This Monkstown home is a serene dream, yet still perfectly suited to the demands of family life
04th Jan 2023
A move to Monkstown with the intention to downsize came with a change of plan – and an increase in occupants. Jillian Bolger takes a look at how one couple turned their empty-nest dream home into the perfect abode for their extended family.
With four children all flown the nest, Laura George and her husband decided it was time to downsize from their family home in Dalkey. Dreaming of building a new home from scratch, they were 18 months along in the process when they realised that planning permission was likely to take several more years. Reluctantly, they pressed pause, deciding to go house hunting instead.
Despite dreaming of an uncluttered, modern space, the couple also love period homes, and immediately saw the potential in a handsome early-19th century terraced house in Monkstown village. “I just walked in and knew it was perfect for us,” Laura recalls. “It had great proportions, with a couple of nice sized rooms at the front and renovated space at the back that could be further modernised.”
Laura had always admired the historic terrace and was amused when the estate agent showed them an article from a 1970s Country Life magazine that described it as an “incoherent architectural hodgepodge”. “You could hear the colonial snobbery in every line,” she laughs, explaining that the crescent was originally built as seaside holiday homes for people escaping the city.
A keen swimmer, Laura loves the house’s proximity to Seapoint and The Forty Foot. The village location, single level accessibility and compact coach house to the property’s rear all made sense for the next stage of their lives, too.
But the pandemic had other ideas for the empty-nesters. Within months of moving in, they found themselves sharing the space with two of their adult children – their son, who was working in South America, and their second daughter, who is in between homes with her husband and one-year-old son, Teddy. Suddenly, their two-bedroom home had five adults and a child living in it. Laura has been surprised at how well the space adapted.
“We turned Robert’s office into Teddy’s bedroom and our son moved into the mews, which was renovated during lockdown two.” Their bubble extends to Laura’s elderly parents, who just moved to Ireland from Boston, so that she can help care for them. “They come over most days for company, so it’s four generations here, really.”
Though the house was in great condition, they were keen to reconfigure the layout. “The previous owners had done a big renovation, but the flow was a bit strange and the kitchen
was really peculiar, all at a 30-degree angle. My OCD couldn’t live with it.”
Stripping things back to create a minimalist space, Laura wanted a kitchen that was ergonomic and spare. Porter & Jones were hired, creating the streamlined look anchored around smooth rift oak cabinetry. Key decisions included the omission of door furniture and the inclusion of bespoke storage to accommodate Laura’s collection of Japanese ceramics and cookware.
A reconditioned Aga anchors the space, reflecting the owners’ drive to recycle wherever they could. The fireplaces and cast iron radiators were reconditioned and the flooring, which was relatively new, was heavily sanded and oiled to remove its former high lacquer surface.
All internal doors were retained and rebuilt, replacing glass panels with wood to create a cosier space. “They weren’t to our taste, but it would have been so wasteful to replace them. It was a good budget decision and a good all-round decision.”
Having come from a very maximalist, busy family home, with six people and all their belongings, Laura couldn’t wait to escape the clutter. But how did they decide what to keep?
“We purged about 95 per cent of what we owned. When you have four children, it’s really easy to get rid of stuff, so most of it went to family members. Everything had to earn its place here or it was passed on.”
Top of the keep list was the grey B&B Italia sofa, an eBay find from 15 years ago costing £2,000. “The people who bought it originally couldn’t get it up their stairs.”
Other pieces that made the final edit include an ornate Louis XV bed, bought from a market in France, two of Mary Rose Binchy’s paintings, and a collection of Japanese woodblock prints once owned by Laura’s grandmother.
As most of their furniture had been period, Laura wanted to select a few modern pieces for their new home. “I’d always wanted Carl Hansen armchairs, and when we were in the showroom, we fell in love with the credenza. It’s the most beautifully made piece of
furniture we’ve ever seen, and it informed the kitchen design.”
The simple palette, tactile surfaces, natural textures and understated design make this a cosy and elegant new home for a new era. Of course, the script didn’t quite run to plan, and this empty nest isn’t nearly as empty as the owners ever imagined. But they couldn’t be happier with that.
Photography: Ruth Maria Murphy
This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of IMAGE.