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Image / Editorial

This Phibsborough home was a crumbling wreck two years ago – look at it now

by Lauren Heskin
09th Feb 2020
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Take a tour of this recently restored Phibsborough home, which will be featured on RTÉ’s The Great House Revival next Sunday night.

Following the success of its debut last year, RTÉ’s The Great House Revival is back for its second season, beginning next Sunday, February 16 at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.

The first house on architect Hugh Wallace’s list is a 200-year-old Georgian home in Phibsborough belonging to homeowner Fiona, which has been transformed from a crumbling home that was just a few years away from collapsing completely, into a bright and comfortable four-bedroom home.

The entrance floor is now made up of the dining room and living room

However, the journey was a long and winding one. Just back from a few years abroad, Fiona admits, “I hadn’t actually been looking for a house at all.”

But, after walking past the for sale sign in the summer of 2017, she decided to check it out and fought off a number of other interested buyers to make it her own for a significant sum of €435,000.

Fiona selected a number of moody hues for the period part of the house

While looking deceptively large, the house is only one room deep, with two rooms on each floor dissected by a central staircase. As well as falling head over heels for the empty building’s light, high ceilings and black canvas appearance, she also saw a number of encouraging signs when it came to its practicalities.

The black limestone fireplaces were found in the house, covered in paint

“It was the location, there was off-street parking, it was the orientation of east-west facing, the access to the back I thought would be good from a construction point of view,” says Fiona, “I am quite practical and logical so those things were definitely part of the decision making process.”

As the house is listed, Fiona and her architect Maoliosa Molloy, set about applying for planning permission and waiting on their chosen contractor, Mark Flynn of Duffy & Sons, to finish a previous project, they were ready to get to work in June 2018.

In the extension are the kitchen, a stove and some comfortable seating

Admittedly being over-optimistic with her initial five-month timeline, Fiona’s home took 16 months to complete, eight of which were spent on tackling structural work.

Derelict for ten years, the house had serious damp and subsidence issues, with a leaky roof and one corner falling into the ground. To prevent the house from falling further, they had to underpin the entire house and the whole roof was eventually written off and replaced.

Fiona is looking forward to summer and being able to use the back garden more.

“I wouldn’t say much of [the work required] surprised me,” says Fiona diplomatically, considering the house was built in the 1820s and had been a tenement for some time. “It was kind of like yeah, well that makes sense.”

In fact, the things that did surprise Fiona were the pleasant ones, like the chimney flues all in good working order and that most of the floorboards could be saved.

The new bathroom sits above the kitchen, with the original external brick left exposed

The new extension was a significantly more straightforward project, adding a kitchen onto the ground floor and a bathroom to the first. These are strikingly more contemporary than the period house but are linked by the same level of opulence.

The brass countertop and splashback of the kitchen tie in with the elements of the other living spaces, and the matt grey walls of the bathroom mirror with the exposed plasterwork that’s been framed along the stairwell, framing the layers of history this house has lived through.

Much of the floorboards and staircase were able to be saved

“I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat,” responds Fiona unequivocally when asked if she could go back and talk to herself three years ago. Throughout the whole project, the delays and the problems and mounting costs, she says she only had one moment where she questioned her decision to buy the place.

After completing the underpinning and beginning work on the roof (which, as expected was worse than first thought) they realised the wall plate in the upstairs bedroom had collapsed. “Basically, you could see daylight through the corner where the two walls met. That was the point I was wondering if I’d ever get this house back together again.”

Fiona’s master bedroom

Thankfully, the house did not suffer a Humpty Dumpty fate and Fiona officially moved in in November 2019. So what has she learned from this experience? “Don’t take no for answer,” she says simply.

“When contractors and guys on site say something can’t be done, what they really mean is that it can’t be done in the time I have allotted for this job.”

Committing to doing her homework and a natural problem-solver, Fiona nearly always got her way and the result is a spectacular period home that’s really a restoration triumph.

Watch the full story of Fiona’s restoration project on Sunday, February 16, at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.

Read more: Inside the delightful Cork farmhouse belonging to Rory O’Connell

Read more: 3 fixer-uppers for less than €100,000 in Co Clare

Read more: I’m in love with the house in Netflix’s Anne with an E

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