Smitten by stone: designer’s Monkstown mews makes the most of its hard core
Victorian Gothic coach house gets a cool makeover that highlights its original walls
The kitchen is as underdressed as a room could be. There isn’t a fitted cabinet in the deconstructed space
A touch of Venetian class, cool stone and lofty proportions captured the sartorial imagination of stylist and interior designer Carla Benedetti who turned a mew house in a canvas for her distinctive style.
She discovered the mews at the back of Glandore House, a Venetian Gothic style house that sits off Lower Mounttown Road in Monkstown, Co Dublin and is now surrounded by more modern homes. Boasting 17 bedrooms , it’s currently for sale asking €1.75million through agents DNG. But it was a cut-stone stable to its rear that piqued the interest of stylist and interior designer Benedetti when it came to the market in 2015. Its gothic style emulated that of the big house and had a similarly steep pitched roof and gothic arches.
Smitten by its charming layout, 12 foot ceiling heights and bare stone walls she purchased the property in late summer.
The house appeared to be sound but once she got the keys she found that all was not as it had seemed.
Some of its bare stone walls were already exposed but had been pointed using cement and were wet to the touch. The whole lot had to repointed using lime render and the expert skills of Brian Rainey of Rainey Restoration.
The biggest expenses were invisible, she says. “The repointing of the house cost us a small fortune and we also had to reroof so that meant getting a new steel structure in place beforehand.”
It’s a well mined dramatic arc that every property TV show that has ever graced our screens has captured and it makes compulsive viewing.
She ordered all the dark glazing from Poland from Promar Steel Windows and had box surrounds built around each window by Philip Edwards of Zinc Cladding to frame both its interior and exterior aspects turning the fenestration into a form of artwork. It looks beautifully simple and easy to replicate but required precision drawings and – even with careful attention paid to measurements – planning for every contingency isn’t possible. One of the frames was damaged on delivery and was set into position by the time she spotted the dent. At a cost of €2,000 per window, letting the dent pass wasn’t an option.
Carla is a mother to 10-month old Elise and managed the project, which has take two-and-a-half years to complete. At times it was difficult to get the team of builders to abide by her exacting standards, she says.
“I had four lads hoping I wouldn’t notice the dent, looking at it and insisting that it wasn’t a problem. Conveying the necessity to have the work done right was challenging and afterwards, one of the guys admitted he had spotted the dent but didn’t want to say it in front of the lads.” Her persistence paid off, with these “frames” of blackened zinc bringing a 3D quality to the windows with each side is a mirror image of the other.
Her lighting choices too elicited some grumbling from the electricians who couldn’t understand why she wasn’t just going with typical halogen down-lighters. Having to convey detail such as the exact height the lights had to be hung at to nondetail people took real patience, she recalls but the resulting layers of lighting and accent pieces have created a cocoon-like atmosphere.
A black clay light that hangs at the top of the spiral steps, a pod pendant that looks like a large hornets nest is particularly notable. It was something she had wanted to buy for several years, having followed the stockist, the Australian-based African Trading Port, on Instagram.
Her custom designed raw steel spiral staircase replaced an open tread timber one. FSC Engineering in Dublin 10 made it, but couldn’t understand that she turned down the option to powdercoat the steel to give it a more polished finish preferring to let the wear and tear of everyday life imprint itself on the material.
The entrance hall is now floored in natural clay hand-made zellige tiles, whose glazed azure blue washes the space in sense of Mediterranean sunshine.
She flipped the location of the rooms so that the kitchen is now in what had been the sitting room, laying underfloor heating pipes throughout the ground level so that heat now radiates up from the polished concrete flooring.
The kitchen is as underdressed as a room could be. There isn’t a fitted cabinet in the deconstructed space. “I hate the look of them, she says, but it does mean you have to be fairly neat, not something the self-proclaimed neat freak has any difficulty with.”
One of the statement pieces here is an amalgam of a beaten copper table top that she had bought for a client but held onto for just such an occasion. She pulled off its legs and set it atop tiled shelving in a mossy green glaze, bringing rich colour and further texture to a room with exposed stone walls.
A Solvej swing hangs from the kitchen door lintel, now an opening where Elise likes to hang out.
The flooring throughout helps contribute to the property’s lived-in look. There’s 100-year old American pine wide plank boards in the living room and the pitch pine floorboards upstairs were sourced from BG Salvage on Dublin’s South Circular Road.
In the sitting room a violet coloured Togo sofa by Linge Roset adds a powerful punch of colour. She found it on DoneDeal and paid €800 for it. Even second hand these classic pieces can change hands for up to €2,000 so it was a lucky buy. While it was in mint condition she had it Chem Dried to ensure that it stayed that way, and says none of the many baby bottle spills are evident.
The bathroom upstairs has been plastered in tadelakt, an effect used in traditional Moroccan building, that has beem expertly executed by Konstantin Teresko of Stucco Déecor Studios. It features brassware from The Watermark Collection with a natural stone called Black Coffee Antiques supplied by Antica, The Stone Gallery.