Are we protecting our period city houses to death? There’s an argument to be made that listing a period home today might be the single most effective way of condemning it to a gradual festering destruction.
Consider that in recent years, the most thorough urban restorations in single houses that have taken place and at the greatest investment spends, have occurred with period properties which are not subject to the full gamut of heritage protection. Indeed many of these restorations would expressly not have taken place at all had those homes been listed.
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In contrast, the north inner city of Dublin is full of valuable period listed architecture and some of our supposedly most valued historic city houses. But it’s also an architectural boneyard and a site of mass period home destruction where ‘valued’ houses are falling apart in front of our eyes. It happens because the cost of restoring them in conjunction with the long lists of regulatory stipulations is far too great to be financially plausible to all but the dottiest trustafarian heritage anoraks.
While the objectives of listing are honourable – to ensure all components and true character of a period property are preserved and protected – the reality is a rotting destruction except in locations where the buildings have changed use (from homes to offices) or where the residential property values in general are so high as to justify it (Shrewsbury and Ailesbury Roads, for example).
The “list of destruction” argument becomes more prescient today as we attempt to embrace more eco-driven lifestyles with domestic energy saving viewed as paramount. So where does that leave the big city town houses of yesteryear, built to function on coal? With their listed hand-blown, single glaze pane stipulatons and their draughty halls and mould eaten support beams?
The freshly restored Alderley, at Adelaide Road in Glenageary, Co Dublin is a mid-Victorian period town house that until recently had been showing all the usual decrepitudes associated with a property of its age – rotted floors, draughts and a dodgy roof. It was recently gutted to be transformed into the modern and functional luxury family home it is today, complete with a BER B2 listing which is almost unheard of for a period home of its size – a massive 4,300 square feet over three floors.
The owner and restorer who has ensured Alderley will stand for another 170 years is quite attached to restoration projects. He has over a dozen successful revivals under his belt so far and currently has two other period house projects on the go.
However, he absolutely insists that all of his target properties are period houses which are not listed. “Otherwise it just wouldn’t be cost effective,” said a spokesperson.
Alderley, which is today back on the market for €2.65m, not only functioned on coal, it was built on it. It and a number of similar estate homes in the immediate area were built in 1850 by one of Ireland’s oldest private companies, Tedcastles, the long-time coal importers. Founded in 1800 as a shipping and coal import company, dealing with much of Ireland’s passenger and mailboat travel running through Dun Laoghaire, along with the constant stream of coal that came here from Wales, today we know it better as TOP (Tedcastle Oil Products).
But today Alderley, the house built on coal, doesn’t need coal because it’s non-listed status permitted its restorer to upgrade the glazing, to remove the ground level floor and to insulate extensively at ground, floor and roof level. Like I said, B2.
A private home cinema that cost €90,000 to install is among the attractions at the five-bedroom, six bathroom home which has just been placed on the market.
Located on Adelaide Road, the house was built when most Glenageary homes were pocket estates comprising a mansion and grounds. The features hint at the Gothic revival styles which were popular at that time, most notably in the distinctive kneelered gables which fan out at the lower edges.
Enter from an outer lobby into a reverse L-shaped hall with a robust solid oak parquet floor and a stained glass roof light with backlighting and a tiled floor and ceiling rose detail. From there it’s into the drawing room, also with a light oak parquet and underfloor heating. There’s wood-paneled walls, wall mouldings and a marble surround fireplace. This room, with its sash window and working shutters, overlooks the side garden.
An arch leads through to the library, also with the oak floor and underfloor heating. On the other side of the hall you’re into a huge open-plan dining room, living room and kitchen area with the same underfloor heating, which runs through this whole floor.
There’s an open fireplace with an ornate cast-iron chimney piece and a raised grate. The kitchen area has Crema Marfil tiles on the floor and a Kerwood Designed Kitchen with wall and floor units with a quartz countertop and Neff integrated appliances which include a fridge, a diswasher, a microwave and a coffee maker. The cooking takes place on a six-ringed stainless steel Rangemaster with a double oven and a warming drawer. There’s an island unit with double sink and a Quooker filter and instant hot water tap. There’s also an Amica wine fridge. A big addition to this room is the overhead three metres by three metres atrium and light which floods every corner of the kitchen area by day. From here, smart wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling folding doors on runners open right out to the rear patio. The garden is south-west facing to maximise the sunlight.
As well as a guest WC, this floor also has a boot room and utility room with a solid wooden bench for seating and storage under. Out here there’s also a Neff freezer, washing machine and a dryer mounted at standing level. Upstairs on the return is the study, which is entered via beautiful bespoke tall arched and glazed double doors. This room is dual aspect to help with lighting for home work sessions.
Up again and the first floor has a stained glass roof light with backlighting and bar area with sink and storage. Then it’s into the custom-built 11-seater, self-contained home cinema. Costing €90,000 this is a rare treat for movie lovers with its wood paneled walls and ceiling with authentic padded muffler red velvet panels. There’s a projector and screen and cleverly concealed hidden compartments behind the panels. One contains a large drinks fridge, the other houses the controls. It has a six-speaker surround sound system which includes a dedicated bass speaker. All of this links into a hi-tech home entertainment system which can even be controlled and activated from abroad using a smartphone. An interesting aside is that the plush seats were salvaged from the well-known Lambert Puppet Theatre.
And in the modern age, the bedrooms should go at garden level, again with oak floors and underfloor heating.
The master bedroom has Kerwood built-in wardrobes, surround sound and a door to its own sunken courtyard outdoors. It has its own ensuite with rainwater shower and metrobrick tiled walls, his and hers sinks set into Botticino marble with under-sink storage, bath with telephone shower attachment, all with a Botticino marble surround.
There’s a family bathroom and four more bedrooms, two of which are ensuite. And for those who like to be beside the seaside, it’s a five-minute walk from your front door, along with Dalkey Village with all its eateries and pubs. For those who want a detailed viewing, Sherry FitzGerald (01) 284 4422 will take you back to the future.
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