The gleaming row of eight waterfront homes on Dalkey’s Sorrento Terrace has come to represent the hottest real estate in Dublin. Now the daddy of them all, No 1, Sorrento House is on the market for €12 million, making it Dublin’s most expensive house – again.
Millionaire entrepreneur Terry Coleman famously outbid Lochlann Quinn, then chairman of AIB, to secure Sorrento House for £5.9 (€7.5) million in 1998. It was the highest price ever paid at auction for a Dublin property.
After a lengthy planning process, Coleman extended the dilapidated four-storey building to double its original size at an estimated cost of about €13 million, adding a summer house and guest accommodation.
In 2006, the protected six-bed Victorian, tucked neatly between Bulloch Harbour and Killiney’s Vico Road, was placed on the market with a hefty €30 million price tag. No takers.
Coleman, who made his fortune in the car alarm business in the UK, and his wife Anita are increasingly dividing their time between there and Ireland, and now want to move on.
David Bewley of Lisney – joint agents with Knight Frank – sold the house for the previous owners, the Lavery family. "There was no electricity on the ground floor, the original gas pipes were still down there. The transformation has been quite dramatic, and a lot of the work that has been done you don't even see," he says.
And what you do see is quite an eyeful. To the side of the main house, a two-storey extension has been added from basement level down. This leaves the original facade intact, faithful to the design of the 19th-century architect Frederick Darley, but it improves the accommodation to maximise the views sweeping from Dalkey Sound across to Bray Head and the Sugarloaf in the distance. At the end of the manicured gardens is a private bathing area.
The original front door and hallway that once led through to the staircase and a poky kitchen to the rear, have been transformed into a statement entrance hall where the dual aspect views compete for attention with contemporary artwork, restored plasterwork and antique Jerusalem marble underfoot.
The interior design of Sorrento House is eclectic and carefully considered, with bespoke design elements everywhere. In the dining room, an ornate parquet floor features three types of wood, while one wall is covered with “Japanesque” vertical panels with bay leaf frames.
Decorated panels are a design technique employed throughout the house. In the huge master bedroom upstairs, one of only two bedrooms now located on this floor, wall panels of hand-painted silk match the painted fronts of the built-in wardrobes.
Downstairs in the sunken family room, there are two speakers the size of a couple of children and the walls are clad with solid maple panels. The kitchen – also on this level – has a raised floor to make the most of the views off the spectacular breakfast terrace. Overhead, the low ceiling features unusual studded panels.
At the end of this level two doors lead through to what is arguably the best room in the house, the orangerie.
The fully glazed room, complete with cocktail bar, opens through three sets of French windows to a large terrace that takes in the entire sweep of Killiney Bay. It would be hard to find a better setting for preprandial cocktails. The south-facing aspect allows for sunshine on the sea-facing side from dawn to dusk.
At lower ground floor level are four luxury double bedrooms. The highlight down here is a study that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond movie. A circular desk at its centre conceals a pop-up computer screen. The wall panels were handpainted by celebrated British gamebird artist Rodger McPhail – a nod to Coleman’s passion for game shooting and fishing.
Elsewhere, pictures and reading material point to Coleman’s other passion – cars. Tucked away to the left of the pristine granite forecourt, is a single-storey block with garaging for six cars – on two levels. Here also is a guest apartment and a huge, immaculate plant room, the nerve centre of the house.
Neighbours on the terrace include film-maker Neil Jordan, who has two adjoining houses, legal professionals and property developing partnership Robin Power and Michelle Kavanagh.
Next door, Number 2, sold for €2.5 million in August 2012, but although the properties share a wall, the comparisons end there. At 714sq m (7,685sq ft), Sorrento House is significantly larger, and sits out on two acres of headland, with 180-degree views of the sea.
To mere mortals the €12 million asking price is eye-watering – to put it in context, it would demand an annual property tax of just under €28,000. The price may have been guided by Deepwell in Blackrock, the home of the Reihill family. That went on the market in May for €10 million. An impressive Victorian with Italianate gardens on just over two acres in the heart of Blackrock village, it doesn’t have the same uninterrupted sea views.