Moving from Vancouver to Dublin was always going to be an adventure, and the process of finding accommodation would be difficult, but when Hayley Spurr gained a place to study in The College of Surgeons, she couldn’t wait. However, the rental prices for accommodation gave her pause for thought. ‘I quickly realised that over the years I would be spending a lot of money renting in Dublin. As I was lucky enough to have the support of my family, it seemed a more sensible option to look for somewhere that I could buy as an investment opportunity.’
After moving over in September 2013, at the top of Hayley’s property hunting list was that it had to be within walking distance of downtown and close to transport links as well as having outside space. ‘I really hoped for a light and bright space that had a garden to sit and relax or to entertain friends,’ she says. However, it proved a tall order to source and organise a home to buy while taking on her studies too. Fortunately Hayley was lucky enough to have a helper on hand. ‘Interior designer Wesley O’Brien had been the facilitator and project manager when a friend of my parents was looking for a place in Dublin and he came highly recommended, so we contacted him and thank goodness we did!’ she says.
Initially they were looking for a onebedroom apartment, but prices were spiralling and having been gazumped several times, Wesley persuaded Hayley to look at a small cottage which he was convinced represented far better value. ‘It had two bedrooms and needed renovation so we were all dubious at first, but once we had seen the place, it was just too hard to say no. It was an old fireman’s cottage and had such character that I fell in love with it straight away,’ says Hayley.
Renting an apartment for the interim, the renovation of her new home was worked out between Hayley and Wesley, with Hayley on site at least twice a week. ‘The planning of the house was always going to be limited by the size of the site,’ explains Hayley. ‘But one thing I wanted was a big, bright kitchen. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and the existing one was only two metres square, so it wasn’t going to work for me.’ To give Hayley the space she wanted they planned a bright kitchen extension to the rear, while retaining the 25m2 garden required by planning permission. They also collaborated on a way to create a vista from the front of the house to the back, giving this tiny home a feeling of spaciousness and bringing the light right through the house. The tiny kitchen was redeployed as a utility corridor as well as a viewing link, one side is lined with units containing the washing machine, dryer and storage, the other side with coat hooks.
Once the structural work had been completed Hayley and Wesley could turn their thoughts to the décor. ‘The other thing I really wanted to do was to strip back that beautiful brick fireplace,’ says Hayley. ‘My first time living away from home was in Montreal, where I lived in a really wonderful old house with lots of period features and exposed brick, and that loft-style stayed with me as something I really loved.’ Stripped, cleaned and repaired, the fireplace openings have been cleverly used as spaces for lighting and for a television. Long term, the living room opening is designed to take a woodburning stove, but as a student doctor with a hectic schedule, Hayley doesn’t have much time to build fires or clean out a stove, so for now it’s a great place to put the television, leaving the floor space clear and uncluttered.
The colour scheme in the kitchen grew from the triptych Hayley bought on her second day in Ireland. ‘I went with my parents on a mad hike across Howth Head, and we bought these prints in the West Pier Art Studio, so they’re pretty special. The other thing that is important in the kitchen is the clock; I’ve had it in every home I ever lived in, always in the kitchen. When I moved to Ireland, we went out and bought a new identical one in Ikea.’
Originally just an investment opportunity to serve a practical purpose while Hayley was studying in Dublin, she’s since become emotionally attached to her home. ‘When I bought the house I thought, ‘That’ll be great for the years I’m in Dublin, then I’ll sell and go home.’ Now I’m not so sure. Even after a month at home in Vancouver this summer, I was happy to get back to my little house, to come in to the kitchen and get a coffee and go out on the patio and chill. I’m not so sure I’m going to want to leave.’
Originally posted 2016-05-18 13:22:22.