Wednesday 17 January 2018

'Designing my own home was the hardest project' - RTÉ star and interior architect who spent three years renovating

Caroline Allen

Interior architect Roisin Lafferty loves a design challenge. But when she and her boyfriend moved into a dilapidated house in Ranelagh, she met her toughest project to date.Three years, and a complete overhaul, later she’s still smiling.

AS an interior architect and designer, problem-solving is second nature to Roisin Lafferty. When it came to creating this wonderfully eclectic living space for herself and her boyfriend Conor, she certainly had to call upon all her resources, inventiveness and flair.

Roisin as a judge on RTE 'Super Garden'
Roisin as a judge on RTE 'Super Garden'

“It remains our most challenging project to date by far, taking three years from initial planning drawings to moving in,” remarks Roisin, who runs

Kingston Lafferty Design, a design studio specialising in commercial and residential projects. Another important factor was to work with careful consideration for Conor’s parents, the owners of the property.

The mid-terrace Georgian two-storey over basement townhouse in Ranelagh had been in his family for years. After being rented out for two decades, it had fallen into disrepair.

“We stripped it back completely, paying particular attention to the materials and processes used, as it’s a fully conservation protected house,” says Roisin.

Extensive structural works were carried out to support existing and new structures and to retain neighbouring properties.

The vision was to create a double-height hardwood conservatory extension that complemented the dwelling’s original style, with a garden that blurred the boundaries between interior and exterior. All the landscape architecture was designed to funnel light through the garden in a three-tier effect. The basement, previously a cold, dark dungeon, was excavated and reconfigured.

“By providing 2.4m head height there and adding a full width conservatory extension, we were able to provide a generous kitchen/living/dining space which is the hub of the home,” Roisin says.

The sleek new basement kitchen is full of reflective light surfaces to counteract the north-facing orientation of the garden. The lacquered MDF cabinetry with waterfall island was supplied by John Mooney Kitchens.

“If you’re going with a colour, there’s no need to spend on solid wood, but if you want a timber effect, solid wood is worth the outlay,” Roisin says.

“We invested in Silestone worktops from Miller Bros. Silestone is a material that lasts. It takes the heat and it doesn’t wear — it’s very practical.”

The bespoke blue pantry wall of storage was designed to conceal the angled lines of the walls, with every cabinet a different depth to disguise the slant of the wall behind.

Quality flooring is also worth the splurge, according to Roisin, who chose honed limestone tiles with under-floor heating for the basement, while the

original floorboards were retained in the living room and library. Conor’s mother spotted the stained-glass panels in the kitchen and library in an antique shop in Paris.

Roisin teamed them with lowhanging pendants to add to the brasserie style, while mirrors were fixed to the wall behind the glass panels to

add depth.

A mix of old and new plates is artfully displayed in the kitchen, with old frames stylishly showcased in other rooms.

“We do some restaurant design and like taking ideas from commercial spaces and bringing them into the home. Things tend to look

better in clusters, even a set of IKEA frames will look stronger than one on its own,” says Roisin.

Old and new are blended beautifully throughout. The look was kept contemporary in the new downstairs areas, while the original part of the house features curated antique pieces. A scattering of chairs in the lounge in tones of blue and teal provides definition against the pale backdrop.

“We kept base wall colours quite neutral because there are lots of rich colours in the furniture,” says Roisin.

The coffee table, from Roche Bobois, in the mint-green panelled library, is a favourite piece.

“It almost looks like a diamond. I also love the rug underneath from Bluebellgray — all their rugs are based on paintings — it ties that room together.”

Trips to salvage yards yielded gems such as the cast-iron spiral staircase in the conservatory extension, found in Mac’s Warehouse, and painted petrol blue, with the platform and balustrade designed by

The metal navy-blue coffee table in the living room was originally a tree surround, sourced from Deckclad Architectural Salvage.

“Tiling is one of my favourite aspects of interior design,” remarks Roisin. “You can use cost-effective tiles and lay them in unusual ways, such as parquet effect, or create your own patterns of borders, for a more expensive look. There’s a lot that can be done with bathrooms by playing with mirrors and tiles and adding lots of personality — they don’t need to be big spaces.”

Effective lighting is key to a successful scheme, according to Roisin.

“I went for Tom Dixon’s Copperball in the master bedroom — it radiates a lovely warm glow and is very relaxing,” she says.

“Although the bedrooms have large windows, not a lot of natural light comes in, so I went for a moody, atmospheric look in the master bedroom, and kept the other two bedrooms brighter.”

In the conservatory, the main light is the gorgeous Raimond by Moooi, but the real showstoppers are the Marcel Wanders Skygarden pendants in the library.

It’s an uplifting personality-packed space that has been worth all the time, money and effort.

“For me, it was all about retaining the original character and history, and by keeping it more traditional, it was easier to get planning permission. The challenge was to avoid pastiche, and to achieve the right balance between contemporary and traditional,” Roisin says.

The secret of good design, whatever the era, she contends, is to achieve a good flow of space, keeping adaptability in mind. “We have two ways into the kitchen and there are different ways you can walk around the house.

There are also three sets of stairs: "I always think about the experience the user is going to have. A space needs to be fully functional as well

as beautiful."

Sunday Independent

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