Interior designer’s Rathmines home with barn-style extension for €3.1m

Solferino Lodge on Belgrave Road has been transformed by its owner, Rachel Hall of Hall & Co

This article is 7 months old
Address: Solferino Lodge, 35 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6
Price: €3,100,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald
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The house at 35 Belgrave Road in Rathmines takes its name from the town of Solferino in Italy’s northern region of Lombardy. While today this medieval village sits comfortably on the tourist trail thanks to its enviable position between Lake Garda and the Mantovan Plain, it will be better known, to history buffs at least, as the location of the Battle of Solferino, which took place in 1859. Recorded by Swiss humanitarian Henry Dunant in his book A Memory of Solferino, it was the last big world battle where all armies – 300,000 in total – were under the personal command of their monarchs.

Horrified by what he saw while touring battle sites after combat, Dunant began a campaign that led to the Geneva conventions, the international humanitarian laws that define basic rights of wartime prisoners and civilians. Noting 40,000 deaths from both sides on a single day at Solferino led Dunant to help establish an association that would later become the International Committee of the Red Cross, and his humanitarian efforts won him the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Though Solferino Lodge first features in Thom’s Directory from 1862, when it was built, it was actually named in 1859 by merchants who had purchased the site before its construction.

Today the charming villa-style property, set inside electric gates with parking for two cars, is home to interior designer Rachel Hall of Hall & Co, whose work, from her office on Pembroke Road in Ballsbridge, includes the interiors of high-end luxury homes and offices on St Stephen’s Green.


Inside the hall door, atop the bifurcated granite steps, it is a whole different story to the house she purchased two decades ago. “It was absolutely horrendous; the stairs had been removed and there were three flats with three entrances, a fire escape at the back and all the ceilings had been lowered,” she says.

With the help of architect David Byrne, Hall secured planning permission to transform her home back to its original state, with a later addition of an extension to the rear.

Now the house, set over two floors, is impeccable, and every inch of its 277sq m (2,982sq ft) is simply beautiful. Hall describes her design style as “classical”. The bulk of her commissions tend to be period houses. “I try to create homes that are welcoming, interesting and not overly decorated or precious. I think the ultimate test is when you create an interior that makes people reluctant to leave,” she says.

Anyone who has sat at the diningroom table in the barn-like extension to the rear may well feel a reluctance to depart. Here, to create high ceilings – to marry with the Victorian ceilings elsewhere – she opted for a barrelled ceiling in a barn-type structure. It gives height at the centre but does not feel like an airport hangar like some such extensions tend to. Doors and windows were so large at the time of construction they had to be imported from France “as nobody would touch it here”, says Hall.

What is lovely in this extension is the way it marries internal and external spaces. The outside space consists of a super courtyard where landscaper Paul Doyle gave Hall a few pointers. With a huge commercial-grade sliding door, the entire room opens to neat buxus bushes that have been perfectly clipped to defined shapes. This topiary continues down the garden, forming a boundary with a large lawn that leads to a second entertaining area with stables/outbuildings to the rear. Details such as Georgian-style windows at the end of the barn help to create cohesion between old and new.

Now the property has four reception rooms in the form of a drawingroom and an adjoining livingroom at hall level, with a drawingroom and diningroom in the extension that straddle a bespoke kitchen by Shiels and Co.

A study lies at hall level along with the main bedroom, which has a large en suite, while three further bedrooms, a utility and storeroom (in the old coal hole) lie at garden level.

Rooms are decorated with pieces sourced in France and the UK, and give that sense of the “perfectly imperfect” style Hall likes to use. Advanced Joinery restored original windows that could be salvaged, while also taking templates for new models to replace those that were beyond saving. Wide-plank limed oak from Scotts Flooring was laid in the new extension and sits well with a mixture of original floorboards and polished travertine in the kitchen and hall.

With eyes on another project, Hall has listed her house on the market through Sherry FitzGerald, seeking €3.1 million. She will miss it for “its timeless feel, lovely scale and the fact that none of the rooms are overly large”. Solferino Lodge is within walking distance of some of the most popular private schools in Dublin, and just a two-minute walk from the Luas and a number of shops, where you can buy everything from home-made chocolates to designer attire.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

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