Mike Soden’s Mespil Road home for €2.3m
Mike and Lou Soden bought 37 Mespil Road in 2002 when he became chief executive at Bank of Ireland. They upgraded the canal bank property and are now moving on to the late Albert Reynolds’s former apartment on Anglesea Road
Number 37 Mespil Road is Mike and Lou Soden’s 20th home, they think. An international career in banking saw the Sodens live at various times over the past 45 years in Canada, the UK, Norway, the US and Australia. But Number 37 became home when Mike returned to take up the role of chief executive of Bank of Ireland in 2002.
By 2004 he had resigned amid controversy over accessing websites forbidden under the bank’s online policy. The temptation then must surely have been to pack up and head elsewhere?
“We could have hopped on a plane and run away but we wanted to be bigger than that,” says Lou. Mike adds: “Once we came back to Ireland and settled we knew we were coming back for good. Lou has made sacrifices every time we moved. When we came back to Ireland I had never seen her happier with family and friends.”
The handsome redbricks set well back from the road on the banks of the Grand Canal between Leeson Street and Baggot Street bridges are nowadays mainly in commercial use. Though next door – the one time home of singer Percy French – sold last year for €1.1 million, and it will continue in residential use.
With no children the Sodens opted for the buzz of the city over the more obvious leafy suburbs close to schools. “This is a bit of an anonymous road. We’re very much town people, we both love to walk everywhere. The National Concert Hall is 10 minutes walk and you’ll nearly always pick up a last-minute ticket,” Lou says.
The three-storey Victorian was purchased for €2.3 million in 2002 in walk-in condition, and the Sodens spent a further €600,000 modifying the protected structure to their requirements.
Working with a quantity surveyor and builder, they extended out to the south facing rear creating a large kitchen/ breakfast room with vaulted glazed roof and floor to ceiling windows.
It’s clear the 3,800sq ft (353sq m) house was redesigned to accommodate an easy flow, and with entertainment in mind. Upstairs at hall level the formal interconnecting reception rooms mirror each other with matching marble fireplaces (gas fired) and original plasterwork.
A large triptych photograph of Albert Bridge dominates one side of the entrance hall, and serves as a reminder of the view from their London apartment when they lived in the converted original studio of leading UK architect Norman Foster’s building near Battersea.
Downstairs opens into two more receptions – the familyroom and the diningroom, connected by hardwood timber floors. Here Lou removed the double doors that divided the space, but they can be reinstated. Two huge arched mirrors either side of the diningroom fireplace look made to measure, though they were a lucky find.
Everywhere eclectic art adorns the walls. “After 30 years of travel and collecting our tastes are still not synchronised, so we have one rule – which mainly applies to me – don’t see and buy,” says Mike.
Upstairs the entire top floor has been converted to a luxurious master suite. Accessed through arched double doors, the bedroom overlooks the canal below, while the widest of widescreen TVs sits above the marble fireplace at the foot of the four-poster bed. Alongside is a custom-built walk-in wardrobe, and a large bright bathroom with claw foot bath, which would previously have served as a fourth bedroom. Two almost identical double bedrooms with en suites are located on the returns.
Number 37, which goes for auction through Daphne L Kaye on Wednesday, September 24th with an AMV of €2.3 million, will have a niche appeal because of its limited bedroom accommodation and compromised garden – always a trade-off when the indoor space is extended. That said, the garden is well appointed and carefully planted with white wisteria, magnolia and clematis.
No doubt it will appeal to buyers at the very top end of the market. Meanwhile, the Sodens are pragmatic about moving on.
“We’re big believers in downsizing before you need to, so you will have the energy for the move. Lots of couples postpone it, and then one day one of them is gone and the other is left to do it alone, which is far more difficult,” Mike says.
Now they are heading to 2/3 Sycamore in the exclusive Hazeldene apartment complex on Anglesea Road. For many years this vast 2,400sq ft apartment overlooking Merrion Cricket Club famously served as the Dublin home of the recently deceased former taoiseach Albert Reynolds.
A huge space, the builders have already set about knocking down walls to accommodate all that art.
Mike says they’re looking forward to the move. “After all those years enjoying anonymity in other cities, there’s something about the intimacy of Dublin that’s comforting as you get older.” Moving on out, moving on down: the best time to downtrade Page 14