Elegant family home with fine sea views in Monkstown for €1.55m
15 Vesey Place, Monkstown, Co Dublin €1,550,000
When the current owners of 15 Vesey Place in Monkstown first viewed the three-storey over-basement house for sale 25 years ago, it presented a restoration challenge. Luckily, that was all in a day's work for the couple - one of whom is architect Felim Dunne. "The house had been subdivided into about 10 bedsits, each with their own bathroom and kitchen, so it was a top-to-bottom refurb," he says.
But beneath the partition walls and the dust, they could see the property's charms - lofty ceilings, spacious light-filled rooms, crisp Victorian plasterwork, even a stained-glass rose window on the upper floor.
"It was clearly a house of great character, we fell in love with the possibilities of it," recalls Felim. It was also in an ideal location.
The elegant 1860s terraced house, like many of those in Dun Laoghaire and along the coast to Bray, had been built for the growing middle-class who wished to enjoy the fine vistas and the benefits of sea bathing close to the city and the new Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) railway.
For Felim and his wife Katy, who were moving back from central London, a house by the sea was a priority. So the fact that there are views across Dublin Bay from the upstairs windows was a huge draw, as was its proximity to the much-loved blue flag swimming spot at Seapoint. Across the road, Willow Bank Park, a pretty piece of parkland, is dotted with mature trees.
They set about dismantling the partitions between the bedsits, returning the house to its original proportions and adding some contemporary touches. "Once we realised how beautiful the principal floors were, we were determined that they should be enjoyed every day," says Felim. "So these rooms became the kitchen, dining and living rooms and they remain the rooms that we use every day. There are no 'good' rooms reserved for best."
Today, 15 Vesey Place is a bright and airy five-bed family house with gracious proportions. Spread over four floors in total, it allows a family with four nearly grown-up children to co-exist peaceably and with a degree of self-containment.
The entrance-floor reception rooms are interlinked and contain a large and comfortable family room that leads into the kitchen through an arched doorway with the original folding doors. The kitchen is designed for entertaining in an informal way - the family loves to cook - with a large table taking centre place.
On the first floor, a wonderful drawing room with marble fireplace extends across the width of the house. There are two large sash windows with their original shutters, from which you can watch the changing weather roll in across Dublin Bay. It's a suitably grand space with a marble jambed fireplace, fine cornicework and double doors leading to the adjoining library - a space designed to inspire contemplation. Three of the five large double bedrooms are on the floor above, as are the family bathroom and master ensuite.
Over the years, the house has been adaptable enough to change with the growing family's needs. "The lower ground floor has seen the most change and has been the most flexible of spaces," says Felim. "It started for us as home offices, changing to nanny's quarters and then more recently to teenager/adult children bedrooms."
Now the ground floor contains two bedrooms, a guest loo, a utility area tucked under the stairs and a store room that any cook would trade her Le Creuset pots for. The bedroom to the rear opens onto a pretty gravel courtyard garden.
To the front there is a low-maintenance garden planted with coastal grasses and other marine-loving plants, while to the rear of the house, a tranquil paved garden faces south, and is ideal for al fresco lunches in summer. It is beautifully planted with ferns, agapanthus, hellebores and other varieties that would have been found in a house of this period. Mature trees at the end of the garden lend an air of privacy.
The vendors say the property has given them much joy over the last 25 years. "It has been a warm, friendly and welcoming home to our family and friends. From christening parties to birthday parties to transition-year fundraisers, it's seen it all. The annual challenge of finding a big-enough Christmas tree is one that we all participate in."
Monkstown is a buzzing neighbourhood these days. A row of upmarket shops include Avoca, The Blue Door and that gardener's Mecca, Howbert & Mays, while the tiny That's Amore offers authentic Italian fare. There are umpteen sailing clubs to choose from in Dun Laoghaire, the East and West pier to enjoy for an evening stroll and the prospect of a spot of marketing at the People's Park each weekend.
"As much as a great home, it has also been a great neighbourhood to raise our children who couldn't have got better use out of the sea, the Dart, local cafes, cinema, sailing and tennis clubs," says Felim. Now that most of the children are at college, however, the pair have decided it's time to move on. They fancy some city living.
"Not surprisingly, the new house is a mirror image of the old house, only transferred into the city centre. Instead of our children following us, we're following them!"
Words by Fran Power; Portrait by Tony Gavin