On my recent trip to Ireland I read many references to the Georgian Doors of Dublin and saw posters and post cards of a series of rainbow-colored doors on otherwise very traditional, townhouses.
color nut huge fan of color, both for myself and my clients ( I don’t generally accept projects with clients who want a neutral interior — based on my experience of over 20 years in this business, I’ve found that most people like to look at those photos in magazines but are very unhappy living without color), seeing the brightly colored doors on the posters immediately attracted my attention, and I set out, determined to find as many as possible.
I envisioned a treasure hunt…with clues at each door sprinkled around the steps leading me to the next door….
It turned out to be a whole lot easier than that, since most of them are in rows of town houses around two main squares with leafy, green parks in the middle: Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square, which, when they were built, they were the 18th century version of the suburbs and were on the outskirts of the city, well away from the nasty smells, and crass commercialism.
However, like most cities, Dublin has grown by leaps and bounds since these elegant developments were built, and today they are right in the center of the city.
Every Dublin tour guide is an expert story-teller, with each tale more outlandish than the last. The yarn of how the Georgian doors got to be so colorful is no exception. And it’s a good idea to remember the truism:
Never let a fact get in the way of a good story!
Well if you saw my Ode to Irish Pubs and Writers, you’ll know that Ireland has a rich literary tradition. So as it goes, the writers George Moore and Oliver St. John Gogerty were neighbors. Since the rows of townhouses had such strict architectural guidelines when they were built, they pretty much all looked the same, so Moore and Gogerty would often tumble into each other’s houses after a raucous evening in their local pub.
Their wives got a little sick and tired of having the “other one” in her bed snoring the house down, so Moore decided to paint his door red to keep Gogerty from getting the houses mixed up. Gogerty, taking great offence at being singled out since Moore also lurched into the wrong house more than once, painted his door green. This, they thought, would sufficiently differentiate the houses to keep them straight and prevent similar marauders from stumbling into the wrong bed!
The truth is a lot less colorful than that — as truth so often is — so I’m just going to let the story stand. If you want fact you can find it at Irish Culture and Customs.
But a true story is that at one time, when Dublin was still part of the British Empire in the late 1700’s, it was a booming metropolis and known as the second city of the Empire. The English Protestant nobility was keen to live there and merchants who began to make up a new affluent middle class, were anxious to project respectability and wealth, so these elegant town houses were very high status residences. The square itself was a private gated garden to which only residents had the key.
In the days before widespread gaslight street lamps, many of the fan lites over the doors incorporated a recessed box in the center for a lantern, not only to light the door after dark, but to light the street, which tended to keep criminals from being too active. Just like today, a lit house is less inviting to an intruder than a dark one.
Dublin taxi drivers, are the chattiest bunch I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding with in any city! They are part tour guide and aspiring comedian and brimming over with helpful and interesting anecdotes, many of which conflict with each other! But the one they all agree on is the most photographed Georgian door in Dublin, and a handsome one it is, too:
But really, what does any of this have to do with my business of interior design or my website and book, Renovation Bootcamp®, you ask? Well, apart from really enjoying being able to share interesting tidbits and stories from my travels, being able to share the history and photos from other places, helps inspire me to think about my projects in new ways and bring a fresh perspective that makes the creative process fun for me and my clients.
So part two of the Georgian Doors of Dublin will explain some of the curious elements of the architecture that appear random, but have a queer logic when you know the background.
So when you hear me knocking, please let me in!
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