Co. Cork | Ireland

Restoring splendour with a gothic twist

Purple Design were engaged by the clients to carry out a major refurbishment of their 1850s country house overlooking the sea in Co. Cork, Ireland. The Italianate style house forms part of a genteel curving terrace with a sweep of scenic harbour views beyond the planted gardens used for tennis and croquet back in the day. The client’s wish was that the inside of this magnificent building lives up to its architecturally distinguished exterior.

The interior architecture was designed to restore the one-time splendour of this country house abode, to a sense of grandeur and opulence. The sweeping staircase and bold crystal chandeliers lend a Gothic twist of the era. Wood panelling, ornamental plasterwork and period fireplaces bring the grandeur of the country house into the interiors.

Scope of Works

Purple Design put together the team for the renovation including the London based architect, and the contractors and structural engineers based in Cork. The project was run from our offices in London. Specialist craftsmen were flown in to carry out the specialist finishes, the bespoke kitchen and built-in joinery.

The house, dating from the early Victorian period circa 1850, had not been touched for many years and was in a very poor condition. Once the state of disrepair was fully uncovered, it was clear that the scope of works would entail extensive renovations requiring the house to be substantially rebuilt.

Following planning approval, the house was stripped back to the brick. Works to the lower ground floor included underpinning, a new damp-proof course, and lowering the floor levels to give better ceiling height to the living space. The space was reconfigured and all the internal walls and ceilings were replaced during this 18-month project. Floor levels were lowered and ceiling heights were altered, including removing the sloped raking to the ceilings in the bedrooms, to restore a sense of airy spaciousness. Doorways were heightened to add elegance to the drawing rooms.

Interior Architectural Features

The decoration was designed to create a refined impression, with an emphasis on the rich period features in the fabric of the building.

Architectural details of the period were lovingly restored to emphasise the grandeur of a country house retreat. The elegant plaster cornices, moulded architraves, tall moulded skirtings, and deep plinth blocks and timber panelling an enhanced version of the originals, creating an impression that reflects the impressive exterior of the country house

The hallway makes a dramatic entrance with polished nero marquina marble tiles laid in a flagstone module.

The two reception rooms on the ground floor were linked to create a spacious drawing room of genteel proportions and given a grand entrance with a bold ornate plaster architrave around the heightened doorway, mounted on tall plinth blocks. Bespoke tall double doors with elongated glass panels open from the hallway into the reception room.

Panelled window and door reveal detailing in the reception rooms was an enhanced version of the original and is repeated throughout the whole house for continuity. A wenge herringbone timber floor was laid as a smart luxurious flooring through the double reception room. Queen Anne armchairs upholstered in silk and a scroll-arm antique sofa covered in striped Alberto Pinto upholstery fabric, lend an air of formality to this room.

A dramatic staircase sweeps up through the house linking the three storeys of the house. Dark timber barley-twist balusters were made bespoke for the staircase, and the balusters and carved handrail were given a pewter finish, lending a Gothic impression. Tall mirrored panels on the back wall of the staircase extending from first floor all the way down to the lower ground floor level, amplify the sense of drama. An enormous Irish crystal chandelier from the eponymous ‘uncrowned queen of Irish fashion’ hangs majestically over the stairwell from the coffered ceiling on the first-floor landing.

The master bedroom upstairs features a bespoke four-poster bed covered in damask silk in gold, green and metallic bronze fabrics, evoking the Gothic theme. Another guest bedroom with an ensuite bathroom was added at garden level on the lower ground floor.

The lower ground floor open plan kitchen dining room and family living room was built by knocking three rooms into one open plan space, of similar proportions to the drawing room upstairs. The scale of the room was structurally exaggerated to give it equal importance to the formal drawing rooms upstairs, rather than a below-stairs feel originally allocated to the kitchens and scullery during the original era of the house. The floors were lowered to give a more spacious ceiling height.

The family room was wrapped in wood panelling, to create a sense of importance, and the panelling was painted in a smart dove grey, befitting the era. Cornices, high skirtings and architraves were added; the panelling proved to be a mathematical conundrum of joinery to allow for the variety of openings. Smooth honed limestone brought in from Italy was laid as flagstones throughout this level.

The dining room relaxes into contemporary furnishing, with modernist cantilevered dining chairs by Mies van der Rohe around a contemporary B&B Italia dark wood and chrome leg trestle dining table. An ethereal Italian contemporary chandelier floats above the dining table. The kitchen and bathrooms were designed to be contemporary spaces.

Internal doors were made bespoke, gloss lacquered silk oak panelled doors set into the moulded architraves giving a surprisingly modern effect, with an added twist of shadow gap detailing around them to add to their sharpness and clean lines.

The furnishings were chosen with a country house weekend retreat in mind. Comfortable bespoke sofas in lilac-grey velvet sit beside a period fireplace in the family living room, echoing the fireplace in the upstairs drawing room.

The family living room on the lower ground level opens out onto the Italianate style gardens, lending a historical formality to the house. The house is set in sloping grounds with gardens sweeping down toward the sea, so the ground-floor level at the front of the house is the first-floor level at the rear when looking out over the gardens below. This lends to the dramatic views from the bay windows of the double aspect drawing rooms onto the Italianate gardens with sweeping views of the sea beyond.

A button-back velvet chaise, designed by Purple Design and made bespoke for the house, sits in the bay window of the formal reception room with a view of the island, echoed by transparent sculptural glassware objects evoking the vista of sky and the sea. Every detail of the interior design has been held in mind.

A final flourish was a baby grand piano to enhance the elegance of the formal drawing room. The piano was re-lacquered with a low sheen and the metal parts were nickel-plated to fit in with the Art Deco style furnishings.

The renovation was designed to create interiors befitting the impressive country house set in these beautiful grounds. The grand proportions of the wood panelled living rooms and drawing rooms, invite a weekend retreat to spend time with family and guests, gathered on the linen and silk covered bespoke sofas beside the fireplaces, on the chaise enjoying the views of the bay and stepping out into the Italianate gardens.