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how we live

'It's a small space so we did a lot of homework first': Sarah's redbrick renovation in Dublin 8

Sarah lives in the 1990s two-bed with her fiancé and their dog.

About you

Name: Sarah Duggan (@portobellorenovation)
Occupation: Fashion buyer

About your home

Location: Portobello, Dublin 8
What type of house is it? A 1900s redbrick terraced house.
How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
When did you move in? October 2018
Who lives there? Myself, my fiancé and our English bulldog, Darla

What made you choose this home design over others?

We knew we wanted a bright, spacious and modern home that would be the the opposite of the rental we lived in before buying. We knew we didn’t want a fully open plan home though either – we wanted to create separate spaces that we could each escape to.

We did a lot of homework and viewed similar properties to see how they used their space and met with three different architects before landing on our choice. Our architect, Emmet Duggan Architects, had recently renovated a comparable home really close by. Looking at that project, we saw how clever you could be with small spaces.

What is your favourite place in your home?

I love the living area which adjoins our kitchen. This is probably where we spend most of our time, catching up after work, chilling in the evenings or binging on box sets with the dog next to us.

Screenshot 2020-07-13 at 17.21.16 The kitchen before the renovation. Instagram / portobellorenovation Instagram / portobellorenovation / portobellorenovation

What’s one challenge you’ve faced during your renovation?

There was one incident which we now call ‘pipegate’, but it all worked in our favour in the end. Having installed an en suite bathroom upstairs, the only internal drainage option meant that we had to step our fridge and countertops out by four inches. Our architect then suggested that instead of simply extending the countertop we could add a raised shelf at the back. We were hesitant initially but now we couldn’t live without it – it’s brilliant for storing items like hand wash, chopping boards and herbs, and keeps the main countertop clutter free.

67097848_1261745870669480_8594547619837397514_n The kitchen after the renovation, featuring the countertop shelf. Instagram / portobellorenovation Instagram / portobellorenovation / portobellorenovation

Is there any part of your home that makes it unique?

The house has some original features which we made sure to keep – the front room has a lovely curved wall detail and the backyard has a large vent that looks like a periscope! We also have a little boot scraper at the front of the house which is serving as a cute little makeshift flower box at the moment.

How does an average day start in your home right now?

I’ve always been an early bird, so I usually wake around 6.30am. I’m on doggy duty at that hour so we have some play time in the kitchen, do her daily grooming routine (any bulldog owners will know) and feed her. 

I usually start work, whether working from home or in the office, at around 8am. I set up a home working space with a flatpack Flying Elephant desk in our spare room. I really wanted a designated work space away from the rest of the house so I could switch off in the evenings and it’s been a lifesaver.

How does an average day end in your home right now? 

If I’ve been working from home I try to get out in the evenings for a long walk to explore the neighbourhood or do a gym class via Zoom. After that, I usually relax and wind down in our living/kitchen area with a box set. I’m definitely someone who needs their 8 hours of sleep so try to be asleep by 10pm.

84111981_611596182968276_5347035468478724402_n Darla on the couch. Instagram / portobellorenovation Instagram / portobellorenovation / portobellorenovation

Is there anything you’d do differently if you were designing/decorating this home again?

I’d put some more time into planning our lighting and electrics. They’re perfectly fine, but if we had planned electrics and lighting concepts earlier, we could have had some really interesting features and more discreet plugs to hide wires and cords.

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