Irelands Home Interiors & Living July 2012

Riverside Retreat

This Dublin stone cottage on the banks of the river Liffey was the family home of interior designer Anthony Buggy and his wife Pauline still remembers vividly the first time she saw it. And it’s no surprise why.

I remember walking through the hall into the kitchen at the back of the house and being astonished by the stunning view of the river just at the bottom of the garden. I thought it was the most amazing location, in the heart of Dublin city but with the river at your back door.’ Pauline and Anthony married and went to live in Australia. Anthony’s mother continued to live in the cottage but in 1995, at the age of 70, she was thinking of selling up and moving to a smaller, easy-to- manage apartment and Anthony’s heartstrings were tugged at the idea of his home going out of the family, he really didn’t want it to be sold. The couple came up with the idea of living as an extended family and discussed it with Anthony’s mother; the upshot was that they decided to come home with their two small girls to live there.

Anthony’s mother was happy with the whole plan, she didn’t want to continue living on her own, but loved the idea of staying in her homewith family. However, to accommodate the whole family some work was needed on the house first. The whole family started working on plans with an architect, who came up with a fabulous scheme that they all liked, a very contemporary u-shaped plan around a courtyard with completely glazed walls, facing the river. The only problem at the time was the cost, it required pile-driving for the foundations, and that alone was costing €40,000 before they even started to build. Pauline and Anthony were living in a rented apartment and were not in a big hurry so they just let it lie for a while. A few years later they decided to consult another architect, and she had different ideas, she was keen on the project remaining more in keeping with the original cottage, she used cheaper raft foundations and French doors instead of the glazed walls. They applied for planning permission, got it, and so the build began.

Everything was demolished but the front facade and the side walls. The house plan was reversed as the original layout had the living room to the front of the house and the couple wanted a large living room to the rear, opening out onto the garden and the river view. The front of the house opens onto a city street with constant traffic, so they wanted the peace and quiet of the river and that amazing view for the main living space. The kitchen was relocated and a ‘temporary’ kitchen put in as they couldn’t then afford the Miele kitchen they both really wanted. Electric underfloor heating and ceiling level heating, both very new concepts at the time, were installed too. But not everything went to plan, as Pauline remembers. ‘We went on holiday during the renovation for a couple of weeks and left a project manager in charge. When we came back the fitter was putting in the new timber floor and came to us saying, ‘there’s something wrong here with the levels, if I put this floor in, you won’t be able to open the doors.’

Anthony was really annoyed as he had gone through all the levels before he left, but the whole thing had been completely messed up. He told everyone to leave the house immediately and hired a machine to sand down the concrete levels. He spent four days in there sanding down the levels gradually that the fall is invisible and gained back 10mm clearance, but it was very hard work and he was not a bit pleased!’ That wasn’t the end of their problems though, they found they weren’t really happy with the living room layout of the architect plan. ‘We wanted to have a large glazed area to the river, but the architect had persuaded us that French doors were more in keeping.

The doors didn’t maximize the view of the river at all though, and having two sets of French doors and two windows, one either side, led us into a whole area of complicated
window treatments that weren’t at all ‘us’, quite twee in fact, and very expensive; the fabric alone for the curtains cost €1,500 and we didn’t even like them!’ says Pauline. ‘I
found it annoying that I couldn’t actually see that fantastic river view from my favourite armchair, so Anthony started to think of ways to open out the room more. He went off to a trade show in 2006 and saw these fabulous concertina doors by the Danish company Vrogum and we decided to have them installed. Then since we were starting work and pulling down walls, we looked at the other things that we wanted to have done at the same time.’
Once again they sat down to plan and looked at everyone in the family, what they wanted and needed. Anthony’s mother had always loved the reversal of the house plan, and she loved to sit in the living room and look at the river, so she was excited by the idea of opening up the living room even more, although sadly she only lived another year. Pauline felt the girls needed somewhere to sit with their friends without going down to their bedroom, so that was what kicked off the idea of the dining extension and seating area to the side of the house. That area had been a passageway to bring in the canoes from the street to the river, and was used for nothing else so Anthony suggested building with timber framing across the passageway with double doors at either end so that the canoes could still be carried in. Anthony and Pauline both wanted to have a new Miele kitchen, something a bit different and they fell in love with the red gloss in the showrooms. New timber floors were also added throughout and the family bathroom got a revamp.

Interior designer Anthony is the one who comes up with the schemes for décor, but has to have any idea passed by the family where he either gets shouted down, or it’s ‘OK, Dad, sounds good, let’s try it.’ Anthony also loves furniture, especially midcentury classics, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s which he has an absolute passion for. When he first started the interior design company ‘Think Contemporary’ (thinkcontemporary.com) he and business partner Joanne Kelly would buy old pieces and upcycle them to sell on their website and in markets, attracting attention and building a profile for the firm, it worked really well for garnering publicity, and Anthony has kept some of the pieces and are displayed throughout the house. ‘We love it here, we have put so much work into the place we could never leave, and anyway where would we ever find anything like it again, right on the river in the middle of the city?’ asks Pauline. ‘The house is very practical and has lots of storage space, we have plenty of room now for the family and for guests, and I can see the river from my armchair throughout the seasons, you could never replace that.’

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