Former Arts Council director’s colourful Rathmines home for €1.65m

Charleville Road house, in Dublin 6, has an abundance of artistic flair, and a strong Asian theme

  • Address: 17 Charleville Road Rathmines Dublin 6
  • Price: € 1,650,000
  • Agent: Sherry FitzGerald
This article is 8 months old
 

In an obituary following his death in July 2020, Colm Ó Briain was described as “an energetic champion of the arts”, and as a former adviser to President Michael D Higgins he “pushed the boundaries of what was possible” in the world of the arts.

Ó Briain qualified as a barrister but never practised at the Bar; instead he embarked on a series of artistic and administrative pursuits. In 1975, at the age of 31 he became the first full-time director of the Arts Council. At a lunchtime lecture on performance art in the National Gallery, he donned a motorcycle helmet and visor, complete with shorts and diving fins, in an effort to show that events had to make a real impact if they were to be regarded as art. Until that time, painting had ruled the roost in the Arts Council’s remit.

After this appointment he and his wife, Muireann, purchased 17 Charleville Road in Rathmines in 1976. “Even though Colm was made the first full-time director, it was on a contract basis, so we couldn’t get a mortgage, and had to get help from our families to buy the house.”

At the time, the house was in two flats, one on the upper floor and one at garden level, both of which were in poor condition. “We lived upstairs while downstairs was renovated and then moved down when the time came to renovate upstairs. The back garden had become a dump for a builders’ providers, which was located at the back of the rear garden so it took ages to finish.”

Muireann attributes much of the decor to her late husband, and it reflects his artistic flair and penchant for pushing boundaries.

Spiral staircase to the bed in the master bedroom.
Spiral staircase to the bed in the master bedroom.

The main bedroom is unusual albeit not the most practical, as the bed itself is elevated and accessed by a spiral staircase: “He loved this room and wanted to take advantage of the high ceiling, but also wanted to use every bit of space in the room.” The couple slept in this bed, which appears to float in space, until they were well into their 60s.

There is a strong Asian theme running through the room too, with bamboo mirrors, Chinese rosewood chairs and oriental artefacts. Even the built-in wardrobes dating from the late 1970s have an Asian aesthetic. “I had collected lots of Asian pieces when I worked in Thailand,” says Muireann, who worked with Ecpat, a global charity working to end the sexual exploitation of children.

Landing.
Landing.

A further curiosity besides the bold colours used in the hall and bathrooms, is the custom art nouveau staircase designed by Joan Bergin, the Emmy award-winning costume designer who dressed David Bowie and created the costumes for several television series including The Tudors and Vikings.

Another is in a raised carpeted platform in one of the main reception rooms – a distinct Japanese influence.

Raised carpeted platform in one of the main reception rooms.
Raised carpeted platform in one of the main reception rooms.

“Colm did this as he wanted to create a space where lots of people could sit – and it will happily seat about 14 people.” This space can be readily returned to its original layout by just removing the platform, as the floorboards still run underneath.

Two fine-sized bathrooms were added in 2016, replacing an “old and very cold extension” and the ground floor is now a bright airy space, which is home to the cobalt blue kitchen, large living room and three bedrooms.

Kitchen.
Kitchen.
Reception room.
Reception room.

Muireann is downsizing from her 232sq m (2,501sq ft) four-bedroom home but she is not moving too far. When the couple were renovating the house in the 1970s, they sold the site which housed a builders’ providers to the rear of the property. This was subsequently developed into two houses, one of which came up for sale a few years ago and the couple purchased. Now Muireann is just moving to the other side of the wall of her home of almost 50 years.

This colourful property is on the market through Sherry FitzGerald seeking €1.65 million.