The dark attic lit up by a little interior inspiration

In a world where remote working is fast becoming the norm, living beyond the capital’s commuter belt and retaining a small city pad might well be the shape of things to come. For a business owner in the Midlands, keeping a city pied à terre has long proved a wily move.

“We live in the country and in a quiet little place, but we have business interests in Dublin,” says the owner, who has a boutique hotel business in the midlands. Having bought the four-storey building on South Frederick Street in Dublin 2 as an investment property some years before, she decided to rent the accommodations on the first three floors and retain the attic as a bolthole for the family. But the 55sq m flat felt more pokey than cosy.

South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett

“We didn’t actually spend much time in it as it wasn’t all that nice,” she admits. “We decided to spend a little bit of money to do it up properly. We wanted to get advice on how to do up the place properly – because of the angles and the sloped ceilings it was difficult for me to visualise doing it on my own.”

With a budget of around €35,000 in mind, the property owner engaged interior designer Caroline Flannery (interiorsbycaroline.ie) with a view to putting “more architectural hand” on the project. The brief was deceptively simple: maximise the limited living space.

“It was a really awkward space, with lots of slopes and nooks and crannies, which are notoriously difficult to design anyway,” Flannery recalls. “It’s hard to get furniture that fits into the nooks and crannies – it can end up looking a bit hodgepodge and cluttered. We had to figure out a way to make the space work for an owner, who wanted to use the flat to socialise and relax.”

South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett

Flannery’s first port of call was to build usable spaces into the nooks. “We built a breakfast bar into the living room, and on the other side, we created a library with a little bench that works as a versatile space.”

Mindful of creating the illusion of space, Flannery used the motto “the eye has to travel”. She removed the existing dark wooden floors for a lighter wood, and removed pendant lighting in favour of uplighters and downlighters built into several of the nooks.

“In the hallway, the brass light fittings now draw the eye up, and painted the ceiling with the darkest colours in the wallpaper that was already there. The trick is to create a sense of wholeness and bring your eye to the ceiling,” Flannery explains.

South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St attic. Photograph: Thomas Leggett
South Frederick St attic. Photograph: Thomas Leggett

Bold colours dominate the formerly neutral space, and cohesion between the different rooms was key. Aside from the enlivening Down Pipe paint (Farrow & Ball) in the hallway,

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Stone house in Kalorama neighborhood had floor space hiding in the attic

“I kind of kept my eye out for something, and then I saw this house,” she said. “I grew up in a stone house. I love that.”

Architect John Edgar Sohl designed the house, and William P. Lipscomb built it for Mary Lawrence in 1926. Lawrence sold the house in 1937 to W. Campbell Armstrong, a lawyer. The next buyer was Emlen K. Davies, the first wife of Joseph E. Davies, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, who is perhaps better known as Marjorie Merriweather Post’s third husband. Davies was also the grandmother of U.S. Sen. Joseph D. Tydings (D-Md.)

Distinguished homes for sale in the D.C. region

Kalorama House | Architect Christian Zapatka designed the renovation of the 1926 stone house in the Kalorama neighborhood. It is listed at just under $5.6 million. (Studio Trejo)

Max Weinberg, drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, bought the house in 2016 with plans to renovate it. “I’ve bought and sold about 36 homes, lived in maybe like three of them,” Weinberg told the Wall Street Journal at the time.

But after renting it out for a year, Weinberg put it back on the market without renovating it. Ourisman scooped it up in March 2017.

“I went into the house and was like, ‘Wow, this would be a great project. It hasn’t been touched at all,’ ” she said. “But then what sold me on the house was I went up on this pull-down ladder thing to the attic and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, why is there so much space up here?’ ”

Ourisman hired architect Christian Zapatka, who has transformed several houses in the neighborhood. He discovered the original blueprints for the house.

“It’s not a huge footprint, but it’s a very gracious and elegant house,” he said. “The intention was to preserve and enhance the best of the historic components and then continue that staircase as if it had always been there, gaining a true third floor.”

The biggest challenge of the renovation was extending the curved staircase, with its brass handrail, not only up to the third floor but also down into the lower level. Ourisman said they went through about 10 scenarios before they figured out a way to make it look like it had always been there.

Using her family’s connections, Ourisman brought in Emily Bourgeois to design the kitchen and bathrooms and Ben Page of Page Duke Landscape Architects, who designed the grounds at the vice president’s residence, to plan the outdoor spaces.

By adding a third floor, Ourisman increased the size of the house by more than 2,000 square feet and gained two bedrooms.

But in this house, it is not just what was added but what was kept — brass hardware on the doors that sparkles like jewelry, architectural details in the living room and an opulent mirror above the living room fireplace.

“It has a bit of a Hollywood Regency quality,” Zapatka said of the mirror. “All that trim work in the living

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