Location: Ranelagh, South Dublin
This is the story of bringing a period house back to life, carving out lightwells in unexpected ways and adding contemporary design that compliments the richness of the original house.
ROOM TO IMPROVE
Featured in the Irish Times and on Room to Improve
Period houses shy of modern living expectations
Dublin suburbs host a significant stock of Georgian and Victorian homes. These houses are not only beautiful, but reinvigorating them is also a deeply sustainable thing to do. These buildings are in the right place in the city for easy commutes and they hold a large amount of embodied carbon. The challenge with this design was to respectfully retain the charm and elegance of this 1840’s protected Dublin townhouse while reinventing it to suit the living requirements of modern life.
Period townhouses commonly boast grand entrance hallways with high ceiling reception rooms but they also typically have compromised back of house or previously “staff” spaces which are often dark and low ceilinged kitchen areas with poor connection to garden spaces. These are the very spaces we now entertain and spend our time in, and are therefore the spaces we need to revolutionise.
Dramatic Cuts for light
When faced with a low ceiling, a common idea is often to dig down which can be a costly option especially when the house is terraced. We, instead, borrowed space from above, cutting a dramatic double height lightshaft changing the character and sense of the space, from low-ceilinged back, to something intriguing and exciting. A glazed wall to the new courtyard brings in more natural light and connects to the outside. This intervention also solves the problem that a standard add-on extension brings; that of blocking light into the original ground floor rooms.
This is far from a typical open plan kitchen/living space; it is a tailored solution built around the clients design sensibilities, the historic house, and clever, bespoke design incisions. By paring back the 170 year old fireplace to its original buff coloured brick and offsetting it with an opulent brass detail and high-efficiency modern stove, the layers of old and new are clear, sitting side by side and providing rich and interesting spaces.
The playful built-in joinery around the chimney breast serves to bed it into the scheme providing an attractive centrepiece. The kitchen design is drawn from the clients' strong style and stands apart from the historic brickwork. This rich counterpoint is emphasised by the clients' artwork and with a carefully selected material palette of polished concrete, terrazzo tiles, black concrete countertops speckled with white and controlled bold colours of cobalt blue and pink.
The next challenge was establishing a strong outdoor/indoor connection where space was at a premium. We achieved this by using a decadent feature fold back window wall but at sink level so valuable kitchen floor space was not compromised. Taking advantage of the level difference outside allows for an immersive eye level garden connection.
Playing with light
Carefully considered roof incisions give the kitchen dramatic lighting while a full length roof light running above the kitchen counter allows for natural task lighting.
The same level of ingenuity is delivered throughout the upstairs rooms. The renovated bathroom borrows light from the kitchen roof light through a clerestory window and the mesh steel staircase up the attic allows light and patterns to filter down through the space.
By carefully considering a bespoke solution to resolving the design problems of a period home we were able to retain and reinvent the traditional form; inviting in light and intrigue in unexpected ways.
Photos: Aisling McCoy