It’s not often we get the opportunity to share such a unique house tour with you guys, and this one is even more special because it’s a complete renovation. Interior designer Carla Bendetti’s Monkstown stable conversion is the definition of a labour of love. She has shared her experience of making over this space with us in full, and it’s been quite the journey for her.
For any of you considering undertaking a project like this, her advice is second to none. Check out Carla’s Stable conversion.
Tell us all about this house. How did you come to live here and what kind of condition was it in when you moved in?
Design is such an important part of my life. I would much rather buy a property in disrepair than pay for someone else’s style and we were just lucky that this property happened to be on the market at the same time that we were looking!
Re-designing my own property is really refreshing as I don’t have to communicate what’s in my head as I’m the client.
Visually, it looked like it was in good condition but once we had it surveyed we realised there was a lot of dampness as the walls were covered with a non-breathable membrane and over the years the mortar had been spot patched in places with cement which prevented the flow of moisture into and out of the stone walls.
The roof appeared to be okay initially but once we pared everything back, it was evident that it also had to be redone.
Talk to us about the conversion – how did you know where to start?
It was clear from the outset that the kitchen needed to be swopped with the sitting room. There was a hidden, blocked up chimney where the kitchen was and it made sense to open it up and change it to the sitting room.
The property was originally a building for keeping horses, with a bull barn behind the house. By creating an opening from the kitchen and knocking the side wall of the bull barn, we were able to build a small extension to have a downstairs wet room and toilet.
Upstairs the roof is pitched but the ceilings were squared off so I wanted to open up the ceilings to double height.
Lastly there were two small ensuite bathrooms off both bedrooms. We reconfigured the landing upstairs to make a large, single curved bathroom, which was a better use of space.
We had help from a colleague to manage the project so he was able to get the workers for us. Most of the work was very bespoke so it took over two years for the project to be complete. In terms of the materials; I sourced everything by visiting salvage yards and trawling the internet. I also have a large bank of sources from my own work.
What were some of the stumbling blocks you had while working on it?
There were so many more blocks than I had expected! It was really hard work at times as problems arose as we took the building apart which were costly despite trying to keep a tight reign on the budget.
Conveying the importance of the aesthetic and detailing which is something that I pride myself in was also difficult at times especially if workers weren’t necessarily always that way inclined and without being full time on site it was hard to manage that.
What was your biggest splurge?
The biggest splurges are all invisible!. The repointing of the house costs us a small fortune and we also had to reroof so that meant getting a new steel structure
in place beforehand. We spent quite a lot on the flooring throughout and I custom designed the raw steel stairs which were quite a large expense too.
Where did you collect the pieces in the house from?
I put a lot of thought and consideration into the materials and textures we used throughout as I wanted any new acquisitions to pay tribute to the aesthetic and original design of the house.
A lot of the furniture is either vintage or reclaimed and I have many personal pieces that I have collected over the years which I mix up together.
I chose all of my favourite materials and textures; handmade zjellig tiles Moroccan tiles, 100-year-old wide plan American pine flooring for the sitting room, salvage boards and sills for the landing, custom-made zinc window boxes, metal windows from Poland, tadelakt plaster in the main bathroom and hardware from Buster and Punch.
The island is reimagined from a hammered copper table and I had the base tiled in a vivid green hue.
For the kitchen, I wanted it to be free standing as I dislike the constraints of an expanse of presses. The range master and appliances stand alone as nice pieces and I had the kitchen cabinet made to work with the overall style. The Belfast-style sink is a crackle glaze prototype from deVol that I saw on their website which they weren’t selling but I begged them to let me have one!
We bought an amazing reclaimed sideboard from MOSA design that extends the length of the bull barn and an original sarinen tulip table with 4 chairs from Kirk modern.
Upstairs, I designed our bed and had it made. The lighting throughout was sourced from South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Poland and the UK.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to embark on a big renovation like this?
I think it’s really difficult to do a renovation on a period property without having the help from expert craftsmen and workers who really appreciate the attention to detail that a building like that needs.
Cutting corners is not an option and therefore costs can mount easily. I think you need to be 100% invested in the project beyond just a refurbishment and that careful consideration of the interiors are just as important as the structural side of the renovations. I hate when I see buildings carefully refurbished but badly furnished.
Shopping online can be worthwhile especially if there is a large markup on goods although transport costs can be an issue, it’s still worth investigating what’s out there.
What do you love about the house?
It’s quite unique to own a historical building like ours in a city. I like the rawness of the stone and the texture of the materials we used throughout. Its a privilege to be able to rebuild a building, by honoring its original style yet adding back to it in a way that creates a better home.
Where is your favourite spot in the house now?
Opening up the kitchen to the bull barn was in theory just a small addition but the opening has created a light and airy space that seem much larger than it was. I spend a lot of time listening to the radio and being with family and friends there.
Huge thanks to Carla Bendetti for sharing her story with us. If you love her style, Carla gives design advice and offers consultations, just check out her website here. Happy renovating, GAFFers!