Friday 24 May 2019

Peek Inside: Two extreme makeovers that turned 'ugly duckling' homes into stunning properties

Extreme makeovers turned two 'ugly duckling' into desirable homes

The kitchen and dinining space of the Beaumont mid-terrace
The kitchen and dinining space of the Beaumont mid-terrace
The Beaumont house before its renovation
The Beaumont mid-terrace is home to Barbara Downey (left), Micheal Cannon and their children, Bran and Luan
Terenure kitchen
The living space of the Terenure property
The renovated Beaumont property
Living room of the Beaumont property
Barbara Downey in her home
The Terenure house after renovation
The bathroom in the Beaumont property

Róisín Carabine

When school teachers Barbara Downey and Micheál Cannon first saw this 1950s, bay-fronted, mid-terrace in Beaumont, North Dublin, they couldn't even imagine themselves living there.

"We really wanted a house in Marino and had spent every Saturday for two years looking for an affordable property to no avail," says Barbara. "This house didn't even have central heating or a real kitchen. It was a very small, damp and dated three-bed with awful windows and no discerning features to speak of.

"Yet it had a sizeable 100ft south-facing rear garden and was in a secure cul-de-sac setting, ideal for our two children, Bran (5) and two-year-old Luan."

But then the couple looked beyond the catalogue of horrors in front of them, bought the house and, together with Christopher Boylan - experienced, senior architectural designer and owner of Plantech Design, Dublin, specialists in home renovations and conversions - they set about transforming it. The metamorphosis from plain Jane to pretty Polly is spectacular.

The Beaumont mid-terrace is home to Barbara Downey (left), Micheal Cannon and their children, Bran and Luan
The Beaumont mid-terrace is home to Barbara Downey (left), Micheal Cannon and their children, Bran and Luan

"The brief was to rework the downstairs layout and add a rear extension without creating a dark middle section," says Barbara. "We also wanted a raised diner-style, booth area."

Christopher and his team, together with architectural and construction firm Nühaus, have worked wonders on this once uninspiring dwelling, opening up the ground floor while keeping the original front living room, adding a utility, small shower room and playroom and transforming the exterior with grey-framed Alu-clad windows and a turquoise 50s-style door. Upstairs has also had surgery, albeit of a decorative nature.

"Mid-terraces can be a challenge as you're restricted by neighbouring properties on either side," says Christopher. "To bring light into the extension we created a small 2.4m by 2.4m glazed internal courtyard, added large roof lights over the kitchen/dining area, replaced internal doors with glazed ones and opened up the rear with a wall of glazing. At the rear, old outhouses were demolished and trees removed to maximise south-facing light."

"It sounds clichéd but now that it's been renovated I can't believe I actually live in a house this nice," adds Barbara.

For many Irish homeowners across the country, 'ugly duckling', dated or uninspiring housing stock is a stark reality, unless you're lucky enough to live in a Victorian redbrick in Ballsbridge.

We're a nation obsessed with property, yet an increasing number of us are stuck with houses we're embarrassed to call home, due in part to lack of funds as well as lack of vision.

The living space of the Terenure property
The living space of the Terenure property

In the past the solution was simple - save up, move on. Now, however, a plucky band of occupants, inspired by TV home makeover shows such as architect Dermot Bannon's popular 'Room to Improve' RTE series and Channel 4 hit, 'Ugly House to Lovely House', are opting to improve and taking advantage of the 2018 extension to the Government's Home Renovation Incentive scheme to do so.

According to a report released by the Construction Industry Federation earlier this year, Irish homeowners have spent a whopping €1.23billion on home improvement and renovation projects under the scheme since it launched in 2013.

Award-winning architect David Flynn is a genius at property transformation and renovation, and believes that every house has the potential to be turned into something beautiful, particularly the 'ugly' ones.

"They're a blank canvas in terms of actual features so are often easier to upgrade, and offer more opportunities to be creative," he explains.

When the owners of a 1930s semi-detached, dormer bungalow in Terenure first clapped eyes on it, they knew they'd have to make changes, although neither they nor David could have predicted anything so drastic as the extent of work that was ultimately involved.

"This house was a real ugly duckling from the get-go and had been extended three different times over its history, resulting in a sprawling, clumsy warren of dark rooms," says David. "On the upside, it had a large back garden and is located on a great street, close to good schools and a park.

The Terenure dormer bungalow was almost completely rebuilt
The Terenure dormer bungalow was almost completely rebuilt

"Initially the owners wanted to remodel. In the end, a massive demolition job that involved knocking down the whole house, save the front façade, proved more economical."

What David has created is a compact, efficient design on a smaller footprint, with four bedrooms and main family bathroom upstairs.

The new layout sees rooms orientated around a double-height, light-filled hallway. At the rear, David has dug down to create ceiling height for the new open-plan kitchen/living/dining room in the swooping curved extension.

The façade has been upgraded too; old windows replaced, new aluminium gutters and a brick trim built around the base. He's also added a modern glazed bay with a window seat, and has re-roofed the build in the original tiles, so it fits in with its neighbour.

The end result is a house that echoes the outline of the old but with a bold revitalised confidence.

Adds David: "People are slowly wising up to ugly homes and realising their potential to provide something different."

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