Number 14, like many of the houses on Henrietta Street, follows a room layout that separated its various public, private and domestic functions, with spaces that were fluid and flexible. The palatial house is built over five floors, with a railed-in basement, brick-vaulted cellars under the street to the front, a garden and mews to the rear, and a coach house and stable yard beyond.
In the main house the principal rooms in use were located at ground and first floor so that they were ‘more wholesome….being more out of reach of damps’ (Isaac Ware). On these floors a sequence of three interconnecting rooms are arranged around the grand two-storey entrance hall with its cascading Great Stairs. On the ground floor were the family rooms which consisted of a street parlour to the front, a back eating parlour, a dressing room or bed chamber for the Lord of the house, and a closet.
On the first floor level, the piano nobile (or noble floor), were the formal public reception rooms. A drawing room to the front is where the Lord or Lady would host visitors, along with the dining room to the back. The dressing room or bed chamber for the lady of the house, and a closet were also on this floor. Family bedrooms were located on the floor above the piano nobile, and the servants quarters were located in the attic. A second back stairs provides access to all floor levels for family and servants alike.
These grand rooms began as social spaces to display the material wealth, status and taste of its inhabitants. Dublin’s Georgian elites developed a taste for expensive ‘pictures, glasses and tapestry’; for fine fabrics, ‘rich damask and silks’, ‘velvets, mohairs and chints’ [sic], as well as for the growing fashion for furniture made from exotic materials, such as ‘walnuttree' and mahogany.
In the 19th century these vast rooms took on a different more utilitarian tone. Fine decoration and furniture gave way to desks, quills and paperwork with the activities of commissioners, barristers, lawyers, and clerks who moved into the house.
These rooms proved eminently adaptable once again to form one, three and four-roomed tenement flats. Rooms became homes where families cooked and ate, cleaned, washed laundry and slept. The 18th century families and their servants, the lawyers and their clerks, and all the tenement families that lived within these walls are united by their use of the same front door and back stairs.