Adding a contemporary twist to a period home

The 1920s property that Clíodhna and Thomas Liddy bought eight years ago was part of a housing estate built for employees of the Guinness factory nearby. They have now transformed the period property into a bright and spacious contemporary living space suitable for their young children while still maintaining its charming character

‘Its previous occupant was a 93-year-old woman who had lived here since it was built,’ Clíodhna remembers. ‘The interior hadn’t changed much over the years. That was fortunate, though, as it meant some of the period features, like the original windows and doors, were still intact.’

The couple put in an offer and were delighted when the property sale went through quickly. However, they had to act equally fast as the buyers of their house wanted to move in within three weeks.

Working to a short timescale, they carried out some updating work on their new home so it would be ready for them to move in. They stripped back the original floors, repainted all the interior walls and fitted a new bathroom.

Fact file

The owners: Clíodhna Liddy, an account manager, and her husband Thomas, who works in sports development, live here with their two young sons, Louis and Finn

‘The old bathroom was very basic, so we replaced the suite with a period-style freestanding bath and basin and decorated the room in light colours, which really gave it a lift,’ Clíodhna explains.

They didn’t do any further renovation work for the next five years, until they decided to extend at the rear of the house to create extra living space.

‘We loved the style of this property, so we wanted to retain its original character – even though we were keen to add a contemporary extension,’ says Clíodhna.

A dated lean-to, measuring around 6.5m², housed the existing kitchen-diner, which was small and needed to be remodelled for family living. The couple called in Donaghy & Dimond Architects of Dublin to draw up the plans for a single-storey extension.

‘I knew the architects had a good reputation, because I had seen examples of their major projects when I researched them, but I was worried that ours might be too small scale,’ Clíodhna explains. ‘We were thrilled when they made a home visit and agreed to take on the job.’

As the new extension would be less than 25 metres, the couple were allowed to build it under permitted development rights, so they didn’t need planning permission.

It was designed to house a new kitchen, dining and family space which would be linked all the way from the front living room to the rear garden. To create a seamless finish, the original bricks were matched with english garden wall bond bricks for the exposed brickwork features.

The structural roof was constructed with exposed Douglas fir timber joists fitted into steel channels, which were supported by a large steel RSJ beam. A bespoke built-in bench-style seat was incorporated into the dining area and cleverly continued out to the garden as outdoor seating. The new space is flooded with light, thanks to a sun pipe fitted above the dining area and the full-height folding sliding doors at the rear.

‘We love the additional windows above the worktops. We wanted lots of natural light but didn’t want to look out to views of the neighbouring houses,’ says Clíodhna.

‘The glazing and bespoke lighting system factored into the design ensures that our extension is naturally bright during the day, then at night the lighting bounces off the brick walls, creating a cosy feel.’

It is achieved with a good mix of task and ambient lighting, with a range of spotlights and a pendant above the dining table.

‘I’ve always liked the New York-style apartment look, so this is what we’ve created with the extension,’ says Clíodhna. ‘I love all the exposed warm tones of the brickwork, while the raw steelwork gives this space a slightly industrial feel.’

The kitchen units are also bespoke and made from Douglas fir, with practical slate work surfaces. Its handleless units create a simple yet stylish backdrop to the structural design.

The family space, which was originally a dark room linking the kitchen and front living room, has been transformed within the open-plan kitchen-diner. With its cosy wood-burning stove and a bespoke study desk and shelving, designed by the architect, it is now a multi-functional area.

‘This is a nice, casual space that’s ideal for entertaining guests when they come for dinner, as everyone can mingle between this room and the kitchen-diner,’ Clíodhna explains. ‘Then, during the week, it becomes the perfect place for the boys to do their homework.’

A pair of glazed doors have been installed between the family room and main living room at the front of the house. The doors, which were originally from a ground floor cloakroom and disused coal store, have had their solid panels replaced with glass.

‘I am a great fan of recycling things,’ smiles Clíodhna. ‘Now, when we’re entertaining our friends or family, we throw these doors open, transforming the entire ground floor into a free-flowing space.’

An original cast-iron fireplace from the old kitchen was taken out and relocated to the front living room.

‘You should always try to re-use old features and items,’ Clíodhna explains. ‘We moved an old window, which had looked out over the garden, from the back wall of the ground floor cloakroom to the side of the space, rather than remove it completely.’

The former cloakroom and coal store has been transformed into a stunning wetroom, which their sons especially love.

‘I never thought such a small space could be used so effectively,’ says Clíodhna. ‘We didn’t have to call in a plumber as our architect looked after all the plumbing and fitting during the extension project.’

Once the major renovation work was complete, the couple redecorated all the first floor bedrooms. From the initial redecoration work of five years ago to the recent structural renovations, the redesign has succeeded in merging original character with modern family living.

‘I love combining the old and new, in architecture and interior finishes – creating an eclectic mix adds interest and personality,’ says Clíodhna. ‘We’re thrilled to live in a contemporary house that has all the charm of an old property.’


Design fees£4,500
Building work£2,500
Folding sliding doors£14,000
Heating and plumbing£2,000