There are fashions – even in houses. That might seem odd when you think about it, because houses, after all, are built to last; but when Tony and Janet Wright bought Crossbarry on St Fintan’s Road, which rises up the hill at Sutton to gain fine views across Dublin Bay, they were planning to change more than just the name.
Now re-christened Roebank, the house had been owned formerly by Brian and Patricia Kearney, who were also the proud owners of the legendary racehorse Moscow Flyer. Built in 1981, the house was a redbrick, split-level child of its time. It's fascinating to think what has changed since in the way we live our lives.
Families now gather and eat, even on more formal occasions, in the kitchen, and few would relish the idea of going upstairs and round the corner to get to the dining room.
“We bought it in 2011,” says Tony. “We had moved back from Hong Kong in 2008, because we wanted to bring the children up in Ireland.
Anyway, we had the intention of doing it up, but though we were playing around with ideas, we weren’t thinking of anything quite so fundamental.”
Living in a house for a year can change things radically; the Wrights’ dreams grew, and the house with them.
What began as a small extension to make space for another staircase to give easier upstairs access, turned into a complete overhaul, reshaping the rear of the house, adding a large kitchen/ dining area with outdoor patio, upgrading the BER to B3 . . . Oh, and building a new house next door too.
“I was mowing the lawn,” Tony remembers, “and I realised that the only person ever to be in this part of the garden was me – when I was mowing the lawn – so we began to think differently.”
Now the couple are selling Roebank to move into the new, almost-finished, slightly smaller neighbour. “Maybe we were barking mad,” Tony muses. “We lived here throughout the renovation, often in just two rooms.”
Living on site
Tony project-managed and saw the couple’s two children off to Sutton Park school, just a short step down the road, each day, while Janet commuted to her job at the IFSC.
“She started work there the day Lehman Brothers went bust,” Tony remembers ruefully.
While it had its evident frustrations, living on site made the results of the build so much better. “If we had done what we were thinking when we first planned it, it wouldn’t have been half as good. I was here for all the details, small and large – from the way the light worked and the positioning of windows to the relationship between the two houses.”
That part has been well-handled, as the Wrights’ new house is set low, behind a screen of trees. Each house hugs the hillside, to frame the brilliant views. “I think we prefer this house,” Tony says of Roebank, “but we’re a small family and we don’t need six bedrooms. We’ll fit the other very well.”
Tony worked with architect Peter Owens, of Tyler Owens (the original architects for the house were Keane Murphy Duff), landscape designer Yvonne O'Conor, and builders Weform. "I don't think we would have made it through without them," he says, showing pictures of the various stages of the project, as we sit in the tranquil glassed-in kitchen, watching the weather roll in across the bay.
It’s hard to equate the images of trailing wires, half-formed stud walls and scaffolding stairs with the elegant, comfortable space we’re in today.
Still with its split-level design, the ground floor is given over to a huge kitchen/living area, with a separate utility, and an en suite guest bedroom.
Downstairs are three more bedrooms, including the master, which has a fabulous dressing room/bathroom area. On the top floor is another pair of bedrooms – one currently in use as a playroom, and a large den, with more super views.
The only outstanding task on the to-do list is a balcony – pending planning approval, but otherwise the revamp is complete. Now at 306sq m (3,300sq ft), up from 232sq m (2,500sq ft), Roebank is for sale through Gallagher Quigley for €1.65 million.