Elevated living on the terrace in Monkstown for €1.95m

This four-floor house on Longford Terrace, Dublin, was refurbished 15 years ago by its owner, the late Michael Whelan, founder of Aran Energy. It comes with great sea views

Thu, May 30, 2013, 01:00

It’s all very well having a house on enviable Longford Terrace in Dublin’s Monkstown but these vast Victorian houses can sometimes be too big and impractically arranged for modern use. Many houses on the sea-facing terrace have long since been divided into apartments – flats really – for practical living. Number 8 is one of the few that has kept the entire property in single residential use. That’s 409sq m (4,400sq ft) over four floors to potter about in.

When the current owners took on the job of refurbishing the property 15 years ago, they installed a lift. Very swish. But don’t let that fool you, the rest of the house was restored in keeping with its Victorian origins. The house dates from 1840 and it’s clear that the owner, the late businessman Michael Whelan, thought through every detail of its renovation.

Whelan was something of an innovator in 1970s Ireland when he set up Irish oil company Aran Energy. It marked one of the first forays by an Irish business into energy exploration, and Aran went on to be publicly floated on the London Stock Exchange. Statoil eventually acquired Aran Energy in 1995 for nearly £198 million.

Afterwards Michael threw himself into the Blue Water Rally Atlantic sailing challenge. His wife, Maureen, recalls returning from London’s Mayfair and taking on this house in 1998. “The birds were coming in the back windows,” she says, and there was a legacy tenant in the basement. “The house was all in bedsits, but that was an advantage, actually, because we could just go at it completely. For Michael it was a labour of love.”


Church spires
The Whelans carried out the three-year refurbishment project under the direction of restoration architect Austin Dunphy. Major improvements included a new roof and a huge job on the cornice work, ceiling roses and carved architraves throughout. The great sash windows at every level became a bone of contention after local planning objected to the use of paned glass in the restored frames instead of sheet glass. “Michael practically wrote a thesis for them explaining why the paned glass was absolutely faithful to the Victorian style.” The windows all have working shutters, and spectacular panoramic views across Dublin Bay.

Tongue and groove wooden floors in the living areas are softened by Turkish and Persian rugs at every turn.

Downstairs to the left is the formal diningroom, and above it on the first floor – in keeping with the original layout of these houses – is the luxurious drawingroom. Both are impressive spaces, and each has magnificent marble fireplaces with open grates and slate hearths that survived since the house was built. Wallpaper conservation specialist David Skinner hand-painted the hall, stairs and landing, while the reception rooms feature vivid hand screen painted wallpaper.

Off the diningroom, the Mark Wilkinson-designed kitchen is small but homely and bathed in yellow afternoon sunlight. When the lower part of the huge-framed sash window is raised, two low double doors at the base open out, creating a doorway to the rear garden. It’s a very practical, but also enchanting effect.

Off the drawingroom upstairs is the livingroom, which provides a nice elevated view of the two neighbouring church spires in Monkstown village beyond. Book-lined, built-in shelving gives it the feel of a study.

On the top floor, the front is given over to the master bedroom and an enormous en suite, which, intriguingly, is accessed through a hidden door in the fitted wardrobes. A gas-fired marble fireplace evokes images of toasty winter nights spent curled up with a book while a dramatic storm unfolds outside.

To the rear, a large guestroom is a riot of Toile de Jouy furnishings, including two tailor-made corner wardrobes bedecked entirely in the floral blue and white theme.

At garden level the accommodation and decor is far more basic and includes a living area with kitchenette, a double bedroom, a study/bedroom and a utility room. Here also is a tiny, ancient wine cellar with arched brick chambers.

The walled rear garden is west-facing and has been unfussily planted by Maureen, a keen gardener. A sea of bluebells frames a bordered oval lawn at the centre. At the end is a shaded seating area with a view back up to the house that is crowned by a restored wrought-iron spiral staircase running the full height of the house. A pale wisteria is beginning to clamber its way up, and at its base is a simple sandstone patio area for entertaining.

Beirne & Wise is selling the house for €1.95 million. The layout may be off-putting to some, with the sleeping accommodation a little limited and disjointed. But the lift may take some of the pain out of all the to-ing and fro-ing, and because the restoration was only done 15 years ago there’s a “walk-in” appeal you don’t always get with a period home.

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