The idea of buying a fixer-upper sparks fear in many of those in the market for a new home. With the unknown costs, countless decisions and time required to remodel a house, more people tend to look for something in turnkey condition. Fashion buyer Sarah Duggan and her husband Ian McNamee, however, took on the challenge of a fixer-upper in 2018 when they renovated this two-bedroom redbrick on Martin Street in Portobello into a considered, modern home that will appeal to a move-in-ready buyer.
Bought for €420,000, according to the Property Price Register, the property had a G Ber rating that has been upgraded to B3. With the help of architect Emmet Duggan (no relation), the house has been laid out to make the most of the 72 sq m (775 sq ft) area. The first thing you notice on entering the home is the generously high ceiling that creates a feeling of space throughout. There is a portrait of the family’s dog in the hall, an English bulldog called Darla, under which are coat hooks in the shape of wagging tails.
Sarah did the panelling on the lower half of the wall by hand during the Covid-19 lockdown, and it is the first of several features added during the refurbishment as a nod to what would have been the original design of the property. Originally from Wexford, she says she inherited her creative flair from her parents; her father is a carpenter and her mother is a seamstress and fashion designer. There is laminate wooden flooring underfoot in a herringbone pattern that continues seamlessly throughout the ground floor.
The front reception room is a small space but the owners felt it was important to have a room where they could close the door and relax, rather than having the whole floor open plan, Duggan says. The white walls make the room feel airy, and this neutral palette allows the restored original cast-iron fireplace to shine. Ceiling mouldings and double-glazed sash windows were added to be sympathetic to the home’s period heritage.
The hallway leads to a wetroom, where the diagonal wall of the chimney breast creates an alcove in which the shower is nestled. White sanitary ware and subway tiles with dark walls and a black grid shower screen create a cool monochrome look. Outside the bathroom is a hanging marble-effect shelf, the perfect spot for dropping your keys.
Duggan says some of the best advice she received from her architect was to paint everything white and decide on colour and design after living in the space. Those words of wisdom have clearly paid off; the feature wall in the living area of the open-plan kitchen/livingroom is painted in the Farrow & Ball deep-navy shade, Railings, on top of which is an abstract painting in the most eye-catching shade of orange, created by Duggan. A navy sofa is camouflaged into the wall with a discreet picture-frame-style TV mounted flat against the opposite wall, a set-up that a new buyer will likely follow.
The kitchen, by Kerwood Design, is sleek and contemporary with handleless dark-grey units on the bottom and light-grey units on top, to add to the illusion of space. The quartz countertop continues a few inches up the wall to create a handy shelf and the gold-coloured sink is a nice finishing touch. The room gets plenty of light from a Velux window overhead, the wraparound window and the glass door that leads into the private west-facing back courtyard. An integrated “utility cupboard” in the kitchen is plumbed to house the washing machine in another clever use of space aligning with Duggan’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind vision.
During the renovation, they allowed the ceiling of the stairway to travel right to the apex of the building, from which hangs a funky bare-bulb light fixture. The main bedroom spans the width of the front of the house and has an original fireplace. As a fashion lover, the wardrobe was an important consideration for Duggan and the high ceilings are used to maximum effect as a fitted wardrobe covers the length of the wall. There is also a Stira to the attic, where there is further storage. Surprisingly, there is also space for a good-sized en suite, which sits behind the angled chimney breast. The second bedroom is a smaller double with a picture rail moulding, and is being used as a nursery for the couple’s seven-month-old daughter.
Less is certainly more at 19 Martin Street and it is no surprise it reached the final of RTÉ's 2022 Home of the Year competition. The home is a great endorsement of minimalist living, a style and practice the family will continue to pursue when they move to a larger home nearby, Duggan says. Number 19 is also in a much sought-after location on the banks of the Grand Canal, with the city centre a 15-minute walk away. This bright, stylish home is on the market through Sherry FitzGerald, seeking €615,000.