Sunday 28 December 2014

'The most Tudor-looking house in Ireland'

You would be forgiven for thinking you're in the cashlands of Surrey or Somerset

Published 21/02/2014 | 02:30

'IT'S the most Tudor-looking house in Ireland that isn't actually Tudor," says Scots-born Catriona Lawlor of her remarkable home, Willow Brook, at Saval Park in Dalkey, Dublin.

She might be right. Standing outside the 2002-built house in Dublin's 'rock broker' belt, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in the cashlands of Surrey or Somerset.

This boom-era luxury pile has been given the full post-medieval monty by its builder, an Irishman who had hitherto spent many years constructing similar dwellings in southern England but came home in the noughties to take advantage of the local uplift.

But in a step up from its cross channel counterparts, Catriona's mock T contains the sorts of unique construction flourishes and whimsies that demonstrate a real love of craft so often lost in modern Irish homebuilding. Where else have you ever seen a brick chimney stack do the twist like this one?

Mock Tudor (often labelled "Tudwardian" by contemporary critics) kicked off from the turn of the 19th Cent-ury in Surrey, the leafy upmarket commuterville for London.

The Edwin Lutyens-inspired 'Surrey Vernacular' style which copied aspects of the home building styles typical in 1500s England, was spread by big spending and steam train commuting city stockbrokers and bankers. They spilled into Surrey's wooded lanes in the early 1900s to build their beam fronted red tops by the village tea rooms.

The exterior view of ‘Willow Brook’ in Dalkey, Co Dublin
The double height entrance hall with wishbone staircase
The playroom in the house.

For bases from which to fulfil their sylvan weekend dreams of golf, cricket, lawn bowls and halves of ale, the bowler hat brigade went all out in patterned red brick, stuccoed gables, fanned timber beams and leaded windows.

By the 1930s the style was being copied by mainstream house builders all over London, while elements of the style also found their way to Dublin and Cork around that time.

But Willow Park has the Home Counties works; the decorative beam work, leaded style windows, multi-gabled frontage, plaster panelling, the arched solid timber door and that twisting brick chimney stack.

"The builder had constructed a number of houses in the area but he kept two for himself tucked in off the road in a private gated site," says Catriona, a former fashion industry fabrics buyer and now practicing psychotherapist whose husband works in the pharma sector.

"We had commissioned him to build a house for us on a different site. When we didn't get the planning permission, he took us to see Willow Park. I don't think he had intended selling it. We loved it."

That was 2008 and while the Lawlors adored the post-medieval hinting exterior, they felt the rather substantial insides could do with tweaking.

"The look was continued through the interiors, which we thought made a home a little darker inside than was necessary. So I had windows put in the internal doors to carry the light, we took out the inglenook fireplace and put in lighter coloured modern versions, we took out some beams, we moved the kitchen to the back of the house and added a glass door extension to the garden. We just brightened it up a bit."

While mock Tudor houses in the English style mightn't seem as at home here in Ireland as our usual grey stone, beige render and dark slate, the mixed front and expanses of bright red/orange roof tiles make Willow Park a much brighter and warmer affair to look at on those piddly-grey Irish weather days.

Open the heavyweight timber door and you're looking into this home's next biggest selling point – a double-height entrance hall with a wishbone staircase sweeping upwards from the coral tiled floor.

There are alcoves and a sage-coloured grandmother clock whose chimes echo in the expanse.

This house is big – it has has 4,600 square feet of accommodation over three floors – more than four times the size of the average city household. The kitchen/breakfast room is a huge affair linked by double doors to the garden (with a Tudor shed) while the rest of the downstairs accommodation includes a formal drawing room, a family room, a playroom, boot room, a guest WC and a utility room, not to mention the bespoke kitchen/breakfast room.

Overhead are six bedrooms, all en suite. But the next big selling point is the top floor bedroom with its two large velux windows opening out to reveal a bird's eye view across the bay area to Dun Laoghaire.

The visual vantage is assisted by the site, which is located on the early ascending part of Dalkey Hill.

This room, currently in use as the master bedchamber, comes with a jacuzzi en suite and a separate dressing room and gym. Hidden in the walls is a secret storage corridor, which runs most of the way around the eaves of the entire house and, Catriona claims, "holds more stuff than we have anywhere else in the house".

The site is private and shares an electronically gated avenue driveway with its neighbour.

With the older of the two children about to leave her teenage years and Catriona finding more of her therapy work based closer to the city centre, the Lawlors are finding Willow Park just a tad too big.

"We're probably going to trade down closer to town. We just don't need all the space," she said. So the house has been placed on the market with an asking price of €2.145m through Rosie Mulvany of Sherry FitzGerald (01 275 1000).

And with the architectural purists discovering in recent years that their BER F-rated genuine period pads are going through heating cash like Henry Tudor went through wives, homes like this one (with a respectable B3 BER) are getting a much warmer reception around these parts.

Dalkey and Killiney Hills are both within strolling distance, while Dalkey Village, with its shops, bars and Luas stop, is 10 minutes' walk away in Ireland's 'rock broker' belt, where locals include Bono, Enya, The Edge and Van Morrison.

With wealthier, English-based Irish buyers featuring strongly in the top end of the sales market just now, Willow Park's new owner might arrive in hasty retreat from Surrey – where premier league footballers and their WAGs (Chelsea mostly) – are today busy bulldozing the very first vintage mock Tudors to build monster mock Georgians with mock sensible fake tanning rooms.

For the video tour see independent.ie/WillowBrook

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