A Georgian hallway gets a floral renovation

 
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On a family holiday to the French island of Île de Ré, where azure white cap waves roll onto the beach and whitewashed homes border cobbled streets, an idea sprouted for architect Andrew Brady of abgc. Connected to La Rochelle by a bridge, this island in the Bay of Biscay the paint palettes of houses are strictly regulated and the cobbled streets leave no room for gardens, but that does not mean the locals live without colour. Hollyhocks are planted outside every front door, a cobble removed to allow its growth. It was these flowers, blooming in shades of pink, that took root in Andrew's mind.

 
Hollyhocks nestled into the cobbled streets of Île de Ré. Photo:  Getty

Hollyhocks nestled into the cobbled streets of Île de Ré. Photo: Getty

 

The following November, at an Exhibition in Amsterdam's Stidilijk Museum, Andrew encountered designer Patrick Kruithof's hollyhock stone. It was a simple "cast-concrete stone,” he explains. Patrick designed it for the streets of Rotterdam so plants could be grown on even the narrowest of streets, with a central gap for hollyhocks and three supporting bamboo.

A short time later, Andrew and abgc architects started an extension and refurbishment project with landscaping, and the idea began to blossom. During the course of the project, Andrew had suggested the hollyhock stone as a landscaping element, but it wouldn’t be available on time. Yet the idea, like the hollyhock, was hardy.

Patrick Kruithof’s hollyhock stones are designed to allow for nature in urban streetscapes.

Patrick Kruithof’s hollyhock stones are designed to allow for nature in urban streetscapes.

The Georgian home in Dublin 8 opened onto a grand hallway with a switchback staircase at its end. The tall ceilings left the space feeling airy and a coat of white paint brightened and refreshed the entryway. But it lacked a period hall's grandeur, and required some personality. Andrew recalls, "The client had a preference for traditional hexagonal mosaic tiling, but the geometry of the hall did not sit well with the traditional pattern of the mosaic." In search of a solution, and working with the desired hexagonal style, Andrew decided to incorporate his hollyhocks indoors, creating a pattern of leaves and flowers with the tiles. "The offset and overlay of the two elements allowed the pattern to solve the problems we had with the geometry and proportions of the hallways," Andrew explains. 

 
abgc’s plan for the mosaic floor tiles

abgc’s plan for the mosaic floor tiles

 

The final design went though many drafts as tiles, grout sizes and colours were considered. These elements, Andrew says, "required input from both supplier and sub-contractor". Collaboration with these businesses are very important to abgc. Andrew describes this relationship, saying, "We find the best results come from early engagement with tradespeople and suppliers, they're the experts after all." When choosing an expert for this project, Andrew went straight to Peter Morrison of Mosaic Assemblers who had supplied the bathroom tiles for the same home. 

 
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Pastel shades of blue and green were chosen for the leaves while pastel pinks made up the flowers. These designs are interlaid with rows of white hexagons. The first reference image was developed in January, and the tiles were laid in April. Before being laid on site, they were assembled in sections by Mosaic Assemblers. The hexagon tiles were mapped out and glued to mesh pieces for transportation. "Each roughly 300 x 300 section of tiling was marked and a map of the layout was provided by the supplier - essentially a jigsaw of the finished floor that the tiler makes on site," Andrew tells us.

These sections were fitted together, the leaves littering the floor from door to stairs, the pink flowers blooming among the green at the base of the staircase and blowing through the doorway into the back hall.

 
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Though the flowers are a long way from the idyllic isle where they first enchanted Andrew, their simple beauty have transformed the entrance of this Dublin home into a piece of paradise.

PHOTOGRAPHY AOIFE HERRITY
WORDS LAURA IUNGHUHN

Lauren Heskin