Throughout a period of more than 200 years the Georgian townhouses of Dublin have proved to be remarkably resilient. Many have undergone significant changes of use, first to tenements and later as commercial offices, often resulting in considerable damage and loss of historic fabric. Such was the case with this house, one of the oldest in Merrion Square, Dublin’s finest and best preserved garden square. Built in the 1760s, this is a large three bay, four-storey over basement townhouse. Our brief was to create an elegant and comfortable family home for a pianist and her film maker husband, who wanted a house suited to entertaining that would be welcoming for all their guests from young grandchildren to elderly friends.
The project became a story of creating connections – connections with Merrion Square gardens, connections between inside and outside spaces, between the many different levels in the house and its return, between adjoining rooms. And in the constant dialogue between our new contemporary interventions and the conserved fabric of the eighteenth-century house, connections are created between past and present.
Our approach was firstly to understand the historic and current contexts by carrying out fabric studies and opening up works to inform design proposals for conservation and interventions. The front façade was partially rebuilt and repointed to match the surviving wigged joints, eroded stonework was replaced, decorative iron railings and balconies were restored while historic windows were repaired. Contemporary interventions included a lightweight glazed winter garden to improve connectivity between the main house and return, as well as to reintroduce natural lighting into the original historic staircase; a new passenger lift connecting the three floor levels in the return; as well as a new landscaped courtyard and a raised contemporary garden at the first floor level of the return. Interior work included the creation of a new oak-panelled study in the basement connecting to the contemplative courtyard; a new Bulthaup kitchen on the ground floor with interconnecting doors to the formal dining room; repair of decorative plasterwork and the installation of antique Georgian chimney pieces to reinstate the original elegance and function of the finest rooms.
In the constant dialogue between our new contemporary interventions and the conserved fabric of the eighteenth-century house, connections are created between past and present