Renovating a 1970s home

Marie and Conor Clune transformed a dated 1970s property into a stunning home, both inside and out

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When Marie and Conor Clune decided to move from their Dublin home, they were looking for a property they could redesign to their taste, borrowing inspiration from their frequent trips to Spain.

‘We were living in a suburb of Dublin and wanted to stay in the city,’ says Marie, ‘but we dreamt of having a home with a large garden and views of the hills and sea.’ The couple put their home on the market and were delighted when it was snapped up – but it took them a year before they found their idyllic property.

Fact file

  • The owners: Marie Clune, who is an interior designer and owner of, and her husband Conor, the managing director of a consultancy company, live here with their daughter Zara, nine
  • The property: A four-bedroom detached house built during the 1970s
  • The location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  • What they spent: The couple bought the property for £780,500 in 2006 and have spent around £228,000 renovating it

The property

‘We moved into rented accommodation once we had sold our home and started looking at places with renovation potential,’ Marie explains. ‘We viewed a lot of houses, but this was the first one that ticked all the right boxes for us.’

Marie and Conor felt that the ground floor space, with its split levels, offered plenty of possibilities to turn it into an open-plan space. The property also had great views of the countryside and the sea, plus there was a good sized garden.

Although its structure was in good condition, the couple were in no doubt that it would need a lot of work and a clever redesign to transform it into a contemporary family home.

Staircase in renovated 1970s house

Planning the design

Marie’s interior design experience and knowledge, as well as the couple’s shared passion for architecture and design, would prove essential for achieving their dream home makeover.

They thought the footprint of the house needed to be remodelled, with an extension at the rear creating extra space for a new open-plan kitchen/dining/living area on the ground floor. This space would lead out from the dining area to the garden.

‘Luckily, our proposed size of extension came under permitted development rights, so we didn’t have to apply for any planning permission, or enlist the help of an architect,’ Marie explains.

Before work started on reconfiguring the ground floor layout at the rear of the house, it consisted of a maze of small separate rooms, including a storage room, kitchen, utility room and living room.

Sitting room in renovated 1970s house

The build

The walls on this side of the house were demolished to create part of the open-plan area for the new kitchen and living space. Only the sitting/TV room and Zara’s playroom, which was formerly the dining area, were left as separate rooms to the front.

Next on the agenda was the staircase. The original dark timber structure was replaced with an elegant open-tread staircase, with a glazed balustrade and a stainless steel handrail, which opened up the hallway, flooding it with light.

‘Conor and I wanted this house to be contemporary, so it was essential to replace all that old dark woodwork with lighter, modern designs,’ Marie explains. ‘We also wanted to introduce more light into the extension to ensure the open-plan kitchen/dining/living area would look bright and spacious, so we created space in some of the exterior walls for new doorways and windows,’ says Marie.

The paving tiles in the garden were cleverly matched to the marble floor tiles inside, with both sets laid in the same pattern to achieve an uninterrupted flow from the inside out.

The couple also redesigned the outdoor space, so that it now has zones for seating and dining, which are easily accessible through the large sliding doors in the dining and TV areas.

Open-plan layout

‘We wanted the ground floor to function as both a social and family space, with free movement between the areas,’ says Marie. ‘We often sit at the kitchen island unit for a family chat, or Zara uses it to do her homework. We can also go to separate rooms to watch TV or read a book – but we’re all still within earshot of one another.’

Marie used furniture to separate the TV area from the kitchen in the open-plan living space, turning the back of a sofa towards the kitchen and creating an inward-looking seating arrangement.

‘The sitting room at the front of the house is more of a chill-out space – a place where you can relax as it can be closed off by a glazed door, though it is still very much part of the flow of the ground floor,’ she explains.

The master suite

Marie and Conor then turned their attention to the first floor. They were quite happy with the five-bedroom layout but decided to redesign the airing cupboard and the master bedroom with its en suite.

‘It wasn’t difficult logistically as the en suite remained in its original location, though we repositioned the doorway, and created a new dressing room in the bedroom,’ says Marie.

The airing cupboard was turned into an en suite for Zara’s bedroom. As it had housed the hot water cylinder, which was relocated downstairs, the en suite didn’t require any new plumbing work.

Adding insulation

The couple were keen to insulate the house to a higher standard, so they installed 50mm foil-backed polyurethane cavity wall insulation. As the floor was uninsulated at the rear of the house, they took the opportunity to lower its original level significantly in order to create more ceiling height and to install underfloor heating.

The exterior

‘We also did extensive work to the exterior at the front of the house,’ says Marie.

The previous owners had added a dormer loft extension, which Marie and Conor decided to clad in timber for a more stylish finish. They also updated the balcony areas using walls with glazed balustrades to define the different levels. Once the build work was complete, they were able to tackle the dated décor, preferring a fresh modern scheme instead.

Ensuite in renovated 1970s house

Interior design

The couple love the contemporary architecture of Spain, where they own a property. Inspired by the vibrant colours of Spanish design and the Mediterranean lifestyle, Marie envisaged an interior scheme featuring colour, light and classic design.

‘Conor loves minimalism. I love that design ethic too, but a family home needs softness and warmth,’ says Marie.

The couple compromised by teaming elegant marble flooring – which was imported from Spain – with wool and faux fur rugs. They’ve also used understated neutral colours on the walls, which are punctuated with vibrant artworks and feature walls with striking wallpaper.

‘I decided to make a feature wall of patterned wallpaper as the focal point in our bedroom,’ says Marie. ‘By using the same taupe shade as the wallpaper detail on the carpet and headboard, I created a unified, restful scheme.’

She and Conor are thrilled with their completed project. As Marie says: ‘We put our heart and soul into the house to make it our dream home. It’s everything we wanted and we really enjoyed creating it.’

The costs

Building work£140,000
Fixtures and fittings£27,000
Furniture and accessories£14,000
Garden redesign£7,000