The first time my Dad (Pad) came to see the house (site), he came prepared. Mentally I mean. He gets us. The madness of it all. He has seen what we can do and believes in us. So when I rang him one evening and told him we had an offer in on a house I should not have been surprised when I got a phone call the next day. He called to say he was sitting on the steps outside the house and was I in the neighbourhood?
We didn’t even have possession yet! The journey from his house to the steps took a car journey to the train station, a 1 hour train journey follwed by 2 Luas (tram) journeys and a twenty minute walk. Not bad for 85!
Skip to several months later we are eventually on site and he returns to see the progress. On catching a glimpse of the occasional view of the Dublin mountains he tells me of an old Kerry saying. Apparently it goes like this. “Ah, you can’t see the mountains today, its raining over there”. Or, on a fine day. “Ah, you can see the mountains, it’s not raining, yet!” To be honest what with the dirt and well, walls in the way it was a stretch to see the mountains at all. So it became something of a mission to work in these glimpses into the house.
Now that nearly two and a half years have gone by since Pad first sat on those steps the plan is to quickly run through the project on a room by room basis and give you a flavour of the before, during and after that it entailed.
So, first the hallway. The house is approached via a set of external steps in Georgian style with a large panelled door leading leading to what would have been the piano nobile.
The door had been kicked in many times and was very damaged. Lots of doorbells gave an indication of the multiple occupancies within.
Just inside the front door a lobby had been created by inserting a door under a sprung arch. The intention here was to remove this non original partition and to open up the hallway as it would have been.
When we took away the lobby partition the original panelling below the arch was revealed, seen here on the left. Here you can also get a feel for the myriad electrical boxes and meters that were supplying the 17 flats!
The porch led into the main hallway at the end of which was a door into a flat and to the right another door into another flat.
The original decorative cornice could be clearly seen although it was badly damaged and we hoped that when the partition was pulled away that the cornice would run through to form a rectangle defining the original hallway.
As with most of this project with the good news came bad news. Yes the cornice was there as we had hoped but the ductwork to the bathroom had ploughed straight through it.
Having worked with excellent craftsmen in the past we knew that this was not an insurmountable task to repair.
The stairs from this level to the first floor was thankfully largely intact and together with this niche gave the hallway a sense of the original house despite the interventions of the previous 40 or so years.
Damage to dado and skirting was localised and repairable.
A few days later and more clearing out had been completed.
At the end of the corridor the plan was to open up the wall and remove the floor of the room beyond to create a double height space over the dining area of the kitchen. This way the piano nobile would connect in a very direct visual way.
The line on the wall above the stairs shows where a bathroom hanging over the stairs was removed. Another (bed)room was also removed from the space above the stairs further up. The door just to the right of this picture lead to an external fire escape stairs.
As work progressed on site and more opening up took place we realised that the joists holding up the floor were sagging dangerously.
This photo shows a large steel joist being inserted, the end wall is now removed as is the floor in the room beyond to create the double height space.
The view from the dining/kitchen side at lower level.
New timber joists were inserted in between the steel beams and on top of that a thin screed was poured to enable underfloor heating. The freedom of having no radiators in this space is fantastic as it simplifies the visual impact and frees up use of the space for art, mirrors and more. The glazing to the new window at the end is of modern material to clearly denote that it is contemporary and not original.
The original floor boards were re-laid, sanded and later stained white. Walls were prepped and painted.
The finished product! The door which had the exit sign (from the photo above) was located in this archway. The electrical boxes were to the right.
Our big old mirror from our previous house was placed sitting on the floor but tied in at the top. The new internal doors and architraves were modeled on the one remaining original door that was in the house. The plasterwork repairs have been completed with repairs carried out to the water damaged ones and moulds taken to replace the ones where the pipes went through.
The simple glass pendant lights were chosen to contrast with the period features. The niche was crying out for a piece of sculpture but we didn’t know what could possibly fit it. When we spotted this 17th century piece of carved timber at an auction we knew it was just the right thing. (this was possibly because my over 6 foot tall and thin nephew had stood into it one day to demonstrate just what we needed!)
The aluminium door that use to lead to the external fire escape has been replaced with timber double doors and now leads to a cloaks closet which also houses the cylinder which provides us with all our hot water using a thermodynamic solar heat pump system.
So there you have it. The hall has been reinstated to its original format but with some modern interventions where no original fabric existed. It now has a visual connection to the kitchen/dining area which works in both directions. From this place when Pad comes to town he can (on those clear days!) get that glimpse of the Dublin Mountains as well as seeing the garden when he comes in the front door and its also really lovely to be sitting at the table below and looking up at the decorative cornicing.
So almost two and half years since the whole story began all that’s left to do now is to deck that hall, but that’s another days story…
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