Elegant apartments could easily convert to family home

Designer Paul Austen and his artist sister Maura bought a three-storey Edwardian terraced house in Drumcondra in 2000 and tastefully divided it into two apartments

 

When interior designer Paul Austen and his artist sister Maura went house hunting in 2000, they did what many friends think of doing but never quite go through with: they pooled their resources to get better value. So instead of buying two small properties, their combined budget allowed them to look for something grander and they found it in the three-storey Edwardian terraced house at 10 Grace Park Gardens in Drumcondra.

Paul had recently returned from Milan, where he had spent more than a decade working, and had just set up his Dublin practice taking on commercial and residential commissions. He was interested in a project of his own.

The end result has featured in several photo shoots and interiors magazines, including Living etc, where its cool contemporary styling mixed with period features stands out.  

When the siblings bought it, the 186sq m (2,000sq ft) redbrick was already divided into three typical flatland apartments, but the Austens could see past the wall-to-wall carpeting and the partitions to what the handsome looking house had to offer.

The long list of period features was a big selling point. Built in 1902, the solid front door opens into a small porch with encaustic floor tiles and another, partially glazed, interior hall door with decorative stained glass: richly coloured glass is an attractive feature in the main rooms at the front of the house. The rooms have high ceilings and most had their original cast-iron fireplaces with decorative tiling and original floorboards. The reception rooms at hall level still had their original accordion dividing doors in good condition and several internal doors featured frames topped with the sort of timber pediments usually found in grander homes.

Back to basics Having stripped the house back to the basics – wiring, plumbing, sorting damp issues, insulation – the task then was to divide it in two but to keep that division fairly informal so that in the future it could easily be converted back into single family occupancy. Paul took the ground floor, Maura got the top two floors, with a custom-built exterior staircase giving her access down to the small rear garden and the utility room. The sizeable return and the maid’s staircase going up to it allowed Paul to create a very interesting one-bedroom apartment for himself. He has the two interconnecting ground floor reception rooms, which open into the two-storey return at the rear. It had its own narrow staircase so the maid could go directly from her kitchen quarters up to her bedroom – and that’s the layout he chose.

So now his bright and airy dining and kitchen area are on the ground floor in the return with the bedroom and bathroom upstairs. When the work was first completed these were two separate rooms but he has since knocked them through – leaving just the toilet behind a custom-built curved panel door. Panels – and how they can be used to hide storage or create interesting light features – are one of Paul’s favourite interiors devices.

Upstairs, Maura’s apartment is made up of two interconnecting rooms on the first floor – livingroom to the front taking up the width of the house, kitchen to the back, and on up again, there’s a very large bedroom at the front – it was originally two rooms – and a small studio and bathroom at the rear.

The cul-de-sac is made up of 13 houses. Number 10 is for sale for €750,000 through DNG. It has been carefully worked so that new owners could easily, with some simple partitions, make it into a four- or five-bedroom family home.

Househunters interested in the “before” version of this house should view number 13. Still divided into flats and needing work, it is on the market through Sherry FitzGerald for €700,000.

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