Four years ago The Irish Times Property secion covered the sale of a 1980s house, once an extension to Highfield House, which had been separated from its period parent for the purpose of the sale. Warehouse-like, the unusual brick-fronted building had blind windows to the front and featured a ballroom that in turn had floored over a swimming pool. It also had no stairs, but one lift to convey people up and down.
Set on a quarter of an acre of grounds, it caught the eye of Johnny O’Loughlin, a tiler turned property developer who partnered with Micheal Moran of the Moran Hotel Group a few years ago to form Seabren Developments.
The firm has climbed the prestige ladder with each of its infill sites, first cutting its teeth in 2018 on a pair of modernist-style houses on Ontario Court Ranelagh, located just off the canal, with each seeking €850,000. They followed that up soon after with the headline-grabbing purchase of a 0.5 hectare (1.25 acre) site for €8.7 million at Dunville Close in Ranelagh. There, the luxury Annesley Gardens scheme is about to launch with four of the 20 units already sold.
“The swimming pool saved us a few loads of rubble, but it was the lift that inspired the layout of Highfield,” says O’Loughlin of the two new buff brick and Portland stone-fronted, three-storey over basements that replaced the 1980s house.
While the properties emulate the proportions of neighbouring period homes on the road, their rooms have been set around a lift shaft core, a trend more typically seen in grander homes in London or New York but not so much here. This neatly removes the legwork from upstairs downstairs Georgian living.
The design by OC Architects is in step with the building line and has windows 2 metres tall at hall level and reduce only marginally to 1.8 metres tall at the levels above echoing the uniform shape of period six-over-six pane sashes. These soft bronze alu-clad windows, designed by Nordan, do not open: ventilation is via a mechanical system and there are side hatches in the bedrooms allowing for cooling breezes.
The usual granite steps to the front are not included in this design. Instead it’s possible to back the car under the cantilevered porch, allowing the easy access with bags and shopping in any weather.
The houses are set well back from the road and triple-glazing certainly makes the show house very quiet inside. It has been tastefully fitted out by Suzie McAdam, who also designed all the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom cabinetry where wardrobes and vanity units fit perfectly into their spaces.
There are two rooms at hall level, a smart sitting room to the front and a large kitchen lounge area to the rear. The kitchen units and island feature oak reeding detail, with worktops a softly toasted coloured quartz resembling deeply veined marble. To the rear is a delightfully dark pantry, painted a restful Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball.
The cabinetry is by Fitzgeralds and includes Miele appliances and a free-standing coffee dock that may or may not have a second sink installed within it. This could also become a wet bar, O’Loughlin says, a feature we can probably expect to see more of in large homes as long as Covid-19 restrictions persist.
The room is divided by a central shelving unit with large sofas occupying the lounge side. Upholstered in tactile cotton Maison Pierre Frey velvets, one is a powder blue, the other a soft sunset shade. Looking to the rear garden floor to ceiling sliding doors glide open to a granite-paved patio, mature planting and splayed trees at the far wall, by Buggle Landscaping.
During the build there were local objections made to the planning authority about the removal of several towering mature specimen trees on the site. O’Loughlin says “a number of trees were indicated to be retained in the planning application. They were impacting neighbouring walls. We did believe we were entitled to remove them.” He says several trees of similar species, maturity and height are currently being planted to replace the ones taken down.
In the hall a deep tread sweeping staircase with metal balustrades by Churchtown Steel draws the eye upward, but first it’s worth a trip down to the basement and a huge media room with statement sofa, Gubi’s Wonder, at its heart. Upholstered in a deep raspberry velvet, it is big enough to seat an entire football team. Expect this to be a popular room once stadium sports return, with very little sound transference to the floors above. The basement hall is cleverly lit from a light well running the height of the gable wall.
Also at this level is a fine-size bedroom with en suite opening out to a decent terrace that will get morning sun. These rooms could also be used for any form of consultancy or as a home office where clients don’t have to enter the house. Adjoining it is a utility room the size of a decent kitchen and furnished with Miele white goods that could double as a second kitchen.
The Kone lift services the two floors above hall and could be used to shuttle laundry down to the utility cum second kitchen. O’Loughlin estimates annual lift-running costs to be about €1,200.
There are two fine double bedrooms on the first floor where the main bedroom is set to the rear and overlooks a sedum-covered roof. The views here frame gardens, wild greenery and the Dublin Mountains beyond. The en suite is notable for its custom cabinetry and green marble accents. It includes a double-ended free-standing tub and a large shower stall tiled in Carrera marble.
Much of the sanitaryware throughout the house is Porcelanosa.
There are a further three bedrooms on the second floor. Four of the property’s six bedrooms come with en suites.
Measuring 420sq m/4,520sq ft and with an A3 BER rating, these homes are luxuriously finished and come with a luxury asking price of €3.25million.
“We’re pitching at a professional couple, possibly with a young family,” says O’Loughlin. “It could be a buyer from the ex-pat market too, someone with a view to returning home who doesn’t want to have to deal with a refurbishment.
“Building and refurbishment is getting more expensive. Planning is becoming trickier. This is a turnkey solution.”