Georgian apartment, Camden Street, Dublin

Georgian apartment, Camden Street, Dublin

Photos by Ruth Maria Murphy.

In 2014, architect Colm Doyle of DMVF Architects and his partner, Peter O’Reilly, bought a disused bank in the centre of Dublin. Spread across two Georgian houses, the property had been unoccupied for nearly a decade.

“I always wanted to live in a large apartment with a good size balcony,” says Colm, “and I wanted to live in the city. So I found this building that was unloved and vacant, in very poor condition and nobody else wanted it. We bought a lot of building for very little money and spent quite a lot renovating it.” 

“We don’t have good apartment stock in Dublin,” he explains, “which is unusual for a city of its size. Most of it dates from the early 90s onwards.” Colm could see the potential straight away. “There was a big flat roof extension at the back that I knew I could turn into a roof garden, and there were four interconnecting rooms at first floor level that we could make a reception floor out of. They were the two things I spotted that are not usually available in the city.”

There were risks involved – the couple needed to get planning permission to change the use of the building and for the roof garden. Colm explains that there is not much case law or legislation around apartments in older buildings in Ireland compared to the UK. “Everybody lives in houses here, there just hasn’t been much of an appetite for it.”

With planning secured, Colm’s brief was to create a home for himself and Peter in the two upper floors of the Georgian building, and to make it work for modern living. With no extension planned, the design of the interior space was crucial.

“It was really important to us to have bigger rooms but also smaller rooms that were cosier and warmer. We have zoned heating so we can heat different spaces at different times.”

They discussed splitting the space into two duplex-style units but in the end decided to keep it as one large apartment. “It is bigger than we wanted,” says Colm, “but we liked the four interconnecting rooms on the reception level – it’s really special.”

The build itself went smoothly, thanks to Colm’s experience as a project manager. “There were no cross words, I know what to expect. We aggressively managed our budget and shopped very hard for everything. We delivered within budget but were way over time but that suited us. We didn’t put anyone under any pressure.”

The interiors

Colm retained as many original features as he could and has left the size and shape of the rooms largely unchanged. 

“I wanted to retain the joy that the building had. In the more traditional rooms, I wanted to keep the floors, joinery, windows, cornicing. And we’ve kept the volumes of the rooms, we didn’t want to carve up the spaces.”

However, he wanted all new features to stand on their own. 

“The kitchen, the stove, the staircase, the bathrooms, the steel windows, we wanted them to appear as interventions. The nice thing about doing this is that it gives you some freedom.”

This freedom allowed Colm to mix and match furniture and accessories to achieve a particular feel for each room.

“I thought about what the rooms were for and what time of day I would use them and then tried to build a style around that. I wanted the kitchen to have a daytime feel and the TV room to have a cosier evening feel.”

Colm stresses that great interior design does not have to cost a huge amount of money.

“Two fireplaces came out of a skip and I painted them up. They’re 1930s in an 1815 house.”

He also recommends mixing brown, traditional furniture with fun fabric choices to create a style that looks way more expensive than it is.

“Each of my dining chairs was individually cheaper than an Ikea chair and none of the chairs match.”

The best bits

Colm and Peter love the contrast between the kitchen and the TV room. “The kitchen is bright and airy and the TV room is rich, dark and cosy.” They also adore the garden and use it all the time.


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