Having worked in London and New York for seven years, when expert interior architect Sterrin O’Shea returned to Dublin, one of the first houses she worked on was her own…
I set up Sterrin O’Shea Architects (SOSA), a practice specialising in domestic extensions, refurbishments and new builds in 2005. One of the first projects I undertook on returning to Dublin after working in London and New York for seven years was my own house in Blackrock.
The house is one of a Georgian terrace of six three-storey houses, near Blackrock Park in South Dublin. We had fallen in love with the location, and our neighbours. However, we were unsure if vertical living was suitable for our young family, with two girls aged three and five, so when we returned to Dublin, we actually toyed with the idea of selling.
The hallway features a Gubi console table, a lantern pendant by New Works and a mirror from Rock Hill Interiors.
The original layout of the house included a living and dining room on the ground floor with a tiny kitchen in the return. On the top floor were three bedrooms, and in the basement, a bedroom, bathroom, and home office. To optimise the house for all residents, my husband and I decided on a full-blown refurbishment. We applied for planning permission for a 18sq m side extension, taking in an underutilised side garden, to give us the ability to open up the ground floor.
In the open-plan living and dining room, the mid-century rosewood credenza by Kofod Larsen, found on eBay, works with a table by Arne Vodder and chairs by Nils Møller.
Rather than have a compartmentalised layout, my intention was to create flexible open-plan spaces which could be closed off as required. The house now has an open-plan living, dining and kitchen space on the ground floor, with pantry and loo.
The sofa is by Muuto, and the coffee table by Gubi. The paintings are by Amadeo Peñalver and the sculpture is by Ed Milano.
The kitchen in the new side extension is roof-lit and opens on to the upper level of the garden, with a small terrace. There is a small home office on the return, which also has a small patio.
The home office features desks and shelving by Vitseo, Eames chairs, an Arne Jacobsen standard light, and a planter by Ferm Living.
As we didn’t want a dark basement we would never use, we added a very modest extension at this level, with a large roof light to maximise natural light. The basement now incorporates a playroom to the front and family room to the rear, plus a wet room and utility room under the stairs. When we entertain, we open up the basement completely. It also has a little sunken patio where we enjoy family time on summer evenings, often watching impromptu ballet performances!
The kitchen in the new side extension is roof lit and opens on to the upper level of the garden. The marble counters and splashback are by Miller Bros. The island stools are by Ercol, the Anour pendant light is from Hicken Lighting.
We also reconfigured the top floor to create two bedrooms and a large family bathroom. This renovation proved to be one of the most difficult I have ever undertaken as it took so long, and went way over budget. When we started the structural work, we discovered the house had no foundations, so we had to underpin the entire house. The new side extension had to be constructed on mini piles as the ground was so poor. We also lowered the basement floor to gain more height and at the same time had to damp-proof all the external walls.
The kitchen has a pantry cupboard with fluted glass doors. The units, island and pantry were designed by SOSA and made by Acrewood
The garden has played an important role in unifying the three levels of the house. We reconfigured the terraces to link to the new internal levels and to maximise garden space. There are two external steps – one at the front, leading from the footpath to the basement entrance, and the other from the rear sunken patio up to the garden. This creates a great flow, and the kids love to do loops of the house whenever we have family get-togethers.
In the basement, the white terrazzo floor finish by PJ Ryan reflects light from the garden. The stairs, folding sliding partition and panelling in birch ply with white oil finish were designed by SOSA and made by Acrewood.
When it comes to interior design, I’m inspired by classic Scandinavian mid-century design but with a contemporary twist. I used to be a minimalist but having a family changed that; a home should have personality. My most precious item is a Knoll Womb chair I bought when we moved from New York to London – we had no other furniture for six weeks as it was all in transit. When I picked it up, I hailed a black cab and sat on it all on the way home!
The bedhead and wardrobes in the master bedroom were designed by SOSA and made by Acrewood.
The wall light is by Secto. The Knoll Womb chair was sourced on eBay. The side table is by Hay.
Photographs by Ruth Maria Murphy.