Breathing Life Back into a Derelict Building

Property and Homes supplement of Northern Irish Daily Mirror Wednesday 13.03.19 - talking about my experience working on the restoration of award winning Ormiston House.

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If you’ve been tuning into RTE’s Home of the Year, you will have seen Belfast’s Ormiston House winning the category as the 3rd home to go through to the final of the series.

The house is absolutely unique and what a thrill it was to get a peek inside a house that is so steeped in history and yet that has been restored so sensitively (with just a hint of cool) to become a family home once again after years of dereliction and neglect.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside the owners as they saved the building from dereliction and restored it  back to it’s 19th Century splendour, calling it their family home on what was it’s 150th birthday last year.


To create a dream home like this; the very first thing that is required is vision and imagination – not many people would have been able to see past the barbed wire, overgrown gardens, boarded up windows and rotting interiors and to dare imagine that this could be the stunning family home that it is today. The owners Pete Boyle and Ciara Denvir saw the end goal right from the beginning and were the driving force behind the restoration every step of the way. Without this determination the enormity of the task at hand could have become overwhelming, however the owners had the ambition right from the start which spurred the whole team on.


Being a historic building, much of the skills and crafts required to carry out these types of repairs are becoming dying arts. The people that repaired and put the building back together again were often highly skilled artisans and that is what made the project for me. Consarc were the conservation architects on the job and were able to give guidance on the specialist aspects of the restoration. The clients had really exciting design ideas and I worked closely with the them day in day out, taking the time to ensuring that everything was right down to the last details. Ciara knew exactly what she wanted to achieve with the interior so we really took the time to work out how to achieve these within the constraints of the building.

Specialist stonemasons were employed to make repairs to damaged stone, damp proofing specialists safeguarded the house from further deterioration, historic gilding methods were employed in areas, ornate plaster mouldings put in place to replace what had been lost through neglect, historic joinery elements that had been destroyed or stolen were carefully re-crafted and metal balustrades recast using traditional methods to mention just a few of the wonderful crafts that help put this home back together. It’s true what they say, team work really does make the dream work.

Sparks of joy

When dealing with a listed building often the building dictates what is right – it was important to the clients to save as much of the original fabric of the building as possible and to true to the original architecture. Any design interventions that were made were subtle, contemporary and appropriate. Equally it was also important to ensure that it became an enjoyable ‘dream’ home to reflect the unique owners and their contemporary style.  Ciara personally styled the interior perfectly to suit them and because of that the house is now also full of colour and joy, filled with timeless furniture, colourful art and even a cheeky neon sign, bringing the historic building right back to the forefront of contemporary design.  There is no doubt this is a one of its kind home which is not only true to the historic landmark that it is, but also perfectly reflects the fun, ambitious family that now live in it.

Fingers crossed for Ormiston in the final of Home of the Year, however in any case this couple are already winners for achieving their dream of creating this outstanding home and saving a landmark building in Belfast for generations to come.