Although a firm believer in decision-making by instinct, when it came to downsizing, artist Micheál Ó Nualláin and his wife Ann’s move could have come from the pages of a how-to manual.
Their much-loved rambling two-storey over-basement Victorian family home on Belgrave Square in Monkstown became too big, too unmanageable for the couple so they sold up and, in 2015, took a three-month rental on a dormer nearby on Monkstown Road at 20 Shandon Park while they house hunted and generally decided what to do.
Soon they found they liked living in the 1950s bungalow with its sea views from their bedroom, its proximity to everything they were used to and beside the bus stop for Micheál’s trips to galleries and bookshops in town. They approached their landlord who was happy to sell and the deal was done.
While many of their larger pieces of furniture had to go, the downsizing did not include getting rid of their considerable art and book collection, built up over a lifetime of involvement in the cultural life of the city.
“I remember us sitting here surrounded by boxes and boxes of books and so many paintings and the pair of us just laughing,” says Ann, who still spends some of her time on the Flann O’Brien estate; he was Micheál’s brother Brian O’Nolan, who also famously wrote under the name Myles na gCopaleen.
Sadly Micheál died within just a year of the move. To find space for the books and art Ann commissioned her godchild, architect Michael Lamb, to extended the dormer bungalow – almost doubling it in size. “For once in my life I was very practical,” says Ann of her inclusion in the brief that any new addition should also work as a self-contained apartment should any of her adult children need a place to stay.
So the striking looking, angular shaped two-storey extension to the semi works as a separate wing with a smart contemporary eat-in kitchen, two bedrooms – one upstairs and one opening out to its own small courtyard – and a living room to the front.
Meanwhile, the original part of the house was left much as it was – it has three bedrooms upstairs, and two reception rooms, an eat-in kitchen and a bathroom downstairs. A hallway links the two parts of the house and they also share an inner courtyard and a utility room. The combined space covers 223sq m / 2,403sq ft, and the Ber is C2.
From the outside, there’s a lawned garden to the front as well as off-street parking. The new and the old is clearly delineated in this house – the 1950s original and the modern addition – though they share the same exterior paint colour, a steel grey.
New owners, if they are a family who want a five-bedroom house, could easily fully amalgamate the new two spaces. Other buyers who, due to family make-up or who want an income from the property and need two units, could leave it as is.
Once again, Ann says she is acting on instinct and planning a move, and 20 Shandon Park is for sale through Knight Frank seeking €1.05 million. The extended house is too big for her, she says, “I’m only using half of it.”
The annex was used by a family member home from travels for a while before he moved on but since then it has been empty and she doesn’t foresee a time her other children might need the accommodation. She would like a much smaller house – still in Monkstown – and also to buy a small house in the west of Ireland so she can divide her time between two beloved places.