Inside the dragon's den in Dublin 14
Harlech House is part Brothers Grimm, part Harry Potter with some religious iconograpy and toys for big boys thrown in for good measure, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER
IF SIX-YEAR OLD boys were in the market to buy properties, their home of choice would be Harlech House, a fantasy build that is part Tim Burton, part Game of Throneswith much of the Brothers Grimm canon thrown in for good measure.
Hidden behind enormous stainless steel gates that take the form of a dragon, the seven-bedroom detached house sits on 0.86 of an acre of mature grounds full of fruit trees and planted beds.
The setting is pure Harry Potter. The house is at the edge of Harlech Downs, a Privet Drive-esque small estate and the last place you would expect to go to hide out from the real world.
The house is littered with folk- and fairy-tale elements: an underground passageway that takes you from the main house to the front gates; a secret garden designed in the round; a crucible used by glass artist Killian Schurman to make the glass panels and light-box fixtures that adorn every room.
There isn’t a straight line in sight. Curved doors and rooms are laid out in an organic fashion so that it’s easy to lose yourself inside.
And that is the idea. The vendors wanted to take their kids on an awfully big adventure and they delivered on that promise in spades. There is like nothing it on the Irish market.
The owners have Welsh connections, which goes some way to explaining the dragon motif writ large on the entrance gates and whose tail pops up as a motif throughout the property, from the roof of the summer house, a Hansel and Gretel-style confection at the end of the garden to the Jack and the Beanstalk-like tree motif on the staircase ironmongery. A second ceramic tree climbs up the wall. Both “grow” all the way up through the house, towards the skylight in the roof.
The house was built in 1798, and redesigned in 1993. The 900sq m (9,700sq ft) property has an asking price of €2.75 million through agents Sherry FitzGerald, not the kind of money any small boy might be able to club together from his pocket money.
At entrance level there is a huge curvy eat-in kitchen the size of a one-bedroom apartment. It has bespoke cabinetry and marble counters throughout. One of the units even pulls out as a mobile drinks unit. A giant-sized stainless steel hood and splashback was custom-built to house the imposing Viking range. The kitchen has its own walk-in cold room and an industrial-style four-door fridge.
There’s even a dinner gong to call the kids to meals.
The large sitting room has a theatrically shaped fireplace with a Connemara marble hearth. French doors lead from there out to a balcony that looks like the prow of a ship that could belong to Captain Hook.
Off the sitting room is a large two-bedroom master suite that is set out over three floors. On the ground floor there is a sitting room and a dressing room that leads through to a leather-floored guest room by American designer Bill Amberg.
Upstairs is the master bedroom and bathroom, which has decorative his-and-hers sinks, a lavatory pod hidden behind glass and a deep, free-standing bath.
A stainless steel staircase leads from the bedroom up to a small storage area and a sizeable office or bedroom. It’s not just Wales and fairy tale fantasy that have influenced the design of this property, its website harlechhouse.com says the “skills of the world’s finest blacksmiths, masons, ceramicists, glass makers and joiners were called upon to realise a celebration of the double millennium of the Incarnation” of the Christ. It describes the property as a “hymn to God” and there are large church-scale references in many rooms. The music room, for example, has a life-sized carving of the figure of the crucified Christ, mounted on rough limestone blocks.
There are three more bedrooms on the first floor, all with vaulted ceilings and each laid out mezzanine-style to accommodate the family’s six children. The main bathroom on this floor has a bath with two portholes set into them. A second grotto-style bathroom has a large decorative mosaic panel by German company Meyer.
At garden level a large mosaic floor spans the length of the house. It was designed by Catherine Wilcoxson, who did much of the ceramic work in the house. There are two bedrooms, a large family room and a music room with a second mezzanine floor.
There are some toys for big boys too. The garage comes with an inspection kit set into the floor so that you can get under your car to look at it. Would-be buyers can fantasise about tinkering with their classic Austin Martin. There’s also a wine cellar
For those of us who are still coming to terms with the end of minimalism, the décor at Harlech House is like a three-star Michelin meal: rich and difficult to digest. But pare back the décor, look at the construction and you’ll find a seriously high-end finish. All but two of the kids have left home and the house needs a new family to really enjoy living there.
Apparently some of the local children think the dragon breathes fire and give it a wide berth when trick or treating at Halloween.
Location managers have tried in vain to get past the gatekeeper to request permission to film here.That level of discretion isn’t about to change. Viewing is by appointment only.