The serenity of this home in Ranelagh, Dublin 6 belies the persistence and ingenuity required during the renovation process …
“From the age of 17, when I moved to Dublin for university, I aspired to a three-storey redbrick house in Dublin 6 or Dublin 4,” explains Mary Phelan, senior director for Trust & Safety at Google. To fulfil this dream, she and her husband, Aiden Fitzpatrick, flipped three properties over a ten-year period before acquiring a three-storey redbrick house in Mount Pleasant, Ranelagh, in need of renovation. “It was built in 1847, and had many intact original features so we focused on their maintenance – removing every piece of original wood from the window shutters to the door surrounds and floorboards, bringing them back to their former glory – before reinstating them.”
Mary Phelan. Photographed by Martin O’Neill.
The house also had a standalone apartment in the basement, where the couple lived for a year as they worked on the upper floors. “We then moved upstairs and started work on the basement and a 100 sq m extension,” says Mary. This extension was a test of the couple’s persistence and practicality. With no access to the back garden, all materials had to be craned in from a nearby lane and over a neighbour’s garden. “Considerable quantities of wine were dropped at our neighbours’ doors in appreciation of their endless patience over those years,” she admits. The couple also relied on the support of skilled friends and family. Aside from the architect’s drawings (Eamon Doran of Doran Cray) for planning permission, Aiden and Mary fulfilled the roles of project manager and builder. “Aiden has an engineering and electrical background and is one of those people who can turn his hand to anything. Fortunately, our interests and talents complement each other: I bring the ideas and creativity, which he then turns into reality through ingenious and cost-effective solutions,” explains Mary. “To facilitate lowering the basement and garden level, Aiden built a small conveyor to transfer 200 tons of soil (or 16 lorry loads) 30 metres to the front garden where it was then picked up by said lorries!”
The living/dining room is used in summer. It features the Arne sofa by B&B Italia; Plasterwork’s rug by CC Tapis; brass disc floor lamp from Catellani & Smith; all at Minima.
Installing floor-to-ceiling glass on one side of the stairs instead of a banister also tested the couple’s ingenuity. “Given just two pieces, each measuring 2m by 2m and 18mm thick were required, the initial estimate of €30,000 was ridiculous. So we measured up ourselves and cut paper templates, which we took to a glass manufacturing company in Tipperary. They thought we were bonkers but delivered the glass, though only to the path outside. It took three of us to lift the pieces off the truck – the only day I thought I was going to have a heart attack! It took several months for us to gather enough friends to help carry them and fix in place, all part of the adventure. The final cost was only €2,000.” The renovation took four years to complete. The house now comprises two bedrooms, bathroom, office and a utility room in the basement, an entrance hall, sitting room, kitchen and living room on the ground floor and a master bedroom, bathroom and walk-in wardrobe on the first floor.
The muted interiors style is the perfect backdrop for the preserved original features and the couple’s impressive edit of contemporary design furniture. Many pieces took years to source and purchase, explains Mary whose mantra is “buy once, buy well”. “It took me six years to find the right rug for the hall, but it means that every single piece of furniture will come with us if we ever move.” Her most treasured piece is the desk in their office. Made from a 200-year-old oak tree, which had fallen on Aiden’s family farm in Kilkenny, it’s inspired by Cassina’s 511 Ventaglio table, custom built by Irish company Wedge, which was blackened using the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique. Having researched the ownership history of their home, Mary invited relatives of previous owners to see what they had done. “They appreciated the deep respect, love and history we had maintained and that means so much to us.”
The master bedroom with ensuite and walk-in wardrobe is on the first floor and features a Tufty bed in chocolate velvet by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia; The bell table is by Sebastian Herkner for ClassiCon; Squiggle table light by Terzani; Creation sliding panels upholstered in Baumann blackout fabric; all at Minima. The pendant light is by Brand Van Egmond. The bedlinen is by Jo Browne.
In the guest bedroom, the bespoke headboard with drawers is by Wedge, the gold lamp by Apollo Oluce is from Minima.
The kitchen, with appliances concealed behind large doors painted dark grey, and steel mirror, was custom made by Wedge, with a Corian island unit. The Delphinium pendant light is by Brand Van Egmond. The balloon sculpture is from TK Place gallery in Santorini.
The secret bar in bronze and wood is concealed behind bronze doors; all by Wedge; www.wedge.ie.
In the bathroom, the renovated roll-top cast iron bath was found by Mary’s mother in a field on the family farm. It had been used as drinking trough for cows and its legs had been perfectly preserved in mud. The stone flooring is from Antica Stone Gallery, formerly based in Rathgar.
In the office, the bespoke desk is by Wedge; with blue velvet chair by Edra and Flos table lamp; both from Minima.
This sitting room is used in the winter and features a light grey Edra Absolu sofa; royal blue Cassina Utrecht chair; B&B black leather footstool; marble Cassina 194 9 side tables, Catellani & Smith floor lamp; the goose eye icon rug is by Kasthall; all from Minima. The steel mirror and TV unit was custom made by Wedge.