Sunday 26 October 2014

Crimson tide washes over Dublin 8

A jaded city terrace has been transformed into a €1m home with the help of contemporary styling and bold flashes of deep red velvet, writes Mark Keenan

Published 29/08/2014 | 00:00

FINANCIAL services boss Helena Reynolds is no stranger to weeks spent sleeping in a tent, thanks to her restoration of 6 Carlisle Street - a red brick period home off Dublin's South Circular Road.

The difference was that the dust tent she erected over her bed during the restoration was located indoors - her residency in it deemed a necessary evil to push her construction project along (as well as ensuring she woke up in the morning with debris free hair).

This was Helena's solution to the Irish builder bother of running well over on completion deadlines. This was 2006 at the height of the Celtic Tiger when builders' attentions were easily caught elsewhere and Ireland's period-house restorations went all out on spend.

"The project was starting to drag over time and the only way I could think of pushing it along was to move myself in. For weeks I was living with a concrete mixer in my front room."

Having already undertaken a project in Dublin, Ms Reynolds had no qualms about supervising the renovation and restoration of her early 1900s four-bed city centre home.

"I had lived in London and knew all about long commuting. My previous memories of Dublin were all about standing at a bus stop in the rain. So nine years ago when I was looking for a new home in Dublin I was determined to live in the city centre. These days I am a few minute's cycle away from the office."

South Circular Road
The brick hall at 6 Carlisle Street, Dublin 8
The red brick exterior at 6 Carlisle Street, Dublin 8

"The house had been owned by an elderly lady before me and although it was structurally okay it needed a lot of work. The back garden had a heap of old outbuildings in it. I wanted to brighten it up, to provide a decent garden and to bring the outside in. So I got an architect and drew up some plans. I had the outbuildings cleared and brought the house back to its original format before adding a large modern extension to the back."

"In other homes my bugbear was ending up in the kitchen cooking for my guests while they sipped wine and enjoyed themselves in the living room - so I was determined to provide a space where I could entertain and cook in one place."

The finished home is a mix of Edwardian original, swish contemporary and Helena's own sumptuously rich flashes of colour - namely the plush red velvet curtains in the hallway arch, the rich red/purple flock wallpaper strips in the upstairs bedroom and the matching colour choices for the downstairs soft furnishings.

"While I didn't want this house to be girly and flowery, towards the end I noticed that a lot of it, in particular the bathroom and kitchen were quite masculine. So I brightened it up with the pinks and reds to blend with the brick in the walls."

The hallway is tiled in black and white with the original stained glass fanlight still in place over the door. The cornicing and centre rose is intact and the hand-made timber staircase is original.

The living room has an oak floor, the original cast-iron fireplace and stucco work - as has the dining room. The kitchen/living room where Helena can indeed now cook and entertain comes has a high gloss white Poggenphol ensemble with a Miele oven, a Neff five ring gas hob and extractor, a Neff dishwasher and a Belling fridge freezer.

Again there's an oak floor, a wooden breakfast bar and an exposed brick wall. There's a downstairs WC with a full wet room function and a thermostatic shower.

Upstairs each of the four bedrooms are completed in a uniquely different "modwardian" style fusing old and new. The main bathroom is Villeroy and Boch with a mahogany floor, a stand alone roll top bath tub with a shower attachment and a separate walk in shower.

The rear garden is laid out on two levels and includes a deck and a courtyard. Expertly landscaped to a symmetrical format, it makes for one of the home's strongest selling points.

"When I bought the property I didn't just like the house, I loved the whole street. It was and still is a lively mix of original older residents and professional couples. I love the life in this area; there's a great buzz with new shops always opening, trendy cafes, pubs and restaurants and my nephews and nieces love to stay over because I'm minutes from the lively nightlife stretch from Camden Street upwards."

Dublin's South Circular Road district has always been among the capital's most vibrantly metropolitan and culturally varied quarters - but for a time during its laboured birth in the 1870s, it had the status of a ghost estate.

As a first generation of Catholics became middle class, the development of the area in the late 19th century targeted those educated professionals moving from the slums. While cheap however, the homes were still out of reach for even the most upwardly mobile. As a result scores sat empty with no signs of buyers.

It was the Tsar of Russia who caused the first families to move here thanks to a series of anti Jewish laws and pogroms across the Imperial Russian Empire from the 1870s which saw thousands of families fleeing their home countries. Those who came to Dublin were largely from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Russia.

Arriving in nothing but the clothes they wore they sparked a mobilisation of the city's then small but affluent Jewish community who raised funds to house the immigrants. With prices so low on the SCR, it was the obvious place to buy.

By 1900, the area had a majority Jewish population and earned the monicker "Little Jerusalem." Its streets were enlivened with exotic bakeries (the Bretzel is still in situ at Portobello), kosher grocers, haberdasheries, butchers, tailors, jewellery shops.

No surprise that Joyce put Leopold Bloom's home on nearby Clanbrassil Street - where a number of Blooms lived in 1904. One visitor remarked that with its redbrick houses, cast iron fire escapes and buzzing streets, the area was more like an old suburb of New York than one of Dublin's.

The residents of Carlisle Street gave their name to the long time Dublin Jewish rugby team which played out of Kimmage.

While the Jewish population has declined since the 1940s, the SCR never lost that lively multi-cultural atmosphere and is today one of the few city centre districts to be alive with young families in the evenings.

Now that Helena is going in search of a new project to pique her restoration habit, her estate agent Felicity Fox (01-6334431) has placed it on the market seeking offers in the order of €925,000.

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See the slideshow of the property, along with a video tour on www.independent.ie/life/home-garden

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