Can you bring up a young family in the city?
Behind the charming green door of this little terraced city cottage lies a colourful and creative answer to this question. Having purchased their home as singletons in the city, the Redmonds faced the inevitable questions of space and location suitability when the next generation were coming along. They decided to stay in Newcomen Avenue and adapt the cottage to their growing families needs.
Having purchased the cottage in 1998, 2 Newcomen Avenue the cottage was the perfect city base for a young urban couple. The conversion of the basement coal room into a naturally soundproofed living room provided an ideal room for house parties & entertainment. This required lowering the level of the floor and all hands on deck from family and friends.
How long have you owned the cottage?
The Redmonds purchased the cottage in 1998. There had already been extensive work done to the cottage so not very much of the original features were left. The only original feature that they did discover during their renovations was some original wallpaper.
What is the history / age of the cottage?
The cottage dates back to either 1847 or 1848 so 2017 is it’s 170th year anniversary. Number 1 Newcomen Avenue has been a car garage since the 1980 and is now used for advertising hoarding out on to the main North Strand Road. There have been several rumblings of redevelopment over the years and planning permission appears to be underway for apartments.
It was Paul who mentioned to me about the fascinating discovery that number 5 Newcomen Avenue was most likely a later addition to the street and may have been originally been the main roadway that crossed the river before North Strand Road. See here for more details on North Strand Road
Did you renovate with a contractor or self build?
Paul did all of the renovations himself, slowly over time. Family and friends were brought in to help with some of the heavier work such as digging out the floor of the basement coal bunker to create a naturally soundproofed living room. Before family this room was the ultimate hangover room – cosy and dark and now it is in the process of becoming a cinema room for everyone.
The cottage originally had a beautiful reasonably long garden but as the couple had less and less time to tend the garden and more need for space the garden the space evolved. First a shed was built on the back wall and over time this extended across right across the back of the property. Eventually it made sense to build a hall connecting the shed to the house which contains neatly hidden utilities such as the toilet, washing machine & dryers as well as extra storage.
The shed at the back of the house has also evolved from initially being the playroom to becoming a fully functioning part of the house. Paul has his home based cake decorating business operating out of the far side of the shed – now extension and their daughter Amber’s beautiful pink bedroom occupies the remainder.
Creativity is everywhere in this house with everyone’s personalities stamped on their spaces. Amber’s room is a young girls dream with bright pinks, romantic canopy and a beautiful workspace. Cody’s room by contrast is bright colours with disco lighting, a bunk bed for sleepovers and a very cool raised reading platform. These rooms are inspirational creative castles where dreams are made.
Probably the most beautiful and exciting part of this house is the use the Paul has made of the roof space. Over the extension beyond the kitchen he created a small but perfectly formed entertaining deck. Overlooking Croke Park this space comes in very handy for a few drinks with friends when the big bands roll into town. Even without the gigs the space is very relaxing and adds a whole new dimension to the entertaining space of the house. Over the connecting hallway, Paul has built a little section with three raised beds to continue with his green fingers – though he is also a member of the wonderful Mud Island Community Garden nearby.
And lastly, over the converted shed is an absolute triumph of a wildflower garden. This wildflower garden frames the entire space, is zero maintenance and of course is hugely beneficial for bees and wildlife in an urban setting. It brings so much colour and warmth to entire house and provides a beautiful backdrop to the relaxing deck area. Such a simple idea, so well executed.
One of the things I loved the most about this renovation is how flexible the design is without large costs. Paul built everything to suit their needs using whatever he had at hand. Knowing the Irish weather – the courtyard area can be covered over with a tarp providing extra outdoor space for any gatherings they might have that could be dampened by the rain. It bears repeating – simple ideas, so well executed!
How much did the renovation cost?
There was never any set budget for this renovation and the work was done when the funds were available. This was an organic process that evolved with the family of the year. Paul also stressed the huge amount of help he received from his local builders providers – Kelly’s on North Strand Road who were always fantastic with advice, suggestions and help when needed. That is the beauty of local businesses who are personally motivated by their customers successes – we really need to fight to support them and keep them in business as the large chains move in.
What were some of the main issues that you faced with the renovation?
When extending the back of the cottage – the plan was to remove the large, thick rear outer wall to create a big bright kitchen, living room area with windows out to the garden. The plan was to replace the wall with a steel beam. However, he noticed that the wall was not 100% straight so he sought advice from a builder friend who advised against touching that rear wall. Although it is strong and safe, the bow in the wall was caused by the impact of the blast from the North Strand Bombings. Destabilising that wall could have serious knock on effects for the rest of the house so they decided to incorporate it into the design and now have three different functional areas as a result – the kitchen, an office area and a games storage area for the kids.
What could have been seen as a source of frustration in the design was transformed with some clever thinking into a beautiful feature and provided even more usable space for the family.
Have you any advice for people considering renovating a city cottage?
Do it right first time – spend what you can where it counts most and if in doubt get some expert advice.
Knowing how close he is to the canal and the issues of dampness faced by other homes in the area one of the best decisions Paul made was to get a professional company in to take care of the damp proofing. He went with the Damp Store and has never had an issue since.
So much of the courtyard is covered in large panels of glass and if Paul had his time over he would have invested in the most highly rated, efficient glass possible. This would have been a huge added expense but is a good example of where more spent initially would have paid off in the long run on heating bills. It is a small price to pay for the incredible journey this house has been on.
Reflecting Paul’s playful and practical personality, throughout the renovation there were three reactions to problems that they faced:
- F**k it
- It’s a feature
- Lets go to the pub
Between these three reactions, they managed to overcome all of the issues that renovating an old cottage can through at you. Sometimes you have to accept its quirks, sometimes the quirks become invaluable features and when all else fails, put down the hammer and go relax with friends.
As for raising a family in the city – Paul has found a completely new community that he never knew before as a result of having a family in Newcomen Court. From the wonderful Mud Island community garden, to the school gates, local residents associations and even street feasts every year they have become a part of the wider community.
There is something wonderful about a family growing together with their home and that is the most beautiful thing of all about #2 Newcomen Court.
As fellow house renovators, loving Paul’s three methods of getting through the renovation! Very enjoyable post and great to hear Paul and his family have found some a welcoming community within the city.