Tuesday 20 February 2018

Open house

Sonia Reynolds tells Amanda Cochrane how she created a versatile home that's perfect for family life and entertaining

Sonia relaxes on her favourite chair, an Art Deco cloud-shaped leather chair.
Sonia relaxes on her favourite chair, an Art Deco cloud-shaped leather chair.

Amanda Cochrane

Contemporary style can be stark, but fashion PR Sonia Reynolds and her husband Barry Lyons have created a clever modern family home in 1890 period house

After years of moving from house to house, they stumbled across this unusual redbrick in Rathgar which had been divided up into seven bedsits. They bought it in 2005, when prices were rising and estate agents had it easy.

"It was actually the house next door that we wanted," Sonia reveals. "We saw, we bid, we lost. We were disappointed, needless to say, but the house [owner] next door saw the interest and, using the same estate agents, decided to approach us before putting it on to the market. So, bingo, it all happened pretty quickly."

With high ceilings, massive windows and original ornate cornicing, the house offered great potential. The original layout was a warren of tiny rooms, but the couple had a vision and imagined a modern home. They approached architect Brian Conway to draw up initial plans, including a large kitchen/ dining area, which would open out on to the garden.

Next, they turned to interior architect Maria McVeigh to translate their vision and her brief was to find a space for everything.

The result is a well-proportioned, three-bedroom house. As you enter, the spacious hallway leads to two large, adjoining living rooms and on to the kitchen and dining room. The secret of the design is that spaces can be opened out or closed up, so that each room can be contained or, indeed, expanded.

The adjoining passageway from the living rooms to the kitchen houses cleverly hidden utilities behind enormous oak-veneered doors, while the kitchen was designed to suit the couple's love of entertaining.

The decor is a mix of modern and Art Deco, and a contemporary grey modular sofa by Minotti updates the front living room. The parquet flooring in the two rooms, which originates from Trim Court House, was salvaged, fitted and stained to match a cup of espresso by Victorian Salvage.

It took a few attempts to get the dark shade of grey on the walls just right. It was a brave move, but with high ceilings, great light and such generous proportions, the idea works. It's also a great backdrop for the couple's art, furniture and accessories.

Other clever touches are the glass panels that are opaque on one side and transparent on the other. This specialist glazing contains an interlay of black muslin fabric that acts as a screen, yet is beautiful to look at.

Every bit of space is cleverly designed. The door leading to the utility and kitchen area pivots, exposing shelving when closed.

The couple have an eye for unusual furniture, from the Art Deco cloud chairs to the Scandinavian, modern teak dining table and chairs, sourced from 20th Century Furniture. Thinking outside the box, they used a stack of peat briquettes as a side table.

Sonia had compiled a cuttings book of her favourite design ideas over the years. Soon after they moved into the finished project, she stumbled across it while unpacking.

"Looking at it, you wouldn't have guessed it had gone missing. We'd pretty much kept to the original idea," Sonia says.

Today, their home makes a very personal statement. With minimal furniture, it has been designed as a very practical house, centred on the family and serious entertaining. "The house is as open as we are," concludes Sonia.

Irish Independent

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