When Hrvoje Vukovic and his wife Mary Moore took on the project of renovating their terraced home, they knew it would take a lot of hard work and determination.
Mary’s dream location was the leafy Victorian suburb in Dublin where she had been brought up – and where her family still lived – but the only problem was that houses in the area were much sought after and expensive. The couple didn’t give up though and pressed on looking at various properties in the hope that they would find something.
As luck would have it, they came across a run-down house in a quiet Victorian street, which was within their budget and offered huge potential. For Mary it was perfect, but Hrvoje was not so sure about it.
The owners: Mary Moore, a podiatrist, and her husband Hrvoje Vukovic, who is a chef and catering manager, live here with their one-year-old son Lucas and springer spaniel Holly
‘If you want your own home in my native country, Croatia, you normally just buy a plot and build one,’ he explains. ‘The concept of renovating a property is relatively unknown, so when Mary suggested we buy the house and do it up, I was astounded.’
Hrvoje soon came round to the idea though after some enthusiastic persuading from Mary – it was also the only way they could secure a property within their budget.
‘Mary had a clear vision of what the finished house would look like – she was so keen on it and convinced me that it would all work out,’ says Hrvoje. Hrvoje threw himself into the project and soon became the driving force behind it, as he was determined that they would come up with an inspiring redesign of their property.
With great attention to detail, he spent a lot of time leafing through homes magazines and trawling the internet to find the right materials for their renovation project. Mary was thrilled by his enthusiasm.
Hrvoje’s initial idea was to have the kitchen to the front of an open-plan ground floor, but Mary didn’t think it was practical and their architect, Des Crabbe from NBK Architects, agreed. The plumbing was at the rear of the house and it would have involved a lot of expense and disruption to move it.
The idea of a two-storey extension was discussed, but Mary’s aim for the ground floor living/kitchen area was to flood it with lots of light, which wouldn’t be possible with two storeys. Besides it would also be too costly.
The couple eventually decided that a rear extension would be the best use of their space and resources. However, its size was restricted by planning permission exclusion limits. They also decided against having an open-plan ground floor.
‘In the end it seemed a better idea to have a space that was quite separate on the ground floor, somewhere for one of us to go to read or study,’ says Hrvoje. ‘The room would also double up as a guest bedroom.’
The couple’s love of minimalistic style has made the most of this space and it’s perfectly clutter-free, thanks to a series of structural shelving units built into alcoves. ‘It’s ideal – we didn’t want a lot of furniture intruding into this space,’ Hrvoje explains.
Not surprisingly, as this is a Victorian property there were of course fireplaces in most of the rooms, which did create a problem for the couple.
‘I wanted to rip the old fireplaces out and use the space for storage – I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to keep something they were not using,’ says Hrvoje.
Mary disagreed and was determined to keep the original fireplaces, arguing that they added to the period feel of the house. The same went for the original plaster coving and timber floors – Mary wanted them to be restored as part of the renovation scheme.
The renovation project soon started going ahead and Hrvoje, who was working nearby, was on site every day. ‘I think it was really important for me to be hands-on, says Hrvoje. ‘There were decisions to be made every day and I had to ensure that the builders stayed on schedule.’
The couple did come up against a few problems, which was just as well that Hrvoje was on site.
‘Our extension was to be clad in cedar, but one day I found the builders had used pine cladding instead, so they had to take it all off and start again,’ he says. ‘It impacted on the work, but it had to be done.’
Mary and Hrvoje spent their evenings searching the internet for good-value furniture and accessories. Hrvoje found their bathroom suite on a UK website; the taps and leather sofabed in their study came from Germany, while the bold red shower in their en suite was a great find on eBay.
Hrvoje came across their industrial-style black spotlights (that they’ve used throughout the house) in Dublin. They were very expensive, though, so he searched until he found a company that delivered them, complete with transformers and everything necessary to wire them up – for half the price.
The entertainment room was Hrvoje’s pet project and he worked hard to turn it into his dream room.
‘I love the minimalist look and wanted this room to be just that. I don’t like the size and feel of a TV, even slimline contemporary ones,’ he explains. ‘When they’re switched off, they just sit there like a big black slab against the wall, so I decided to look into the option of getting a projector and screen instead.’
Hrvoje spent a lot of time researching the technical side, looking into projector length and luminancy. ‘When I was pretty sure what I needed, I called in Danny Mangan at Trim Kitchens to make the storage unit for it. He’s done a great job, cleverly concealing all the cables by fitting them neatly into the wall or under the floor.’
It didn’t go without its hitches, as Hrvoje explains: ‘When we started using the projector screen, it turned out to be a bit too high for Mary as she was experiencing pains in her neck, so now we just use the white wall, which is even neater without the screen.’
When it came to the rest of the décor in the entertainment room, Hrvoje wanted something dark to minimise the reflection of light – but with a textured feel to it.
‘I’m a big fan of wallpaper, I love it. It can make such a statement and bring an extra dimension to a room. I knew exactly what I wanted – flock paper, which we bought from MRCB.’
The wallpaper in the study was Mary’s choice – she has chosen a vibrant floral pattern that really lifts the room. She picked the bedroom wallpaper too – but this time opted for a relaxing pattern, which contrasts well with the white timber floor.
‘We spent a lot of time looking at wallpapers and paint shades, just to get the right feel,’ says Mary. ‘We knew we wanted mainly white walls, so we started by choosing the wallpapers and then worked on the white shades. The study and all the rooms upstairs are painted in Farrow & Ball Great White, which has a slightly lavender tint. The rest of the house is All White, and the skirting boards and architraves are Skylight, which is also Farrow & Ball.’
So what’s the verdict? ‘When we walked into the house after more than 12 months of renovation work, we were blown away,’ remembers Hrvoje. ‘There was so much light everywhere – it’s exactly what we wanted. We’re thrilled; it was worth all that hard work.’