Digging in Pearse Street: How Digging Under a Regency Block Made the Worst Ground the Best

Sometimes you really have to dig deep to make a house work for you.

When Donncha and Ellie MacConmara purchased No134, a Regency Terrace on Dublin’s Pearse Street, in 2015, it ticked all the boxes.

“We wanted something in the city center where we could socialize and be close to everything. But we also wanted some private outdoor space, which is really hard to find in a downtown home,” says Donncha. “We lived in Portobello which was fairly central but Pearse Street is more convenient to everything whether it’s Croke Park, Bord Gáis Theater or St Stephen’s Green and all the restaurants, cafes and pubs you could want.”


The dining area and the stairs

The basement two-story house dates from the 1820s on what was then Great Brunswick Street. But 200 years ago people were much smaller. “The big problem was the basement,” says Ellie. “A kitchen with very low ceilings and very dark. And also a very large bathroom. It was definitely the worst part of the house. We wanted a modern, open-plan kitchen and dining area for entertaining, but we didn’t have that.” Adds Donncha, “The ceiling in the basement was so low that if you stood on tiptoe, your head would touch it.”

Luckily a previous owner had done most of the heavy lifting required to bring a building of this age into the 21st century, not least repairing the roof and replacing the shutters with fully working replica authentic versions.

The MacConmaras decided to bite the bullet to tick the final box and fund a tricky and expensive change that involved a process normally reserved for buildings suffering from subsidence.

“We decided to shore up the whole house and then excavate to open up the basement room,” says Donncha. They turned to architect Declan Scullion to oversee this very delicate operation. And it turned out to be an overwhelming success.

“Not only did we give the basement that extra ceiling height, but we also ripped down the wall between the old kitchen and bathroom and opened it up to create our open space for cooking, living, and entertaining,” says Ellie. “And so the worst rooms in our house became the best rooms we’ve used the most since.”


The Regency facade on Pearse Street

Ever since, Donncha, a finance professional, and Ellie, a business consultant, have enjoyed hosting dinners and parties on this floor, which blends easily with this garden. ‘The garden faces south and gets the sun for most of the day, even in winter, and this heat penetrates into the kitchen. We really benefited from it from a fun perspective, and later, since the kids arrived, it’s provided them with a safe outdoor space to play,” says Ellie.

The couple also took advantage of the southerly sunshine to deliver produce for the new kitchen table. The truncated garden path was the perfect border for vegetable beds.

“We’ve tried growing our own, like butternut squash, onions and raspberries, and we really liked that. I can’t think of many downtown properties that have a vegetable garden,” says Donncha.

“I spoke to a guy whose grandparents used to live here and he told me that they always grew their own vegetables in the garden, so it’s interesting that we continued that tradition without knowing it.”

But when their two children arrived in recent years, they turned the garden into lawns and paths to give them space to play. There is also a pedestrian entrance at the end, leading in from an alley at the back.


The garden where they grew their vegetables and had parties

“The other great thing about the garden is those high walls, it’s incredibly private,” says Donncha.

The history of this house shows extensive use by several families. The 1901 census shows there were three routes: Elizabeth Conroy, a 30-year-old widow with two young children who ran a small boarding house, rented rooms to English jeweler brothers Ernest (25) and Joseph (30) Noel, and a Scottish Woodturner named Robert Mungis (29). She was supported by her servant Bridget Rooney (21). Elsewhere in the house lived William Greaves, 34, a fishmonger, and his wife Bridget, 33, a housekeeper, and in another part lived Mathew O’Shea, 23, a carpenter, and Ellen O’Shea, 22 ), a housekeeper.


The front bedroom with working shutters

The children need more space and Ellie, who is American, also hopes that her family from the USA will visit and stay more often. “We’re going to need more space,” she says. “So we’re selling and looking for something bigger, maybe by the sea this time.”

On the entry level is a tiled hall with restored tile floors, exposed brick and a stained glass skylight. The living room has its original fireplace, high ceilings and a sash window with hardwood floors. Bedroom three, a double, is on this level as is the main bathroom with bath and shower.


Donncha and Ellie MacConmara in their tiled hall. Photo by Bryan Meade

Down through an open plan staircase is the open plan kitchen and dining room with built in shelving and under stairs storage, bespoke units and a Belfast sink, fridge freezer, Bosch double oven, microwave, hob and extractor.

There is a utility room and a downstairs toilet. On the second floor is the master bedroom with two sash windows and shutters, cornices, high ceilings, fitted wardrobes and hardwood floors. And there’s a similarly appointed, south-facing double bedroom in a home that spans nearly 1,300 square feet.

Owen Reilly demands 775,000 euros.

https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/digging-down-in-pearse-st-how-excavating-under-a-regency-pad-turned-the-worst-floor-into-the-best-42065072.html Digging in Pearse Street: How Digging Under a Regency Block Made the Worst Ground the Best

Fry Electronics Team

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