The dream 14: Our favourite houses of 2021

Many of the properties we liked offer glorious sea views or are on very special sites


Scilly, Kinsale, Co Cork

Status Came to the market in September seeking €4.9 million and is still for sale
Agent Colliers International and Engel and Voelkers

When it comes to a dream list of house requirements, Raffeen in Kinsale has it all. A restored period waterside home with direct access for boats. Interiors extending to 430 sq m (4,628 sq ft) that have been given a swish makeover by owners who "insulated the bejaysus out of it".

Then there is the adjacent boathouse with permission for a New York-style loft apartment conversion. With exposed beams and lovely stonework, you could get lost for days imagining what you could do with it. Start a business. Open an art studio should you have a budding artist inside you screaming to get out. Then again, if you have the asking price – which will see €12 change from €5 million after stamp duty – you probably do not need to make an income from the place – considered to be the finest house in Kinsale.

But it will be its pieds dans l'eau that will capture the hearts of new owners, like it did the current ones; Colum and Joanne O'Sullivan, who lived in a tiny cottage behind it until "the stars aligned" and their fortunes changed when they sold their business Cully & Sully to US giant Hain Celestial. – Elizabeth Birdthistle


Harbour Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Status Came to market last May seeking €2.85 million, and still for sale at the reduced asking price of €2.75 million
Agent Sherry FitzGerald

Houses with sea views are not a big deal in the south county village of Dalkey where many of the homes have telephone number-like asking prices. But it is the 25m of sea frontage at Seaspray, a five-bedroom, five-bathroom detached house at the end of Beulah Court that makes it rather unique, even by the Dalkey's big blue brigade.


The 1990s-built home of 283 sq m (3,046 sq ft) is set on almost half an acre and extends down to the high water mark. “Built on solid rock the house is between six and seven metres above the high tide line,” says Steven Manek, regional director at agents Sherry FitzGerald.

It has potentially about 270 degrees of maritime vistas, subject to a reconfiguring of its layout and this is likely something the next owner will address in time. What the neighbours have done offers plenty of inspiration without ever having to resort to trawling Pinterest.

Set high above the water, the garden is protected from erosion by the rocks below and looks out on to Dublin Bay's big maritime expanse and the pleasure craft and cargo shipping that cross its channels but also has sheltered spots where you can get out of the wind on blustery days. – Alanna Gallagher

Villa Maria

Killiney Hill Road, Killiney, Co Dublin

Status Came to the market last June seeking €5 million and is still for sale
Agent Sherry FitzGerald

Architecture students will know Villa Maria in Killiney because many are brought there as part of their training. The house was designed in 1954 by Irish architect Jack O'Hare. He apprenticed himself to Frank Lloyd Wright, spending a year working with the legendary American architect in the 1940s and bringing some of his thinking home to Ireland, most notably in this striking house. His colourful drawings for it are in the Irish Architectural Archive.

And while it would be nice to think an appreciation of mid-century modern design accounts for the €5 million price tag on Villa Maria, it’s not that: it’s the spectacular elevated site. The 485 sq m (5,220 sq ft) house (with 58 sq m/624 sq ft mews) is built on three levels with unimpeded panoramic views, from windows and terraces, of Killiney Bay, from Dalkey to Bray, and to the Obelisk on Killiney Hill.

For buyers in this price range who tend to put a premium on privacy it has that too, as it is accessed off a tiny lane off Killiney Hill Road and set behind tall gates set into the original Victorian pillars. The house is set on 0.52 hectares (1.3 acres) of sea-facing grounds, designed by landscape architect Robert Carson who was brought in by the current owners – downsizing after 30 years – to fully integrate the house and gardens. – Bernice Harrison

Nerano House

Nerano Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Status Went on the market in October for €7.25 million and is still for sale
Agent Sherry FitzGerald

Nerano House is intriguing partly because it is completely hidden on 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres) in Dalkey: even people who've found the small road from which you can see the colourful 8ft statue of the Nerano Sailor, which stands on a granite outcrop in Nerano's gardens, can't see the house. So privacy and panoramic sea views are strong selling points for the property, a detached 384 sq m (4,133 sq ft) four-bed that comes with a refurbished coach house and gate lodge.

Nerano is a late-Georgian protected structure built around the 1830s, extensively renovated with the help of a conservation architect and extended over the past six years. A new high-ceilinged orangery – a posh conservatory – running from the front to the back of the house with uninterrupted sea views is one of its big attractions, with a livingroom at the front, dining area in the middle and kitchen at the back.

The huge gardens, falling down from the front of the house to Coliemore Road, nearly opposite Dillon's Park, also have development potential: several houses could be built on what's one of the largest sites in Dalkey without interfering with Nerano's view. The revamped 87 sq m (936 sq ft) coach house is fitted out as guest accommodation and as well as that, there's a revamped 34 sq m (366 sq ft) one-bed gate lodge. – Frances O'Rourke

Lake House

Lahanna, Ballintogher, Co Sligo

Status Went on the market in July for €1.15 million and is understood to have been sale agreed for a sum well exceeding the asking price
Agent Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes and Sherry FitzGerald Draper

While €1.15 million is a sizeable sum, and beyond the reach of most, it doesn't go as far as it should in Dublin's heady residential property market. But that's just one of the reasons why, if I had the means, I would arise and go right now to the shores of Lough Gill in Co Sligo and put my money down on the Lake House at Lahanna.

Quite apart from its location, 1.3 hectares (3.3 acres) of private gardens and unrivalled views of the 16 islands immortalised in WB Yeats’s poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, this property could just be the perfect place to retreat to before, during or after a pandemic.

Built, reputedly, in the 1970s by an American pilot, the two-level ranch-style house has undergone a sensitive and stylish redesign, and has been fitted out and furnished to the highest of standards by its present owner, Westlife star Mark Feehily. I won't claim or admit to being the biggest fan of Mr Feehily's musical output, but I'll readily doff my hat to his taste in decor and design. Put simply, I wouldn't change a thing if I got the keys to this lakeside lair. – Ronald Quinlan

72 Shanid Road

Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W

Status Went on the market in July for €900,000, sold in November for €960,000
Agent Quillsen

Granny Smith-green hall walls and jewel-blue carpets; a monkey-puzzle tree and a stained-glass octagon. Geometric floor tiles and a slatted oak screen; corrugated kitchen cupboards and a decorative splashblack.

The colours and quirks in number 72 Shanid Road in Harold's Cross made me smile; the story the vendor told about their children following the setting sun upstairs to their room at bedtime melted my heart. The family, who have moved back to their roots in the west of Ireland, brought their refined artistry to this already lovely 1930s house and filled it with charm and fun.

It’s at one end of a quiet C-shaped road in an area that I cycle through regularly, noticing the range of house types from different eras and taking shortcuts around tucked-away greens.

It's a settled area with a vibrant youths' soccer club, which you can see from the back bedrooms of this house, and there are a good few primary schools in the area, as well as long-established shops at Sundrive and a mix of independent retailers and cafes in ever-cool, still-growing Harold's Cross. It sold very quickly – agent Patricia Casey said she could have sold it three times over – and I still smile when I pass it. – Joyce Hickey

Atlantic House

Coast Road, Myrtleville, Co Cork

Status Came to market in August, seeking €850,000, and sale agreed in October, in the "mid-€900,000 range"
Agent Lisney

Who doesn't dream of a beach house? If working from home is the way of the future, what if home could perched somewhere with epic views, complete with three bedrooms, sunny conservatory, and a dual-aspect livingroom plus cosy stove for cooler days?

Atlantic House was a charmer for its foreign climes vibe, but the house also came with a fascinating backstory. Built in 1902 for the Cork International Exhibition, which featured genuine Venetian gondoliers wafting up and down the River Lee, the timber construction was designed to show off Irish skills. It was one of a number that were made and then auctioned on, once the showing off was satisfactorily concluded.

Like the Ford Boxes (repurposed wooden shipping containers dating from when the Model T was manufactured in Cork) that pop up as outbuildings and houses around Co Cork, a few still survive. One such, at Myrtleville, had been given a full Hamptons-style makeover as well as triple glazing. On a third of an acre, and with a very delicious terrace overlooking the bay, just half an hour from Cork city, it all added up to a very tempting package indeed. – Gemma Tipton


18 Burrow Road, Sutton, Dublin 13

Status For sale since October with an asking price of €2.5 million
Agent Sherry FitzGerald

A house on a beach – any beach, anywhere – has obvious appeal and Eskeragh in Sutton, a striking example of Arts and Crafts domestic architecture, fronts on to Burrow Road and backs on to Burrow beach. On a prime road lined with a range of house styles, some new builds and several renovated Victorians, this charming detached five-bedroom 260 sq m (2,799 sq ft) red-brick house stands out.

It was built in the early years of the 20th century for artist Mary Kate Benson as a summer house, a gift from her father who commissioned the fashionable architect Frederick George Hicks to design the home on a one-acre beachfront site.

Hicks had already designed such properties as Samuel Beckett’s family home in Foxrock, and the Iveagh Baths and Market.

Subsequent owners have modernised the property carefully, while maintaining its finely crafted and atmospheric period features in evidence throughout, from the timber veranda to the rear to the window seats in the livingroom and the lead-paned windows.

One of the most interesting rooms is Benson's double-height studio to the rear. The vendors, who are downsizing after 37 years, recently secured planning permission for a contemporary two-bedroom house to the side, so that's an option for new owners who will also renovate the protected structure. – Bernice Harrison

Ronan House

Upper Churchtown Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14

Status Came to the market in September seeking €2.95 million and is still for sale
Agent Sherry FitzGerald

Behind imposing wrought-iron gates on Upper Churchtown Road sits Ronan House, formerly the home of politician Seán Lemass, but currently owned by a musically inclined family.

It’s one of two semi-detached period houses that used to comprise Churchtown Park House, and it retains the elegance and original features of a typical Victorian terraced house. What makes Ronan House really sing, however, is the massive extension to the side, which pretty much doubles the size of the property and delivers the perfect blend of modern living and old-fashioned comfort.

You’ve got the traditional drawingroom running the length of the house, with original restored sash windows and shutters, original marble fireplace and original ceiling rose. You’ve got a lovely, cosy kitchen/family area downstairs, leading out to a wonderfully private landscaped back garden.

You've got lots of large bedrooms, and a main bedroom to rule them all, running from front to back of the extension, with huge skylights so you can keep looking up at the stars. You've got a recreation area downstairs that will accommodate any hobby or activity you like, and a home office setup that means you'll never want to return to the workplace again – although if you do, the bus routes and Luas line are close by. – Kevin Courtney

The Old Rectory

Ballinrobe, Co Mayo

Status Came to the market in October 2020 asking €595,000 and is still for sale
Agent Tuohy O'Toole

Standing in the centre of the town of Ballinrobe, on a large private plot of just over one and a half acres, this 350 sq m (3,767 sq ft) property dating from 1813 could be just the ticket for someone in search of a good Georgian home.

With almost all of its period details intact, and a good yarn of history to boot, along with a coach house and outbuildings, it has to be one of the best value period properties in the country. Its west-facing rear facade is more imposing than the front and shows the true extent of the house, which has an apartment at basement level and beautiful bow windows.

Remarkably unchanged, it is set overlooking the Robe river, which lies at the end of the gardens and connects to the lovely river pathway known locally as the Bower Walk. The property is located just under half an hour from both Castlebar and Westport and about 40 minutes from Galway, at off-peak times.

Local amenities include Mayo's only racecourse – for flat and National Hunt events – which is a mile out the road, and Lough Mask's eastern shores are about a 15-minute drive for trout fishing. Gardens are laden with old fruit and broadleaf trees. For house hunters looking to move west in search of a better quality of life and the ability to work from home, the Old Rectory – which can also bring in a rental income from the basement – could be just the answer. – Elizabeth Birdthistle

Inis Thoir

Harbour Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Status Came to the market in July for €1.95 million and is sale agreed at around that price
Agent Sherry FitzGerald

Inis Thoir is an almost completely hidden property in Dalkey, located below a high stone wall at the end of a cul de sac off Harbour Road. Originally the home of John Hinde, it has a secret picture-postcard garden created by its last owner, the late businessman Sean Ó Brádaigh, who bought it 50 years ago.

The sheltered lawn, lush plants, towering trees and a pond with a waterfall and granite outcrop is a pretty magical spot – “a lovely wildlife garden . . . that’s as natural as possible” said Myles Smith, the gardener who worked on it for more than 30 years.

The 1950s six-bed house, “a flat-roofed box renovated in the 1970s”, was designed to take in views of the garden, with the tower of St Patrick’s Church nearby rising up behind trees. But new owners may well revamp or replace the house, which has an F Ber rating.

Inis Thoir is very close to the controversial 0.56-hectare (1.4-acre) Bartra Capital site, where broadcaster and local resident Pat Kenny and his neighbours have so far succeeded in preventing development of a nursing home and an apartment scheme. – Frances O'Rourke

Glandore Mews

Glandore Park, Monkstown, Co Dublin

Status Came to the market in March seeking €950,000 and sold for that amount
Agent Lisney

A cut-stone stable in need of complete modernisation caught the eye of stylist and interior designer Carla Benedetti and her partner Trevor Athey, chief roaster at McCabe's Coffee.

It had the same Venetian Gothic-revival good looks of the big house, Glandore House; it once formed part of its inventory of outhouses. Designed by architectural practice Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward, it had a similarly steep pitched roof, granite arched and brick-dressed windows and the potential for Benedetti to flex her decorative muscles. But when they bought it for €450,000 in 2015, it resembled the stable in Bethlehem.

The refurbishment took 2½ years and included gutting it, reroofing it and repointing its bare stone walls. They also reconfigured the layout so that at entrance level one room opens through to another with nary a door in sight. Underfloor heating warms the ground floor and the industrial-inspired glazing has zinc box surrounds.

Now a two-bedroom home, the walls were painted in deep and restful earthy shades with pops of colour in the furniture; a violet sofa, a cherry red office chair, a tan leather gym horse that had been repurposed as bench seating at the emerald tiled and copper-topped kitchen island.

The 126 sq m (1,356 sq ft) house came with landscaped gardens bounded by yew trees, and also has acers, seasonal planting and patio areas.

It sold for its asking price, €950,000, according to the Property Price Register, which is almost as much as the big house made: in need of complete renovation, it sold for €980,000 in December 2020. – Alanna Gallagher

Tallon House

4 Golf Lane, Foxrock, Co Dublin

Status Came to the market in June for €3.75 million and is still for sale
Agent Sherry FitzGerald


Chestnut Lane

Dangan, Co Galway

Status Came to the market in June asking €1.2 million and sold in November for €1.278 million
Agent DNG Maxwell Heaslip

How extraordinary it was that two of Ronnie Tallon's "handful of glorious houses", as they were described in the obituary of the award-winning architect, went on the market, for the first time, in the same month. And what a rare privilege to be guided through his own family home, set on two glorious green acres adjoining Foxrock Golf Course, by two of his children, architects Michael Tallon and Joan O'Connor.

They described his respect for the “freedom of the square” in the room plan, and his use of the golden section to dictate the proportions of the glazing. They detailed his inspiration, from Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House to the Katsura Imperial Palace at Kyoto.

And they emphasised their father’s primary motivation – to create a special, and very private, family home on the model of a traditional Irish house. For all that it is a monument of modern Irish architecture, and was awarded the RIAI’s triennial housing medal, his modest aim shines through.

Another of Tallon's rare houses, designed for friends in 1973/74 at Chestnut Lane in Dangan, close to Galway city, was put up for sale a couple of weeks earlier. Also influenced by Mies, with a floating, flat cantilevered roof, the steel-framed structure supports vast glass planes that frame views over the two-acre site, along the River Corrib over to Menlo Castle and across the playing fields of NUI Galway. – Joyce Hickey