‘It is our dream home’: one couple’s 15-month labour of love to transform a 1970s house

The Nolan family called in the experts to maximise their home’s corner location, embracing colour and textures to create a warm family space

With three young children, Laura and Ian Nolan were keen to find a house with enough space for their family to grow. So, when they came across a 1970s house in the perfect location in Castleknock, Dublin, they knew it was the right choice for them, despite the fact that a lot of work needed to be done.

“We were drawn to the size of the house and its corner location, which gives it a large garden, both at the front and the back,” says Laura.

“We have three children who are growing up, so we also wanted to move to a bigger house which had more space for us, so it was perfect. Also, the fact that the house is located right beside the Phoenix Park was another of the things we love about it”.

The couple bought their home in 2022 and quickly started working on the renovation.

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“It is an old house from the 1970s, so we knew from the beginning that we wanted to put our own stamp on it – and to do that, we decided on a large refurbishment and extension,” she says.

The couple worked with the architects at Optimise Design, an architecture and interior design firm, to create an open feeling in the house, with as much light as possible. Interior designer Caroline Flannery helped with the interiors.

“We knew we wanted strong, rich textures and colours to complement the concrete floors and she did an amazing job achieving that,” says Laura.

Optimise Design’s Denise O’Connor says the main goal was to create a contemporary home, that would adapt to the family’s changing needs over time.

“Our design included creating a spacious, open-plan living area that integrated the kitchen and dining space, as well as a connection to the garden. We also converted the attic to maximise the available living space,” she says.

To enhance the natural light, the architecture firm incorporated strategic design elements to counter its north-facing orientation, such as a double-height kitchen space, which included high-level glazing.

Once the architectural work was done, achieving the perfect decor and look was the next step.

Ensuring she got the brief exactly how her clients wanted it, interior designer Flannery, who has been in the business for 25 years, says she made sure to keep them involved at every stage of the process to make sure that they were always happy with how it was evolving.

The couple wanted their home to feel warm and cosy with lots of colour and personality.

“They are both creative people who love music and art and it was important to them that their piano was included in the design – this was, in fact, one of the only pieces of furniture which was brought from their previous home, as all of the remaining furniture and lighting were sourced by Interiors by Caroline and some pieces were designed specifically for the space, so they were made bespoke,” says Flannery.

During the process, designs were presented to Laura and Ian as 3D drawings, with accompanying mood boards and real-life samples of materials such as paints and fabrics. Paint colours were selected for the entire house, “keeping a fine balance between neutral and impactful,” says Flannery.

In the open plan kitchen/dining/living area, they went for a deep forest green, Puck by Little Greene, while on the double height kitchen wall and island, the remaining walls were painted in a soft neutral, Slaked Lime by Little Greene.

On the opposite end of this long room the forest green was introduced again, this time on the joinery, “to create a subtle link to the kitchen and garden but contrasting it with the luxurious ruby velvet sofa, made bespoke, and the colourful vintage Boujad rug sourced directly from Morocco”.

Although the final result looks effortless, Flannery says that some of the effects took a long time to create.

“I particularly like the sculptural lighting over the island and how each piece gently moves with the slightest breeze, creating interesting shadows on the walls,” Flannery says.

“Each piece is handcrafted from recycled cardboard but appears elegant and robust. The light effect is very warm and ambient but I would rather forget how many hours it took myself and the electricians to get each piece hanging at just the right length.”

While art is an important part of the overall design aesthetic, as Laura and Ian are just starting their collection, Flannery took a longer term view on this particular aspect, and simply suggested positioning and sizing for pieces only.

“They can spend the rest of their lives leisurely taking their time to find the right artworks to fill up those gorgeous walls,” she says.

With the renovation Gods smiling down on them, there were no problems during the project. Ian says it was worth all the effort, and family is delighted with it.

“It was a large job as the renovations took over 15 months to complete,” he says. “And although the architects ran the project for the most part, we were involved throughout the whole process.

“We were lucky we didn’t have to live in the house during renovations, as we stayed in our old house in Clonsilla until the work was complete and then we moved in.

“We are absolutely thrilled with how it turned out – it is a dream home. Caroline has helped us to make it unique and colourful with a sense of fun. It really is a great family house and our kids love it too.”

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