Trish Dromey profiles a home restored from wreck, to combine a historic feel with modern efficiencies.
Anyone who thought it would be impossible to combine Edwardian splendour with a high tech A energy rating has been proven entirely wrong by the owners of Glenade, on O’Connell Avenue in Limerick.
Resurrected from wreck and ruin by a builder of A-rated houses and his other half, an interior designer, the three-storey end of terrace property is a now masterpiece in cream and gold elegance, full of carefully replaced period features, which, with a modern air to water heat pump, a high level of insulation and some triple glazing, has achieved a high, A3 BER
“When we bought it in 2013 it had been derelict for seven years and was almost completely ruined — the ceilings were falling down, it was full of dry rot and wet rot, the floor boards were rotting, the annex at the back was in such a bad state that we had no choice but to knock it down.”
The couple hadn’t taken on a period project before — he’d built modern houses and she’d decorated show houses — but they weren’t daunted by the condition of Glenade of the fact that the 1900s built property has a listed building.
“The first thing we did was go to an engineer and ask him for a list of things he could do to get an A energy rating for it. My partner wanted an A-rated house because that’s what he builds and because I told him I wanted it to be warm.”
To make it warm he used as much insulation as possible. “He insulated everything he could, including the floors, the ceilings and walls and used internal and external insulation while also pumping in chemicals to the brick to kill the dry rot.” The air-to-water pump was new technology at the time — the builder hadn’t yet put one in a new house but since installing one in Glenade, has been using them in every build.
Great care was taken to preserve the elaborate Edwardian façade which has a two-storey, three-sided bay window and a balustraded balcony above it. The front windows had previously been replaced with PVC double glazing which the couple left in place while replacing the back ones with triple glazing
“It was the façade with its redbrick, the limestone pillars and the balcony that we fell in love with,” says the lady of the house revealing that they had actually looked at the property twice before — when it sold for €900,000 during the boom and a few years later when she believes it sold for €475,000.
“When we looked at it first we though it was too big, too cold and needed too much work — but when we looked at it the third time we felt that it was meant for us.”
By the time they bought it, the house had fallen further and further into disrepair. The interior had to be gutted and this involved removing all the rotting plasterwork and woodwork. “It was hugely labour intensive — we took up the floorboards which had been put down on top of earth and saved all that we could,” says the owner, explaining that the salvaged floorboards were then used to floor original rooms on the upper levels.
The roof had already been replaced so didn’t need work. Other items they were able to keep included the ornate fireplaces , a cast iron bath as well as some doors and architrave. “The Art Deco tiling in the hallway was perfect so we didn’t have to touch it.”
They replicated the original coving and plasterwork and even visited the house next door in order to ensure that the replacement arch in the hallway was as close as possible to the original.
The back annex, which had housed the kitchen and bathroom and had a lean-to with a corrugated roof, had to be demolished. This they replaced with a timber framed two-storey extension which provided space for a kitchen and dining room at ground level, and two upstairs bedrooms. During the demolition, the couple saved the red bricks from an old chimney, washed each of these individually and used them to build the back wall of the extension.
While he worked on the building, she was busy picking colour schemes and curtains and searching out furniture and furnishing which would be appropriate for an Edwardian house.
To get a feel for her new home she delved into its history, looking at the deeds and doing some research. She discovered that the house was built around 1900 but found that there were two theories about who had designed it.
She found an article saying the terrace of three houses which included hers was designed by Welsh architect William Clifford Smith who came to Limerick in 1902 when he won an international competition to design the Shannon Rowing Club. According to this article, the terrace used the Arts and Craft style developed by Scottish architect Norman Shaw at the start of the century and was built as a speculative venture to attract wealthy Limerick business people.
The owner later came across another article saying the terrace of three houses had been designed by John Horan , the Limerick county surveyor at the time.
She says she can’t be sure which is correct but likes to think that Glenade looks rather similar to Shannon Rowing Club with its redbrick, limestone and pebble dash façade, timbered gable and a balcony with art nouveau inspired railing.
Following the purchase of the property for €305,000 in early 2013 , the builder started renovation works in March. “It took 10 months and we moved in just two weeks before Christmas,” says the lady of the house, who began decorating in August. Deciding to keep the colour scheme as warm and neutral as possible she chose three colours for the Colourtrend palette which she brought throughout the house — pale cream, dark cream and pale grey.
She had spent several months scouring Limerick and beyond for suitable furniture and furnishings. Purchases included 14 glass droplet chandeliers of varying sizes , gold ones for the living areas and chrome for the bedrooms.
She also brought gold mirrors can be found almost everywhere in the house. “Mirrors are essential for decoration and are like jewellery for houses — there are at least 12 of them including six in the master bedroom and dressing room.”
Four years after completing the decoration of Glenade, the lady of the house doesn’t think there is a single thing she would like to change. She was especially pleased with décor in the high ceilinged front reception room.
“It looks particularly well at Christmas with a tree in the bay window.”
Decorated in cream and gold it has an original marble fireplace with a huge gold mirror above it as well as a 12-arm gold chandelier and is furnished mostly with reproduction period furniture and has French oak flooring.
“In searching for furniture for the house my best find was a green marble antique coffee table which matches the green tiles on the fireplace perfectly.’’
The second reception room beyond it is similarly decorated but has a black and red marble fireplace and consequently some splashes of red in the furnishing. It also has a door which is an exact replica of the original but in PVC and is triple glazed.
The extension at the rear has a long dining room with ceiling mouldings, a large chandelier and a cream colour scheme. Only the large triple glazed sliding patio doors and the windows give an indication that this is a modern addition.
The units in the large, newly added kitchen were designed by the lady of the house. “I wanted a classic kitchen which would blend with the feel of the house — they are painted a soft shade of white.” Individual features include two cone-shaped walnut tables at either end of the granite topped island unit as well as a cone-shaped breakfast table in the corner.
Designed as a space in which to eat and chat, the kitchen has a living area with TV and large sliding patio triple glazed doors. Other rooms include a utility room, a shower room and walk-in pantry.
Gold striped Laura Ashley wallpaper in the hallway compliments the original Art Deco tiling. The staircase has, like the staircase in any well decorated house, a large gold mirror as well as a gold chandelier. A modern touch is introduced to the décor on the return by a striking blue and red sailor painting by artist Graham Knuttel.
The master bedroom behind the bay window on the first floor is sumptuously decorated in gold and cream — and has Laura Ashley baroque wallpaper and a chrome chandelier. One of the original bedrooms next to has been turned into a dressing room which has an original fireplace, a central, granite-topped storage island and a little kitchenette hidden behind a sliding mirrored door. Alongside its is an en suite fitted with the original bath, a modern steam/ shower cabinet and a period style vanity unit. In the first-floor extension at the rear there is a large en suite bedroom which is more modern, as well as a smaller bedroom which is used as a gym.
On the second floor there’s a en suite bedroom which opens on to the front balcony overlooking O’Connell Avenue. To the rear there’s a bedroom has been turned into a games room with a pool table.
Features not typically found in Edwardian houses include surround sound, underfloor heating in the extended rooms and a CCTV system with five cameras.
In the front garden the couple salvaged as much of the original railings as they could, put down limestone paving to match the façade and recreated as much of the Edwardian look as possible.
To the rear they brought in a prefabricated studio which is used as a gym and also put down Indian sandstone paving. There is also an electric rear gate and parking space for two cars.
Guiding at €850,000, Glenade is being sold jointly by Michael Roberts and Rooneys auctioneers who say it’s a superb family home, of a type which is rarely available in this very sought after part of the Limerick city. They point out that the large 3,200 sq ft house can be configured to have anything between four and six bedrooms.
Although they have lavished time, money and effort on it, the owners are reluctantly preparing to part from a home they believe is perfect but which has unfortunately become too large for them.
VERDICT: Edwardian elegance with the energy rating of a new build — the best of both worlds
O’Connell Avenue, Limerick City
Sq m 297 (3,200 sq ft)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved