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Start from scratch

Laura Barnes and her partner Niall decided to choose a school for their three boys, Jacob (13), Connor (nine) and Rory (five), then draw a radius around the school and search for a house within that area.

"This 1938 semi-detached ticked all the boxes for us," Laura explains. "We liked the location, and it had a generous front garden and a large garden to the rear. The spaces talked to me; it had potential.

"Whatever we bought, we knew it would be completely gutted and rebuilt, because that's the way it always worked out with any house we had previously bought," she says.

"I know what I like, and I didn't want to live with someone else's renovation. We were looking for a blank canvas; not a new build, but an older house with 'good bones'."

The house had been in the same family for many years and, although it had been changed and added to over the years, it had never been fully renovated. A garage had been converted to a granny flat and there were several small rooms on the ground floor, plus a tiny kitchen. Victorian-style picture rails had been added to every room, which made the ceilings feel considerably lower.

Laura redesigned the entrance area and added a generous extension to the rear to give her a big, bright family kitchen and a spacious family room, both of which look out onto the large garden.

The upper part of the extension provided a substantial bathroom and dressing room off the master bedroom and also an attic conversion, which is used as a play area for the two younger boys.

"I would very reluctantly admit that I secretly love to renovate," Laura says. "I don't like the actual process because it is usually acutely painful, but I do like the result; to see a home come to life exactly as you have planned it."

The internal walls of the tiny rooms at the front of the house were demolished. This area is now a large space, the walls hung with paintings and the beautiful parquet floor is the ideal background for smaller sculptural pieces.

"We needed to modernise to make the house work as a present-day family home. Contemporary families use larger kitchens and family rooms, and more bathrooms." Laura says. "But, at the same time, we did want to take the house back to what it once was."

The fireplaces, which had been bricked up, were broken out and restored period fireplaces from Francis Street installed. All of the ground floor -- excluding the kitchen area -- was finished off in a warm herringbone parquet.

"I am in possession of two fortunate talents: I know instantly what I like and I know instinctively what will fit into any given space. I never dither. I don't feel that, once I spot something, I should check out 10 other shops to make sure I'm getting the best option. I just go for it and, size-wise, it will always fit that space, just as I envisaged it," says Laura, who bought Art Deco pieces from Niall Mullen Antiques in Francis Street.

"There are two things I particularly love about this house now," Laura continues. "One is that it functions as a family house in scale -- you can see and hear the family most of the time, somewhere in the house, but you can have privacy, too, when you need it.

"The second thing is the close relationship between the exterior and interior of the house: the back of the house is almost completely glazed, opening it to the garden, which is a very simple space in keeping with the style of the house and the flat roofs are utilised for sculptural pieces, drawing them visually into the house.

"We love our home -- it suits us."


Ruby Ruby, Royal Hibernian Way, Dublin 2. Te: 01-672 5870; www.rubyruby.ie

Amanda Cochrane is editor of Image Interiors, out now

Irish Independent