From seaside haven to seafood business

Built by a sea captain and refurbished by his great-grandson, Lismaura is priced at €1.75m


Jimmy Lyons had ventured further than most Irishmen when he worked as a sea captain for the Blue Funnel Line in Singapore in the early 1900s. But he mainly dreamed of his return, sketching detailed drawings for Lismaura in Bettystown on the back of his sea charts. The dream was realised when he returned and built his seaside home on 1.5 sandy acres in 1909. He also founded and built Laytown/Bettystown golf club and a number of holiday homes nearby.

The main house was designed to a simple square template – four reception rooms off the main hall at ground level, and four bedrooms off the upstairs landing. Interestingly, but in keeping with design styles of that era, the house faces away from the sea, despite its enviable setting with private access to the vast stretch of Bettystown beach.

Four generations later, Jimmy’s great grandson, also Jimmy, and his wife Charlotte, rectified this when they undertook an extensive renovation of the house in 2002, incorporating seven en-suite bedrooms to offer guesthouse accommodation.

Bay windows
The house, which has remained in the family until now, had suffered fire damage and had to be reroofed, rewired and plumbed throughout. To the rear, they cleverly incorporated a large two-storey extension to introduce light and maximise the fine views to the sea. Now the 465sq m (5,000sq ft) house is for sale through agents Sherry FitzGerald Lannon for €1.75 million.

Lismaura is an unusual amalgam of old and new, where the original footprint has been carefully restored in keeping with the era in which it was designed.

The entrance hall retains its original leaded stained glass on the interior door, and the colourful Victorian era geometric tiling came through in the restoration. Bay windows were added in the diningroom and morning room, allowing light to pour through the double glazed sash windows.

Charlotte, an interior designer, has filled these rooms with furniture, fireplaces, lighting and paintings sourced in auction rooms up and down the country.

With a design taste of the “more is more” persuasion, luxurious Zoffany curtains and wallpaper adorn the reception rooms; underfoot, deep-pile V’Soske Joyce rugs and carpets cover the original pine floorboards. Beaded rosewood doors from an old wardrobe were neatly repurposed as partition doors between reception rooms.

The back wall of the original hall marks the entry point to the “new” part of the house (upstairs this is marked by a lovely tall arch where a stained glass window once stood on the return).

A former courtyard now works as a “library” with a striking cast-iron spiral staircase in the corner leading upwards to the master suite, flanked by two original arched interior windows. These were sourced in Wilson’s salvage yard outside Newry, along with all new doors and handles.

Off this room is the kitchen handcrafted by a local carpenter, who also did the wood panelled storage and built-in wardrobes throughout the house. Charlotte wanted to achieve a “shabby chic” country feel in the newer part and as a result went for a free-standing design with varying surface levels.

A huge double electric and gas Aga at the heart of the kitchen, and an original Belfast sink rescued from a corner of the family farm, achieve the country feel, while a pulley lamp over the huge granite-topped island and underfloor heating give a modern feel.

Tennis court
Steps lead up to an open-plan dining-living space that runs the width of the house and takes in views of the garden and the sea beyond, with French windows leading on to a deck. The bright living area retains the “big house” feel with 12ft- high ceilings, a huge sandstone fireplace with a log burner at its centre, and a baby grand piano in the corner.

Off this is a wood-panelled TV room ideal for growing kids who want their own playroom and later hangout space. With its own door, it leads out to the all-weather tennis court.

For the garden, the Lyons – who are nothing if not up for it – handed over the design to landscaper Diarmuid Gavin for one of his TV series designs. The benefits of the beachfront garden here come with the downside of constant exposure to bracing sea winds. To counter this Gavin came up with a sunken barbecue and dining area, which Charlotte says has accommodated up to 60 people. A sheltered pavilion and large decked area complete the seaside idyll.

So why leave? Jimmy and Charlotte opened Matt the Thresher seafood restaurant on Dublin’s Pembroke Street in 2010, and since then the business has grown steadily (US first lady Michelle Obama dined there last year) and the boys have settled into their city school. Though they are sad to move on, they have created a fine family home for the next occupants.

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