Thinking big in a small space in Portobello

An architect transformed his bachelor pad into a functional, space-efficient home for his family


They says necessity is the mother of invention. Number 23 St Kevin’s Parade, a single-storey redbrick cottage, was bought by Andrew Howley, an architect with Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners, as his first home.

A bachelor pad, it had a gaming zone on a floating mezzanine but soon had to evolve to accommodate his wife Renagh and their now 18-month-old son, Max.

When Andrew bought the 32 sq m (344sq ft) house in 2005 for €283,000 he knocked everything except the front and boundary walls.

He doubled the house size to 65sq m , still bijou but habitable for a family of three.

The property, which is for sale through Bergins and has a C1 BER, is in a cul-de-sac between Lombard Street West and Clanbrassil Street.

The front door opens into the main room, a five-sided space with a floating kitchen on one side, that gives a sense of airiness, and a slender central island.

Instead of going for one big open-plan space downstairs Howley opted to add a second room. By using a set of exterior double-glazed doors between the rooms he was able to “lock down the room acoustically”, creating a crucial escape space. In the past, the 12sq m room was used as a second bedroom.

Now it is the dining room where they recently culled two dining chairs from their set of six, replacing them with two Ikea storage benches to discreetly house Max’s toys. This reconfiguration gained them a couple of metres of space.

Outside the small yard steals some of pub smoking areas’ best decorating ideas.

A retractable awning hangs overhead, so they can air-dry clothes on the retractable line whatever the weather. This minimises the need to use a cluttering clothes horse.

Storage that had been set along the boundary wall was moved to an end wall, freeing up valuable space behind the back door to house the bins. A wall-mounted bike rack prevents the bicycle from eating any further floor space.

Max’s buggy folds into the neat storage built under the balustrade-free staircase. Considered child unfriendly, the iroko-clad stairs have safety gates at the top and bottom.

Upstairs, the floating mezzanine had to be filled in and a door added to create a proper room for Max. Open shelving, under-the-eaves storage and rooflights stop the 2m by 2.35m space feeling claustrophobic.

The main bedroom is to the back. Obscure glass in the windows dispenses with the need for cluttering curtains.

There is wardrobe space but, like the shelving downstairs, it is limited.

“We don’t have a lot of room for storage so we declutter as we go,” Howley explains.

“For it to work we operate a strict goods inwards policy. For everything that comes into the house something else has to go out.”

This is the ruthless reality of small space living.

With a second baby due in August the family is looking for a bigger home.

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