Tuesday 17 October 2017

Peek inside some of the most surprising mews in Dublin - with one breathtaking open plan living room

The compact back lane abodes have been brought into the 21st century

5 Strand Mews has 1,322 sq ft of floor space
5 Strand Mews has 1,322 sq ft of floor space
Darragh Breathnach at Cratlach Mews off Beggars Bush in Dublin 4
The open-plan kitchen and dining room of Church Hill
The open-plan kitchen of Cratlach Mews
Cratlach Mews - book shelves along the staircase
The open string staircase of 5 Strand Mews
The open-plan living and dining room of 5 Strand Mews
The south facing conservatory at Fernside Mews in Killiney Hill Road affords maximum light
Cratlach Mews

Róisín Carabine

Last year Irish singer-songwriter Sharon Corr knocked €2m off the price of her three-bed mews off leafy Ailesbury Road in Dublin 4, reducing it to €900,000 in a bid to sell it.

It eventually sold this year for €815,000 according to the Property Price Register. The artiste had originally placed it on the market for €3.25m in 2008.

Across the city, the asking prices for back lane properties in prime location have been slashed - due to the over inflated expectations of their owners. Falling prices isn't a sign that we're falling out of love with the mews. They're still not cheap by any means. It's all relative.

"At the minute they represent excellent value for money and potential for growth," says Barry Ensor of selling agents Sherry Fitzgerald about the property type that traditionally provided equestrian accommodation for period homes in the days when a horse and carriage was the family car and the mews the domestic garage.

Despite its lowly origins, the humble mews has long been regarded as a stable investment (pardon the pun) and with prices of some of Dublin's mews being marked down, perhaps now is a good time to consider acquiring a back lane abode.

So what are the benefits associated with mews properties?

Their location for starters.

Home to horses and servants, mews were often built behind grand Victorian and Georgian mansions, down narrow cobbled laneways within walking distance of the city centre.

In Dublin, mews properties are to be found in some of the capital's most desirable addresses off Ailesbury Road, Clyde Road, Haddington Road and in Donnybrook.

Quirky and characterful, these well-placed pied-à-terre saw their conversion to homes in the 60s and 70s, following a movement by artists and writers in London who were snapping them up as 'cheap', fashionable havens for their alternative lifestyles.

In recent years architects, developers and enterprising owners have sought to bring mews properties into the 21st century with stunning results, digging down to create basements inspired by London's iceberg homes, adding roof terraces or simply flipping the internal layout.

Surviving mews with their original working stables such as Merrion Mews, off Merrion Square in Dublin 2, owned by the Irish Landmark Trust, have become tourist attractions.

Charm and history aside, mews living has its drawbacks. Their Achilles heel has always been limited space and lack of daylight. (Traditional mews had no windows at the rear so servants couldn't spy on their masters).

Not a problem at Cratlach Mews, designed by architectural studio DUA - Design Urbanism Architecture - in 2016. The fledging practice was recently selected for Wallpaper* magazine's 2017 Architecture Directory as one of the 'world's best young architectural talents'.

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Cratlach Mews

Built on the site of a former garage, tucked down a narrow laneway off Beggars Bush in Dublin 4, this new-build mews home looks textbook from the outside with its simple stone façade of reclaimed Dolphin's Barn brick and honest architectural style.

"The challenge was to redesign the mews house from the inside out without altering the planning application," says studio founder Darragh Breathnach who inherited the project after it had already been granted planning.

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The open-plan kitchen of Cratlach Mews

Inside Darragh flipped the layout, moving the three bedrooms downstairs and created an open-plan living, dining room and kitchen upstairs, dramatically increasing the amount of daylight and making use of the roof space.

He has also employed all manner of architectural cunning, including using subtle level changes to define different zones and clever, custom-made integrated storage to visually increase the property's 1,098square footage.

"When you have a compact property you have to apply your imagination, sometimes in unusual and quirky ways," says Darragh.

Another mews property that demonstrates similar versatility is 5 Strand Mews, in Sandymount, Dublin 4, built in 2004. It comprises three double bedrooms and a large floored attic. There's also a gated front entrance for parking and a private rear garden.

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The open-plan living and dining room of 5 Strand Mews

"Traditionally mews houses didn't appeal to families because of their size and lack of garden," says Darragh Brady of Lansdowne Partnership who are selling this property for €935,000. "At 1,322 sq ft Strand Mews offers ample space for family living."

The market for these bijou homes isn't solely for urbanites or city dwellers. In the salubrious suburbs of Killiney and Dalkey original mews properties rarely come on the market and are much sought after.

Fernside Mews in Killiney Hill Road is the original coach house and stables to Fernside House. Converted to a home in the 1970s the detached 2,142 sq ft house is anything but dingy with impressive floor-to-ceiling windows at either side of its stone façade affording maximum light and views. It currently comprises three bedrooms, a south facing conservatory and upstairs living room. It is on sale through Sherry FitzGerald for €925,000.

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The south facing conservatory at Fernside Mews in Killiney Hill Road affords maximum light

Such is the enduring appeal of the mews that canny developers are offering contemporary new-build versions. Designed to let in more light and with more space - they've never seen a horse or servant.

One example is Garville Drive in Dublin 6 for sale through Sherry FitzGerald. This terrace of eight luxurious mews-style four-bed homes are arranged over three floors and come with 1,996 sq ft of space, south-facing rear gardens and an A2 energy rating. Prices start from €1.075m.

Another example is Church Hill Mews in Dalkey, a small mews development of four stone-fronted detached houses. Number 3, includes three large double bedrooms, a conservatory and a sizeable rear garden with deck and sandstone patio and is currently for sale through the same agent for €825k.

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The open-plan kitchen and dining room of Church Hill

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