Clonskeagh home of leading architect for €3.95m

This large home, shared by the late Cathal and Deirdre O’Neill, is bathed in light and has a swimming pool and stone coach house

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Address: 6 St James’s Terrace, Clonskeagh Road, Dublin 6
Price: €3,950,000
Agent: Hunters Estate Agent
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Though the O’Neill family spent a good deal of time at their family home on Pembroke Road, it wasn’t until the two eldest children had grown up that they moved to 6 St James’s Terrace in Clonskeagh. “But I think Mum had settled on St James’s long before they bought. I didn’t really know the house that well, as I had moved out, but over the years bringing the grandchildren here I would say it reads very beautifully as a composition,” says Melissa O’Neill.

O’Neill is the daughter of the late professor emeritus Cathal O’Neill, who was head of the school of architecture at University College Dublin from 1972 until 1996. He was described as a “gifted teacher” a “very fine architect” and a “wonderful mentor and advocate of younger architects” in an obituary by the university. He was mentored by renowned German modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe after spending time in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology. His career and style were deeply inspired by Mies van der Rohe, who he worked for after graduating shortly before he was offered a place to teach at UCD and returned to Ireland with his wife, the late interior designer Deirdre (nee Monks).

In 1980 he oversaw the move of the school of architecture from Earlsfort Terrace to the site of the Masonic Boys School in Richview. “Our family used to joke that he moved the school so he could walk to work from his new home on St James’s,” says Melissa. “[The move] proved pivotal in further improving facilities and standards and in copper-fastening the discipline’s standing within the university,” according to UCD.

The exceptional terrace is a row of about 14 houses set well back from Clonskeagh Road, quite close to the junction with Eglinton Road. Houses here have generous front gardens and large back gardens with southwest aspects. When the O’Neills purchased the property they installed double doors between the two elegant reception rooms at hall level so they would be dual-aspect.


“Both of them loved the light at St James’s, and the fact there is no return means there is no shade. The large windows and south-facing back garden were real the attractions,” says Melissa.

The kitchen is now at basement level. It had been where a study is now (to the rear at hall level) and they moved it to one of the larger reception rooms so it would have access to the garden. Now, in a simple layout, it is to the rear of the house, where the pair created a little terrace to have morning coffee. A pantry, laundry room, home office, cellar and livingroom complete downstairs.

All period details appear to be intact including intricate coving, shutters and historic house bells while a gate leg table – that looks like a shelf – on the half landing was made to accommodate a butler’s tray.

On the top floor are four bedrooms and the family bathroom, with rooms to the rear overlooking a big selling point of the property: the gardens.

Wide and deep, they have been divided into “garden rooms” with a double yew hedge acting as a natural partition. Beyond an oval lawn laid out for croquet is a parterre with hellebores and roses. It has been configured to lead to a real hidden gem: an old coach house. Though used as storage and a hiding place for grandchildren’s games, it has huge potential: one neighbour has converted theirs to accommodation while another has created a gym with a pool.

But new owners of number six will already have a swimming pool, which was installed in 1987. “[Dad] wanted it to look like an ornamental canal with a classical setting, so that’s why he used black liner instead of blue tiling,” says Melissa. The pool, where all 10 grandchildren learned to swim, has a current machine so you can swim for days and never reach the end.

Both Cathal and Deirdre loved their gardens, says Melissa. “They ate outside for three seasons and it was incredible that for just two people they used every inch of space in the three-storey house.”

Their home reflects each of their preferred aesthetics: Deirdre, the daughter of a collector, had “an eye like a magpie”; while Cathal opted for a more modernist approach, which is apparent with the cool midcentury furniture in the 371sq m (3,993sq ft) Ber-exempt period house, which is now on the market through Hunters, seeking €3.95 million.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

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