A stunning home thanks to sheer determination and TLC!

Fiona Kelly talks to Build & Renovate

Story Highlights
  • "The house would have ended up falling down!"
  • "I didn't find working on the house daunting at all."

Dublin born Fiona Kelly has serious ambition. Having purchased a dilapidated Georgian terraced house in the heart of Phibsborough in North Dublin, she had a mammoth project on her hands. With slanted door frames, crooked floors and a tumbling roof, Ms Kelly and her building contractor Philip took on a building that was on the brink of collapse.

Once an impressive townhouse for a well-to-do tradesman, Fiona’s house has been witness to the passing fortunes and misfortunes of Dublin over the centuries and was occupied as a tenement home right up to the 1960’s.

Initially her time frame for the project was a rather ambitious six months but with problem after problem, the timeline expanded to deal with the challenges the building presented. Rain-soaked and rotten in parts, this building presented big challenges but it is now a stunning home thanks to sheer determination and a lot of TLC!

“The amount of work that went into this house and the whole team that was involved in this project saved the house. I knew the house was in a bad state but it was only when we were in the final stages of stripping everything back that we realised how bad a state the house was in! If I hadn’t come along when I did, the house would have ended up falling down,” said Fiona Kelly.

“I love architecture and I’ve always had a love of old houses, modern architecture and mid-century along with everything in between. I was familiar with this house and I loved it because it looked like it was a live in property rather than an office and the fact that it had great potential.

“As this house was derelict and in such bad shape, it was a blank canvas but I had to really come up with creative solutions and answers to some of the problems and questions that the house posed for instance with the crooked floors on one side of the house!

The house also came with a garden and that is quite uncommon in the city,” added Ms Kelly.

“My mind was set on the house from the moment I saw it and I could see broadly what I was going to do with the house and the house is now what I thought it would be. My family, friends and even the contractor over the house had said that I was very patient but patience isn’t my virtue at all but I do love a challenge and there was no point in trying to convince anyone else of what I was going to do as the house was for me.

“When we were fixing the roof I did wonder if this project was too far gone and the two walls in one corner basically walked away from each other and you could see daylight in the corner but other than that I didn’t find working on the house daunting at all, I loved it,” she enthused.

The house needed to be functional as well and I’m delighted with it. I have it restored to the way it should be. The old panels and plaster work is similar to the Tenement Museum in New York. People are always surprised when I open the front door and they see the inside of the house. So many of the original features were destroyed over the years so anything I could do to retain some of the remaining features but also marry it with the new was really important so the house is an eclectic mix of stuff but it works for what I was trying to achieve.

As to whether she would change anything about the house?

“I’ve never done any work to a house, let alone a restoration! The basement would be the most transformed part of the house. Upon reflection, there would be nothing major that I would change other than the placement of sockets but there isn’t anything that I would change drastically! We’re going to start working on the garden now. I’m adding bits of furniture and art to the house as I go,” imparted Fiona.

In terms of any advice Ms Kelly would offer to anyone who is about to embark on a project of a similar description?!

“If it is a job like mine do your research for grants and tax breaks, don’t take no for an answer when it comes to different tasks being done and in most instances those tasks can be done even if it means doing some rescheduling and hire a Quantity Surveyor as they are invaluable to a project,” concluded Fiona Kelly.

“It was a pleasure to work Fiona because her love for the building was evident in every decision she made throughout the project,” said Peter Finn of MDS Construction.

“We are delighted that the house has been deservedly showcased on ‘The Great House Revival on RTÉ One along with other media articles.

“It is great to see Fiona’s commitment to the restoration is being recognised!,” concluded Peter Finn.


    Michael Duffy & Sons Construction

    Maol Íosa Molloy & Caitríona Shaffrey

    Leonard & Williams

    Adrian Culliney

    Dublin Sash
    Dirk: 087-7402923
    Joe: 087-7773520


    Belle Cheminee

    Words: Emer KellyImages: Fiona Kelly

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