Scandi design chic masterclass in Dublin 6 for €2.5m
Swedish style gives every room of Rathgar townhouse a feel of pared-back comfort
- Address: 54 Kenilworth Sq, Rathgar, Dublin 6
- Price: € 2,500,000
- Agent: Sherry FitzGerald
A positive outcome of Ireland’s boom-and-bust years has been the restoration to family use of many fine townhouses in some of Dublin’s most handsome suburbs. The impact of this on low-income renters has been devastating, but that’s another story.
Within 15 minutes of the city centre there are many fine examples of Victorian, Edwardian and regency townhouses that have been painstakingly conserved, restored and upgraded for modern family living.
Once the structural work has been done comes the not insignificant task of decorating these fine period homes, and what may have seemed a mere bagatelle at the planning stage can often be the biggest challenge. Because the layout of many of these homes is largely uniform and their scale can be intimidating, more often than not they are styled to a well-worn interior-design template. That, or the services of an expert are called upon to complete the job.
This is not the case at 54 Kenilworth Square in Rathgar, where the Swedish owner’s personal style (and that natural-born Scandi aesthetic) is evident in every room in the house. Think Ikea, but with tastier finishes.
When the owner, a textile artist who runs classes from her home, and her Irish geologist husband moved to Ireland from London in 2000, they wanted somewhere with a village feel where she could cycle the kids to and from school, and where they could also work from home. Double-fronted, detached number 54 fitted the bill.
Order of sisters
Between 1922 and 1999 number 54 and number 53 next door served as a house of studies for the Faithful Companions of Jesus, a French Jesuit-style order of sisters that operated mainly outside Dublin from the 1840s. The houses were linked at one point via a connecting rear garden gateway, and Mass was said here in the small chapel – which has been the living room for 77 years. In 1999 the property sold for IR£1.15 million and the then buyers built a mews on the site designed by architects Duffy Mitchell.
After the current owners purchased the 345sq m/3,718sq ft property three years later for €1.45 million they spent a year refurbishing it, and engaged Duffy Mitchell architects for a modest two-storey extension in the rear return.
Polished timber floorboards and a cool blue-grey and white colour palette throughout lend a pared-back, relaxed feel to every room, but every inch of space and how it works has been carefully considered. The decor in each room is dictated by the way the light falls.
“I drive painters crazy because I am obsessed with getting the right colour. Brighter south-facing rooms have a bluish tone in the grey, while in the north-facing rooms I chose warmer tones,” the owner says.
With a sunny south-facing rear aspect, and generous sash windows, light floods through the well-proportioned rooms. And in what would have been an almost heretical move 15 years ago the formal interconnecting reception rooms at hall level were repurposed for use as the kitchen/dining space. Extensive but simple Arno laminate kitchen units and a volcanic stone island don’t compete with, but enhance the lovely original ornate plasterwork and working marble fireplace.
Across the hall are the television and living rooms. The television room is a relaxed space with a fine marble mantelpiece and slate hearth, while the living room to the rear basks in that lovely southerly light. The showstopper here is an entire wall of tightly packed bookshelves with a hanging library ladder – an artwork in itself. A unique Joe Hogan basket-weave adorns one wall, while Swedish throws and graphic-patterned cushions adorn the soft furnishings, including a pair of armchairs bought from Oxfam.
“I think it is really important to create harmony from one room to the next, so that each room carries or picks up a theme from the room before. It lends a karma feel.”
To incorporate a bathroom at hall level, a two-storey rear extension was built into the original return. This now incorporates a small guest toilet but also a very charming reading nook where floor-to-ceiling corner windows bathe the reader in sunshine and also flood light back along the front hall. There’s exterior access from here down to the garden too.
At the top of the white-painted staircase four bedrooms spur symmetrically off the bright, skylit landing. The main bedroom with en suite is to the front, though arguably the best bedroom is a larger south-facing one to the rear. The family bathroom is at the top of a short flight of steps. Buyers seeking more en suites may look to reconfigure this layout.
Every room features extensive sleek, handleless storage designed by the owner, who happily admits she is obsessed by storage. In fact, the entire house is a masterclass in smart storage ideas. Suffice to say its Zen flow will never be jarred by strewn coats, hurleys, helmets and runners.
“In Sweden every house is designed with storage included. I don’t understand why Irish homes are built without it. Here people don’t seem to realise how important it is.”
The garden level comprises even more extensive storage, a bespoke home office and large workshop/studio running from front to rear with outside access under the front granite steps. A vast counter space at the heart of the studio doubles as a dining space to feed and entertain visiting friends and family. Here also is a smart double bedroom with en suite. The lower level of the return extension operates down here as a cosy garden room with a cast-iron gas stove, corner window and two large glazed doors opening to the rear garden.
Outside, the property’s unique and considered design approach continues in the granite-walled garden. Designed by a friend, Sheena Vernon (in exchange for interior- and textile-design favours), it follows a circular theme and incorporates distinct morning, afternoon and evening sunshine spaces, around neat water features, specimen plants and strategically planted silver birch, bamboo, lime, New Zealand evergreen and beech trees. A path appearing to lead to nowhere finds a secret hideaway space to the rear. The tall birches stretch skyward, creating an almost jungle effect and really effectively connect the lovely garden views to the upstairs living areas.
With the owners’ two children grown it is time to move on, though the next project has not yet been found. “This house was perfect when the kids were coming and going, and I was working from home. There was a constant flow and the rooms were alive all the time. Now it’s just us, it’s time to move on.”
The front of the property is walled, with the advantage of covered side access to the rear from both sides. Less advantageous is on-street permit parking. Number 54 is for sale through Sherry FitzGerald for €2.5 million. The smaller, semidetached number 55 next door sold in 2015 for €1.35 million.