By George!

29 Mar 2010

Georgian Style House

Thinking of Ireland often conjures up sweet images of mile-long grassy green knolls, castle ruins and whitewashed thatched roof cottages in the countryside. Still, what really stands out and never ceases to please my eye is the vast array of pristine Georgian style homes and buildings found here in both country and urban areas alike. Something about the shallow pitched roofs and brilliantly colored arched doorways is quite appealing to me perhaps because with the exception of the New England states, this style in it’s original state is rarely seen in the USA.

When we set out to design and build our new home on the farm, we researched many architectural styles and decided to bend (I can be very persuasive) towards a modern American tudor-ish façade with a completely open plan interior. It was very hard to get planning permission because there are strict building codes here and the county council really prefers to see new builds that are more classic in appearance. In our county this includes mostly bungalows and Georgian styles in which you must pay close attention to small details in order to ensure that you are achieving the most authentic look possible. So, after many meetings with the county planning office, our home has ended up with more of an American Federal style; which is basically how the Georgian style evolved in the USA, combining Colonial Georgian with Palladian features.  Not exactly what we set out for, but a nice way to split the difference (and the perfect excuse for me to create more of a modern feel for the interiors).

Historically speaking, Georgian architecture succeeded Baroque and is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles that were current throughout the world between 1720 and 1840. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of HanoverGeorge I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United Kingdom, and George IV of the United Kingdom—who reigned in continuous succession from August 1714 to June 1830.  Needless to say, the Georgian style became quite popular in Ireland during this time.

There are very distinct identifying features of Georgian architecture which include:

  • A simple 1-2 story box, 2 rooms deep, using strict symmetry arrangements
  • Panel front door centered, topped with rectangular windows (in door or as a transom) and capped with an elaborate crown/entablature supported by decorative pilasters
  • Cornice embellished with decorative moldings, usually dentilwork
  • Multi-pane windows are never paired, and fenestrations are arranged symmetrically (whether vertical or horizontal), usually 5 across
  • Roof: 40% are Side-gabled; 25% Gambrel; 25% Hipped
  • Chimneys on both sides of the home
  • Small 6-paned sash windows and/or dormer windows in the upper floors, primarily used for servant’s quarters. (This was also a way of reducing window tax.)
  • Larger windows with 9 or 12 panes on the main floors

These charming characteristics can be found in detached homes throughout the country as well as the reknowned side-by-side Georgian townhouses which line many streets in urban Ireland. Two important examples of Irish Georgian townhouse design would be Merrion Square in Dublin and Pery Square in Limerick City.

The design of the houses on Merrion Square is typical of the Georgian houses of Dublin and in particular the houses of the Fitzwilliam Estate covering Fitzwilliam Street and Square, Mount Street Upper and Merrion Square. The external visual integrity and uniformity of the Georgian city masks a wealth of variety and decoration that adorns the interiors of these buildings. Many interiors contain magnificent ceiling plasterwork, ornate fireplaces and staircases.

The Georgian House at No. 2 Pery Square in Limerick City is one of a terrace of six houses built circa 1830 by the Pery Square Tontine Company. This terrace is widely regarded as being the best example of late Georgian Architecture in Limerick and probably in Ireland. The house has been fully restored with all its original architectural features expertly reinstated in precise detail. The décor and furnishings are also of the Georgian era.

If you live in Ireland or are planning a trip, be sure to take time to see the beauty of the Irish Georgian architecture whether on a lazy country drive or whilst a day of walking about the city.

Slan Abhaile,


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