Audrey Gaffney Associates were required to bring Markree Castle up to a 5-star standard – over a two-year period this project required complete restoration, renovation and refurbishment of the entire 19th Century Gothic styled castle, transforming it into a luxurious destination wedding venue with modern day amenities. The historical values of the building were reinstated or retained as the castle had been allowed to fall into disrepair after a substantial fire in the 1960’s. This building has major importance both in local and Irish history. The large basement area of the castle was only ever used for storage and maintenance, as part of the design brief the clients wished to create an entertainment space for the after party of a wedding. Audrey Gaffney Associates were obliged to incorporate this within the confines of the structural, historic arches.
The long-standing owners had been bringing the building back to life with the minimum amount of historical restoration. The luxury elements needed to bring the interiors back to its former glory and up to a 5-star hotel standard, had been excluded. A significant amount of time was spent researching the different historical eras of castles as the building floor-plan had been extended by various architects since 1835, which included Francis Johnston, who was also involved in the GPO in Dublin. One of Audrey Gaffney Associates favourite aspects of the project was at the top of the grand staircase in the main reception area. Here, there is a huge stained-glass window which depicts the Cooper family tree from the 1800’s. This had to be carefully removed and restored and reinstated as part of the conservation. There are many architectural elements within the castle that were designed by Francis Johnston and these include a large, fully intact stone arch, now currently a magnificent feature of the ‘gin bar’ within the basement.
Vast effort was made to ensure that historical elements were reinstated within the various areas of the castle. As the building evolved over the years and additional extensions were added, some rooms vary in design elements. Depending on the era, room styles included Tudor, Gothic, Victorian, Georgian and the dining rooms decorated with Louis-Philippe plasterwork. Audrey Gaffney Associates undertook a lot of research to reinstate these elements and discovered photographs that allowed them to adhere their design work, true to the original. Audrey Gaffney believe that their design work is in keeping with all historic values as requested by their clients, giving a unique 5-star customer experience. The fact that the architectural elements span over such a number of centuries allowed them to design the interiors so that the castle story could be told. Concealed lighting played a huge role to highlight these features and change the mood within the castle from daytime to night-time venue, not disrupting the integrity of the structure.
Creating concepts for interiors and working out challenges with space is a task loved by interior designers the world over. Picking and selecting fabrics, colours and finishes is loved by everyone, mostly. But it takes true skill and determination to pull luxury interior fit-outs together that exude style and elegance; to ensure that deadlines are met while all conservation and building regulations are adhered to. Achieving an interior finish and restoration of this calibre over a two-year period, as Audrey Gaffney Associates have with Markree Castle, they feel, deserves recognition in the world of hotel interiors.