Attention has turned to the inside rooms now that structural work is complete.
This has involved wall replastering of the two river-facing rooms on the second and third floors, which had lost most of their original lime plaster finishes in the 1960s to cement and gypsum plasters. We took the opportunity to thermally upgrade the outside walls using fully breathable insulations: Calsitherm Climate Board on the second floor and Diasen Thermal Plaster on the third floor. Both were supplied by Ecological Building Systems and applied by DB Plaster - Natural Building Solutions.
To use these products, the cement and gypsum plasters were first removed back to the bare brick (the insulations being incompatible with gypsum). The Calsitherm board is applied using a proprietary three-phase system, with a base coat, board and plaster skim. The Diasen plaster, which is composed of pure NHL 3.5, cork, clay, diatomaceous earth and reinforcing fibres, is spray-applied directly onto the wall in a two-coat system, involving the levelling spray coat and a skim coat which can usually be applied the next day. Both products provide excellent thermal performance and moisture management through historic masonry walls.
This is the second floor room with Calsitherm insulation being applied. The boards are mounted on a lime-based adhesive screed, butted together, before being finished with a lime skim coat. An optional layer of mesh can be applied to provide additional stability to the top coat.
On completion, a mould was taken from the surviving original cornice profile from the second floor rear room and was used to reinstate the cornice in this room. New architectural joinery was installed, based precisely on original joinery elsewhere in the building, including shutterboxes and skirtings. The ceiling, two-thirds of which is the original lath-and-plaster ceiling, was consolidated using the 'wire-and-washer' method.
The room has now been stitched back to its original 1840s appearance with the added benefit of thermal upgrading.
Most of the original chimneypieces were unfortauntely removed from upstairs in the 1980s, leaving gaping voids in most of the rooms. One of the challenges of the project was to find suitable replacement chimneypieces inc keeping with the character with the building. We engaged David O'Reilly of Antique Fireplace Restoration on Francis Street to make and source appropriate models for the different rooms, working with the constraints of the existing openings, reveals and arch heads. These details can yield valuable evidence of former chimneypieces, including overall size, length of the mantle shelf, depth of the uprights and even fragments of the old marble/stone.
The ground floor shop featured a pair of chimneybreasts common to most traditional Dublin shops. The front breast hosts a shelving/display arch with flues rising from the basement on each side, while the rear breast featured a blocked up fireplace that was originally used to heat the shop. For this spot, we chose a corbelled black polished stone chimneypiece that was typical of Dublin merchant interiors in the early-mid 19th century. This involved widening a small 20th-century grate back to its original 1840s proportions. The ghosted outline of the former chimneypiece also gave us clues as to the original size.
The sombre black chimneypiece, with its distinctive 'Dublin corbel' brackets (that merge directly into the pilasters below) has been the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle to pull the shop interior back together. We're delighted with the result.
At first floor level, both chimneypieces were missing in the front and back rooms. Investigations revealed these were removed in the early 1980s as part of wider refurbishment works, but alas no photographic record has been unearthed of their appearance. We decided the best approach would be to reinstate chimneypieces typical of the early 1840s when the building was completed. Using a mixture of old and new marble, David O'Reilly assembled a handsome matching pair of black and white bracketed chimneypieces, the white reserved for the more delicate drawing room at the front and the black model for the more sober dining room to the rear.
These have been complemented with new slate hearths to replace missing hearths and slate 'slip' inserts . One of the outcomes of the 1980s refurbishment was the blocking of all of the chimney flues with construction rubble from the collpased chimneystacks at roof level. Therefore, none of the fireplaces in the building are now operational, however in the move away from fossil fuel burning this is no bad thing. The original architectural character and focal point of the rooms has been reinstated.
This beautiful cast-iron fireplace was installed in the top floor front bedroom. It features Greek revival columns, anthemia and lotus flower motifs, all popular decorative elements in the second quarter of the 19th century. These emerged from under layers of paint following many years of this fireplace awaiting a new home in David O'Reilly's workshop.
A salvaged, cast-iron hob grate with wonderfully frothy William IV/early Victorian fireback was incorporated to complete the effect. These fire baskets originally burned coal and turf, and could also be used to heat a kettle of water or keep water hot alongside the fire. They were the sole source of space heating in these quite large rooms (with no insulation!).
On the second floor, in a higher status bedroom, a black 'bullseye' fireplace - also common to the early 1840s - was installed. More pictures anon...
Check back soon to see further progress in the decorative interiors.