San Elmo fires the architectural imagination in Dalkey for €4.65m

Little overlooked except Killiney Bay at glass-box style property designed by architect Tom de Paor

San Elmo Lodge, Torca Road, Dalkey
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Address: San Elmo Lodge Torca Road Dalkey
Price: €4,650,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald
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For househunters in search of privacy and panoramic sea views, San Elmo Lodge ticks all the boxes. This property, located behind a restored granite wall along the Killiney Way walking route, was first sold in 2007, when it went for more than €6 million in a transaction that was completed in less than six weeks.

Then known as House V, it attracted a great deal of fanfare at the time and featured extensively in architectural publications to much acclaim.

The property replaced an older house which had been the gate lodge for San Elmo, a listed building constructed in 1870 for Henry Hayes which lies further along Vico Road.

The original owners sold House V just a few months after construction, citing relocation to central Europe as their reason, but presumably the return on the sale price had also been part of the attraction. It was at that point that the house reverted to its original name of San Elmo Lodge.


The house has been variously described as iconic and of architectural significance. What is incredible is that 12 years after its construction it has not dated in any way and there isn’t a single feature that cries out to be changed.

Even the Bulthaup kitchen has withstood the test of time, compared with kitchen fads that are usually outdated in cycles that appear to run in seven-year periods.

When it was last sold, architect Tom de Paor's featured prominently in the branding of the property by Sherry FitzGerald, who are again managing this sale seeking €4.65 million this time around. His name again features in the promotion literature this time around, and how well it may.

In 2017, de Paor was awarded a fellowship to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which described him as “the leading Irish architect of his generation”. And the accolades continued; in 2018 he was nominated for two awards at the World Architecture Festival Awards. His concrete monolith in Galway, the Pálás Cinema, took the award for Best Use of Colour prize.

Described by the judges as "a beautiful building that renders itself like a magic lantern", the cinema's interior is illuminated during the day by hand-painted glass windows by Patrick Scott and at night these artworks, bring illumination and colour to the streets outside.

The main living area at San Elmo Lodge, Torca Road, Dalkey
San Elmo Lodge, Torca Road, Dalkey
San Elmo Lodge, Torca Road, Dalkey

To best understand de Paor’s design for San Elmo lodge, a quick peek in the plant room on the lower floor shows the exposed jagged Dalkey granite rock, and the challenges the substrata posed. It also goes to explain the angularity of the property, which is in fact all part of its charm.

But when you have maritime views through tall pine trees like something straight out of the Hollywood Hills, it is really all about the glazing, and here there is lots of frameless glass, set at angles, to both refract and reflect the light.

The property extends to a very generous 353sq m (3,800sq ft) over two floors and is completely deceptive from the photographs.

Living and sleeping accommodation are inverted – presumably to maximise the views for the upper open place space – which accommodates the dining, living and kitchen areas. There is further recreational space in the family television room and in a study, where it would be hard to concentrate on anything other than the views.

Three bedrooms are situated at garden level and the main one just dazzles.

The main bedroom at San Elmo Lodge, Torca Road, Dalkey
San Elmo Lodge, Torca Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin

The gardens sit on about 1,600sq m and if it was a different style house, or if it didn’t have a bank of pine trees and Echium in the adjacent garden you’d say it needed lots of planting. But here the green carpet of lawn just feels as if it is part of the overall scheme.

Permission was granted in 2009 to extend to the side, and add 168sq m to the property over two levels. Though this has lapsed there is precedence for same.

From a quick planning search on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council maps, it appears that the sites on either side of San Elmo have had permission to build single homes refused, citing objective 0/0 of the 2010-2016 development plan where no increase in the number of buildings will be permitted. So privacy, along with sea views is a real selling point here, as is the fact that you can be in the sea for a dip via the local Cat's Ladder steps in a matter of minutes.

Technology at the property deserves a mention, all of which can be controlled at the door well of each room, from mood lighting to opening and closing blinds and curtains. There is really nothing at San Elmo Lodge that has been overlooked, except for Killiney Bay of course.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables