Video: How one Irish period house got a make-over
Take one period house, add a family of four and an architect who enjoys a challenge and what do you get? Caroline Allen reports.
When Douglas Carson of Carson and Crushell Architects was approached to reimagine this mid-19th Century townhouse with mid-20th Century three-storey side wing, the brief was to create beautiful interior spaces and a better relationship with the well-established rear garden. As wish lists go, there's nothing unusual there.
However, rather than add to the footprint of approximately 300 sqm, he went for a slightly reduced building volume. This approach, combined with a simpler building envelope, reduces heating and maintenance costs.
"This decision was coupled with the opportunity to create a more positive external space in the form of a new terrace overlooking the garden," says Carson.
Internally, there's another surprise in store - the ubiquitous kitchen island is nowhere to be seen. "While it may be the only recent kitchen in Dublin 6 without an island, we think it's successful and the clients - a professional couple with four young children - are delighted with it. Perhaps we're moving into a post-island Ireland," muses Carson.
Modern lean-to constructions to the rear were removed to create a terrace and improve the relationship with the garden. The kitchen and casual dining functions were moved from the side extension into the previously under-used formal dining room of the entrance floor.
"Following this, key interventions were treated as polite, discreet, yet strangely familiar pieces of fixed furniture," Carson recalls. A scorched oak worktop and doors, Carrera marble splash back; painted MDF shelves; and polished brass set the understated tone.
"The kitchen units were expressed as a piece of furniture to complement the existing fireplace. The dining table; larder cupboards; worktop task light as well as the entire kitchen unit were bespoke designs."
The kitchen doesn't have a definitive style - what it looks like comes from the particular materials and form chosen, largely inspired by the existing historic interior, Carson says.
"The bespoke dining table, designed by us, and built by French craftsman Frederic Ruckenbrod, works perfectly well as a work surface and is better than an island, as it's both moveable and extendable."
A new study room was created with expansive vistas of the garden as well as two new first-floor bathrooms. The lower ground floor was converted to a play area and second living room, accessed by a new staircase, and opened up to gain light from the front and rear.
He also tackled the common problem of under-used reception rooms. "'The good room' - the piano nobile dining room - is the room now most used as it includes the kitchen and the main everyday dining table."
The project took 18 months from the very first conversation to completion. Planning permission wasn't required as the house isn't a protected structure and there were no major challenges to overcome, according to Carson.
While he won't be drawn on the specifics of the cost, he says the budget was "mid-range" for the building type.
"The family moved from a small suburban semi-d to this, so the quality of the spaces was inherently superior and they have better walls on which to hang their art. They make extensive use of the garden now too," he remarks.
Carson says: "This project didn't have a particularly lavish budget and was completed comparatively quickly. But what it did have was a great deal of trust between us and the clients. That allowed us to make good decisions quickly."
Making it work
The project - A three-storey over-basement mid-19th-century house with 20th-century side block
The architect - Carson and Crushell
The brief - Enhance the interior space and integrate the rear garden
Length of project - 18 months from first conversation to finish
Budget - Mid-range
Key features - Rear terrace was added; kitchen moved to rear reception rooms; new study added; two new first-floor bathrooms