Creative couple's Bray red-brick is laid back cool for under €1m
The home of artist Charlie Whisker and writer Julia Kelly at Sidmonton House, Bray, Co Wicklow.
Artist Charlie Whisker and writer Julia Kelly at their home at Sidmonton House, Bray, Co Wicklow. photograph: cyril byrne
Handsome Victorian three storey house with bohemian interiors and Indian touches created by its writer and artist owners
When artist Charlie Whisker saw Sidmonton House on Sidmonton Road in Bray, Co Wicklow, advertised in a newspaper over five years ago, he was so taken by it, he arrived on the doorstep and made an offer.
He and his novelist partner Julia Kelly, whose debut novel With my Lazy Eye won best Irish newcomer in 2008, weren’t put off when the owner refused his initial offer and eventually bought it for a figure reported at the time to be over €1.75 million
You can see why they fell in love with this house. Built about 1890, it is a seriously handsome red-brick with more than its fair share of exquisite period detail inside.
Despite the grandeur of the features and proportions of some of the rooms, Sidmonton House is not a showhouse, it is very much a family home with a lively four-year-old Ruby Mae and a very excitable dog, and the decor is laid-back cool.
The rooms are filled with an interesting mix of exotic antique Indian furniture that Charlie has collected over the years and more traditional pieces inherited from Julia’s family.
The formal dining room to the front of the house is sparsely furnished, suggesting it is used less than some of the other rooms. It has a bay of sash windows with storm shutters overlooking the gravelled front garden. There is also a side bay of the most magnificent green and yellow stained and frosted glass windows, and a dark brown and coffee-coloured marble fireplace .
The kitchen is a homely atmospheric space with a farmhouse style fitted kitchen, a two-stove cream Aga and an identical bay of frosted and stained glass windows to that in the dining room. You can see the arty influence here, not least in the cherub heads stuck to random surfaces and Charlie’s collection of bottles on top of the presses.
His paintings in this room, include one of a hen, but while animals are a big feature of his work they are not the only theme. “I also paint the sea, tragedy, beauty,” he says.
Other rooms on this floor include a playroom, a shower room and a utility/laundry room where Charlie can often be found ironing, “I’m a Protestant from Northern Ireland, I’m always cleaning,” he says.
There are two bedrooms on the first floor, including one with a white ornate fireplace and very pretty fruit-patterned inset tiles. There’s also a family bathroom with white-painted timber floor boards, the original stand alone bath, a double shower and an old Adelphi sink.
On the return the main bedroom has a grey marble fireplace and an enormous sash window overlooking the back garden. The drawing room on this level is where the family retire in the evenings. It features exquisite cornicing, an ornate fireplace and a bay of large sash windows overlooking Sidmonton Park and playground which was the inspiration for Julia’s second novel, The Playground, due out in the autumn .
“I was looking for inspiration and had just become a mother,” she says. “The novel is about motherhood and events that happened in Bray and it’s quite dark in places.”
Charlie has his studio on the second floor, where he likes to paint his current collection of sinister-looking half rat-half possum-like creatures to blaring music.
The studio, which could be a fourth double bedroom, commands great views over the area and you can catch glimpses of the sea over the roof tops to the right of the trio of arched windows. If you really squint you can see their friend Bono’s house on Killiney Hill to the left. There’s an office next door, although Julia prefers to write in Greystones library.
Another bedroom on the second level has an elaborate Indian wrought-iron bed that Charlie bought in the 1980s when he worked as an artist on music videos in the US for artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
The back garden is quite a sheltered space with religious iconography peeking out of the bushes, an empty iguana cage and a colourful swing cot for a maharajah’s baby.
There is an Indian sandstone flagstone patio with an area fenced off for the dog, a long lawn, lavender beds and mature trees. There is a little garden at the bottom with a swing and tree house.
The couple have put Sidmonton House on the market for €995,000 through Vincent Finnegan.