia's bedroom means extra guests can be accommodated on a futon, although it's currently used for storage.
When we built this house I got rid of all my old furniture as I wanted to keep things simple. I've displayed some art collected over the years as well as our album covers, and musical instruments.
I got an old television for Nia but I never watch it. When you look at the ever-changing scenery, you don't need anything else. So much thought was put into the design, it's such an inspiring space.
Who is Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh?
Vocalist and fiddle player with Altan, Mairéad is currently working on a solo album. The band is also compiling a live album. Catch Altan at their only Dublin gigs this year, performing with special guests at the Button Factory, Temple Bar, on 9, 16 and 23 November.
Who's your greatest inspiration? My mother, Kitty. She's been through a lot but always kept her dignity and great sense of humour.
Favourite place to shop? London's Kensington High Street; I enjoy the atmosphere of the place.
What's your signature dish? I do a good Thai chicken curry. There's isn't a Thai locally, so I had to learn to make my own.
How do you relax? With a glass of wine, listening to music and visiting friends.
Best ever present? A Perry-Wilkinson fiddle, made in Dublin at the end of the 1800s, which my father bought me on his retirement. It's a collector's item.
Desert island disc? This changes daily as I have so many, but I always go back to Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' recording for sheer inspiration and joy.