Open House 2011 - Beyond These Hall Doors,

08 October 2011

INTERIORS:   It’s Open House weekend, an opportunity for the public to snoop around some of Dublin’s best-designed private buildings, writes EMMA CULLINAN

NORMALLY ARCHITECTS WORK on a project and then hand it over, but with this house in Stoneybatter, Dublin, Peter Carroll of A2 Architects got to live in his creation. “When I woke up each morning, it felt strange for the first three or four months, thinking it had been drawn up in the office only a few months previously. But I have to recommend it – it is a wonderful thing to be able to do that.”

The project came about after Carroll and two friends – an architect and a musician – joined together to buy a house on Aughrim Street with a 40-metre garden that backed on to this lane, then unnamed, where farmers used to park their vehicles before selling cattle in a nearby market.

The trio always knew there would be potential to build here, due to the sizeable plot, an area development plan that favoured a coherent street here, and because the site was southwest oriented, something that O’Carroll has used and benefited from in the house design. The sun (when it’s there) dazzles all day long, coming into the open-plan living/kitchen area upstairs (with glass walls at either end). It rises over an east terrace by the dining area in the morning and sets across a terrace at the other side of the house.

Things get so warm upstairs that when I visited in a snowstorm last winter, tomatoes were still happily growing beside the kitchen. Carroll has successfully grown grape vines up here. “I might start an exotic fruit business,” he laughs. Copious amounts of insulation in the house help to keep things cosy, as does underfloor heating powered by an air-source heat system that takes air from outside, and compresses and warms it. There are no carbon fuels used in the house.

Downstairs are two bedrooms and a study, and a bathroom with floor-to-ceiling tiles (from Gilroy Tiles), with a Moorish feel recalling the time Carroll worked in Spain, with the architect Rafael Moneo.

Also downstairs is a large square entrance hall, a grand gesture in a 109sq m (1,100sq ft) home. “The hall is in the centre of the house and I didn’t want a small and pokey space. It’s an ambiguous area where you can sit in summer or use as a study. It’s always nice to give houses a more generous welcoming space than a compressed corridor which generally tends to be the case with spec houses in Ireland,” says Carroll, who also upscaled the doors through the house. “You get a good flow from one room to another, which is quite important in a relatively small house.” One birch door that wasn’t used is now the dining table, propped up by ash trestles that were being thrown out by the architecture school at UCD.

The rest of the furniture, apart from the built-in plywood kitchen and bedroom wardrobes, came either from Oxfam Home on Francis Street, a pop-up shop on the quays, or from friends. Some of his friends have certainly come up with the goods; one of his chairs is by Eames, and a Parker Knoll sofa came from “someone who had far too many couches for their own good”. Furniture designer Charles O’Toole has also given him pieces on long-term loan. The dining chairs came from a pop-up shop called Pre-loved. When Carroll asked how much the 1960s dining chairs were, the owner said “€25,” so Peter said, “Okay, so four makes €100,” and the man said, no, it was €25 for the lot.

The furniture sits against a stark backdrop in which the brickwork upstairs, the breezeblocks downstairs and the plastered ceiling are unpainted. The floor upstairs is made from upside down decking boards, which are the right way up – exposing the ribbing – on the adjoining terraces.

The house was built on a budget of €260,000, leading to many tough cost decisions, and Carroll has praise for his contractor Multibuild Projects, whose staff were very conscientious with the off-standard detailing through the house.

The house, designed along with the one next door by A2 Architects, which Carroll runs with Caomhán Murphy, wasn’t designed specifically for him but rather as a spec house for an urban back lane, linked to the scale of the artisan dwellings around it. But it suits him. “As an architect you rarely get to live in your work. You are always designing for other people and you almost don’t want to give the projects away. Now I’ve lived here,” he jokes, “I’m thinking of writing into future contracts that we can stay in the houses we design rather than hand them over.”

Open doors: this weekend

Lucky Lane, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, A2 Architects (Today, 10am-5pm)

A-House by FKL Architects, Rathmines, Dublin 6 (Today, 2-5pm), pre-book (see below)

4 Avoca Terrace, Blackrock, former home of Flann O’Brien (Tomorrow, noon-5pm)

Extension by Carson and Crushell, 70 Coolamber Park, Knocklyon, Dublin 16 (Today, 2-5pm)

Georgian house, 25 Eustace Street, Temple Bar (Today, 10am-4pm)

Hedge House by GKMP Architects, Northbrook Lane, Ranelagh, Dublin 6 (Today, 2-5pm)

Extension Cast Architecture, 36 Farney Park, Sandymount, Dublin 4 (Today, 10am-5pm)

House on Mount Anville, Dublin 14 by Aughey O’Flaherty Architects (Today, 10am-1pm), pre-book

Museum flat by McDonnell Reid/Joseph Smithem, 3b Iveagh Trust, Bull Alley Estate, Patrick Street, Dublin 8 (Today, 11am-1pm and 2-5pm)

Lis-na-Carrig by Robin Mandal Architects, Coliemore Road, Dalkey (Tomorrow, noon-5pm), pre-book

Martello Tower at Bartra Rock by Royal Engineers, refurbished by Simone Stephenson, Dalkey (Tomorrow, noon-5pm)

Meander by Alan Máirín Hope, Westminster Avenue, Foxrock (Tomorrow, 2-5pm), pre-book

10 Henrietta Street, Dublin 1 refurbished by Campbell Conroy Hickey (Today, 2-5pm)

11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 (Tomorrow, 2-5pm)

13 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 (Tomorrow, noon-5pm)

40 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 (Tomorrow, noon-5pm)

50 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 (Tomorrow, noon-1pm and 2-3pm)

1 Nuns Lane, Abbeyfield, Killester, Dublin 5 by Donal Hickey Architects (Tomorrow, noon-5pm)

31 Leeson Close, Dublin 2 by Sam Stephenson (Tomorrow, noon-5pm)

French Ambassador’s Residence, 53 Ailesbury Road, Dublin 4 (Today, 10am-5pm), pre-book

The Cupboard House, 68A Vernon Avenue, Dublin 3 by Architecture Republic (Tomorrow, 10am-5pm), pre-book

The Plastic House, 26 Spencer Street North, Dublin 3 by Architecture Republic (Tomorrow, 10am-5pm

The Shack, Thormanby Road, Howth by PAC Studio (Tomorrow, noon-5pm), pre-book

Three into Two, 30 Reginald Street, Dublin 8 by Brian O’Brien/Solearth Ecological Architecture (Today, 2-5pm)

99 Rathgar Road, Dublin 6 by Donaghy and Dimond Architects (Today, 10am-1pm)

Merrion Mews, 63 Fitzwilliam Lane, Dublin 2 by Shaffrey Associates (Today, 10am-4pm)

For visits that must be pre-booked, see

Please note that the last tours are usually half an hour before the closing time listed. For more, see


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