Scandi meets Victorian in this Dublin home
We’re revisiting one of our all-time favourite house tours from the January/February 2013 issue, a rundown old house that has been considerately restored into a contemporary, cosy family home.
This damp old house had been split into flats and was painted in bizarre colours – the drawing room was bright green – but it retained a rare dignity and the couple who now own it immediately saw the house had huge potential. “The ceilings were so high and it had so many original features that it won us over, although we knew we were in for a big job,” they recall. “We both really wanted to restore the house to the condition that it deserved to be in.”
They put on a new roof, installed new sash windows, and decided to open up the house. The main objective, however, was to make the kitchen the physical heart of the home and knock three “dingy” rooms at the back into one large playroom. In a Ghostbusters moment, they knew whom to call – the designer Maria MacVeigh. They loved her clean, precise and elegant designs. “Maria came up with an amazing idea for the work,” the owner says. “We couldn’t have done it without her.”
Maria picks up the story. “The original house had the typical layout of two connecting drawing rooms on the ground floor with a lower level return. The brief was to connect the downstairs as much as possible given the split-level arrangement. The solution was to open the two living rooms with as wide an opening as possible and to lengthen the rear casement window to the ground. Now you can step down through a ‘link’ – which is fully glazed and offers views to the garden and light to the kitchen – into the playroom.”
Today, the two spaces are light, airy and work perfectly together. “I love the link to the playroom,” says the owner. “It means we can easily access the playroom and the garden from the kitchen, and it’s brought in a lot of light. Having a massive playroom means we can limit the amount of kids’ stuff in the kitchen and sitting room.” The kitchen units and table were built by Meath carpenter Jan Watte, and they perfectly complement the original wooden floorboards. “It’s such a beautiful space to be in that I can’t bear to have mess cluttering up the countertops,” says the owner. “Plus, there’s so much space that it’s easy to put things away.”
It may be a late 19th century house, but the feel inside is very clean, elegant and modern. The owners wanted the original features – the cornicing, floorboards, fireplaces and shutters – to speak for themselves. There are even calling bells, beautiful paintings on the back of the shutters and a lovely stained glass bathroom door. “We don’t know whether these are original to the 19th century, but they certainly give the house a unique atmosphere,” the owner says.
The owners avoid clutter and are drawn to Scandinavian and mostly Danish design – particularly from the middle of the last century–and started “Googling, Googling, and Googling” to find the right pieces. The living room has a collection of designer armchairs and one large and very comfy sofa – an edict from the husband. The couple have also travelled widely, and collected objects from all over the world. “There’s a bit of global chaos thrown in there, too,” the owner adds.
The couple are, despite initial impressions, happy to use alternatives to white paint. In the upstairs bedroom, for example, they have boldly gone for a much darker tone after being inspired by a guesthouse in Antwerp. “It was a very old house and it was very dark,” says the owner. “I liked the fact that the colour embraced the darkness and went with it, rather than trying to fight it. As it’s a place to sleep, I wanted it to be restful and calm.”
Throughout, the house is restful and calm. It is a rare balance of an old house – with its natural charm created by lovely proportions and great original features – and a more modern but sympathetic interior design. The couple have only been in the house six months, so it is still a work in progress, but they have not been put off by the restoration process and can imagine embarking on similar projects in the future. “I love the house,” says the owner, “but I don’t want to ever feel tied down to a building.”
PHOTOGRAPHY Mark Scott WORDS Ben Webb STYLING Marlene Wessels