Stylish transformations of former council homes

A bit of creative thinking can rework former council properties into contemporary homes


When compared to the elegance of an Edwardian house and the decorative warmth of the Victorian redbrick, the pebble-dashed former council house is often considered a poor relation, devoid of covetable period features and the sense of space of some of the earlier homes.

But what it lacks in good looks it can make up for in affordability and can offer an opportunity to live in a well-built home in central areas of our towns and cities.

Style Council: Inspirational Interiors in ex-Council Homes, an inspiring new book by Sarah Thompson, peers inside flats and houses built by British and Irish councils to show the world that the property style has moved on from decorative clichés that abound in Del Boy’s council flat in the TV series Only Fools and Horses.

Published by Square Peg, it features examples that have been imaginatively remodelled by owners and architects, including two in the Tenters, Dublin 8, by Jim Lawler of Dublin-based practice Melted Snow, who views them as imaginative opportunities to extend.

“Many ex-corpo houses are relatively small inside with a two-up two-down configuration,” Lawler says, “but they often have big gardens relative to their size – extra space that is essential for families with kids. That is where the opportunity to extend lies.”

It is a style of house that appeals to urbanites, he adds, like graphic designer Pete Reddy who lives in an end-of-terrace property of about 74sq m to which Lawler added 27sq m of space in a two-storey cedar- clad extension to the side.

By opening up the rear of the house, the original sitting room became part of an open- plan room with French windows where the back window had been originally. The dining room, in the side extension, features an artwork, a sheet of back-lit metal that doubles as a warm light source.

Upstairs the three-bedroom configuration, two doubles and a box room, was reduced to two to give Reddy the large luxurious bathroom he wanted.

It is about 15sq m in size, features a half wall that hides the shower from the rest of the room, with cement board giving the space a masculine modern feel.

The box room was sacrificed to create a large landing that is lit by an oversize opaque window that leads to the big bathroom.

Reddy wanted a low-maintenance garden so a southwest facing back was populated with ferns and palms to create an intense green exterior all year round.

A similar-sized extension and refurbishment that includes new windows, doors and some plumbing will cost between €70,000 and €100,000, Lawlor estimates.

In Marino, Dublin 3, the site of the first major public housing initiative in Ireland, where housing was constructed on a radial plan to give each home a view of a green area, architect Steve Larkin added a tiny triangular wedge of just eight metres to the side of a house that had a curious-shaped garden.

“The extension was designed to better align the house to its back garden,” Larkin says.

Inside, strategically positioned roof lights set between the stepped roof beams bring light into the kitchen. Hired to refurbish the whole house in 2008, the job included new windows, doors and the aforementioned extension, and would now cost between €60,000 and €70,000, Larkin estimates.

Husband and wife team Alice Casey and Cian Deegan of Taka Architects live in a former council house just off Pearse Street in Dublin 2.

Built in 1916, they are slowly refurbishing the 55sq m end-of- terrace property. In 2012, they knocked the original lean-to kitchen and outhouse bathroom, 13 sq m in size, to upgrade it, a project that earned them a special mention in the 2013 AAI Awards.

“It remains the same size but we’ve just made the space work better for the two of us,” Casey says.

The back of the house faces north, so they orientated the extension to face east to get the morning light adding brick walls and high windows to increase their sense of privacy.

The exposed rafters, one of the firm’s signature flourishes, in the kitchen create a sense of rhythm and the oiled plywood units all perform a function. A bench under the windows, for instance, conceals deep drawers where the couple store pots, pans and crockery so that when in the living room, the space looks clutter-free.;; Style Council: Inspirational Interiors in ex-Council Homes by Sarah Thompson is published by Square Peg.

Former council houses: Three to buy


Dublin 3, €350,000

115 St Declan’s Road, Marino, Dublin 3 is a three-bedroom mid-terrace house of 80sq metres. It has a northeast-facing rear that includes a kitchen extension and a single story studio that adds another 28sq m. The property needs complete modernisation, possible reconfiguration and has an F Ber rating. It came to the market in May. DNG.


Dublin 4, €465,000

12 Beach Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4 A three-bedroom terraced house, 97sq m (1044 sq ft) in size and situated a minute from Sandymount Strand. Asking €465,000 through Bennetts Aucitoneers the house has a D Ber rating and northwest facing back garden of about 16 sq m.


Dublin 14, €330,000

12 Mulvey Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14 is a two-bedroom terraced house in a great estate with good green spaces and about an eight-minute walk to Windy Arbour and Dundrum Luas stops. Measuring 61sq m, the house has a 50ft west-facing back garden and a D2 Ber rating. Coldwell Banker Estates.

Council houses: A few tips

Where to buy: Crumlin , Dublin 12; St Declan’s Road, Marino Dublin 3; Manley Estate, Windy Arbour, Dublin 14; Conquer Hill, Mala hide, Co Dublin; Mount Tallant, Terenure, Dublin 6W.

What to buy: End-of-terrace properties offer more scope to extend.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.