Wednesday 21 November 2018

'Back then it was a fortune' - Owners bought this Killiney pile for what now seems like a song

Summerhill, Marino Avenue West, Killiney, Co Dublin: €10 million

Summerhill, Marino Avenue West, Killiney, Co Dublin
Summerhill, Marino Avenue West, Killiney, Co Dublin

Words by Fran Power

Stand on the terrace of Summerhill in Killiney on a clear summer's day and you can see across the Irish Sea all the way, you would swear, to the Welsh coast.

"The views are simply magnificent," says John O'Sullivan of Lisney, the selling agent launching the grand Victorian pile to market today with a price tag of €10m. "On every occasion I arrive at the front door of Summerhill, I stop and admire the sea and surrounding landscape."

The view sweeps north to take in Sorrento Terrace, an elegant row of Victorian houses in Dalkey where, in 2015, No 1 sold for €10m to a US buyer. To the south, the vista runs all the way round the bay to the knobbly outline of Bray Head in Wicklow.

It's not for nothing that the swish south Dublin area has earned the moniker of Ireland's Bay of Naples.

The magnificent terrace at Summerhill
The magnificent terrace at Summerhill

No doubt that's why the hillside is studded with period properties with Italian names -there's Palermo, for example, currently on the market at €3.5m, or Montebello, another Victorian beauty for sale at €9m, though without the sea views. And in this neck of the woods, it's all about the view.

When it was first built in the 1850s, Summerhill itself was called Santa Severina and was occupied by Sir John Barrington, respected tallow merchant and Lord Mayor of Dublin. The story goes that when the Prince of Wales visited Dublin in 1885, he was so delighted with the sumptuous wining and dining he received that he knighted Barrington. It is unlikely, however, that the prince ever paid a house call.

Nonetheless, prospective buyers can console themselves with the thought that plenty of modern royalty - of the rock and roll variety - are still in residence nearby and the chances of rubbing shoulders with a celeb on the beach at Killiney, a short walk away, or in Finnegan's pub in Dalkey, are high.

Patsy Kensit, Jim Kerr, Chris de Burgh, Enya, Bono, The Edge, Van Morrison, as well as filmmaker Neil Jordan, all owned - or still own - houses in the area, drawn no doubt by the beauty and secluded nature of the properties. Singer George Michael was rumoured to have flown a helicopter over the bay to get a better angle on a house to buy.

The current owners bought Summerhill nearly 40 years ago before it became a celebrity hotspot. They had moved back from the UK with their five children (a sixth was born after the move) and were looking for a large family home.

"Killiney wasn't that much different then," they say. "And we weren't that worried about the surroundings. We just said it's a lovely house, we'll buy it. Simple as that." They paid around €385,000 for the house. "Back then," they say, "it was a fortune."

Summerhill sits on five acres and includes a tennis court and putting green
Summerhill sits on five acres and includes a tennis court and putting green

For that sum they became the owners of a seven-bedroom, three-storey house built in the Italianate style that runs to 701sqm and sits on approximately five acres.

The house itself has a grand hallway with an ornate marble fireplace and elegant cantilevered staircase with double height window. Off to the left is a study with distracting views over the bay, as well as a guest WC with good storage.

Four inter-connecting reception rooms with high ceilings and crisp cornicework lead off to the right, all face south with a sitting room and adjoining drawing room that can be divided into two by means of a sliding pocket door.

The dining room has a parquet floor, large chandelier and ornate marble fireplace. The table comfortably seats 10 for dinner.

The fourth reception space is what the owners refer to as their 'family room'. Less formal in style than the others, it has French doors leading onto the south-facing terrace, where the vendor enjoys reading the papers on sunny Sunday mornings. It also features an unusual seating nook on either side of the fireplace, ideal for taking the papers indoors if the weather turns nasty.

One of the few changes the vendors made at Summerhill was to raise the roof on the split-level kitchen/living room to add a central skylight and extra height. The space now has a state-of-the-art kitchen with granite countertops, double Belfast sink, a Britannia double oven with five-ring hob in cherry red, and a large island with seating for impromptu meals.

One of the four inter-connecting reception rooms with high ceilings and crisp cornicework
One of the four inter-connecting reception rooms with high ceilings and crisp cornicework

On the first floor, there are five generously proportioned bedrooms. The master suite is vast and beautiful - a bay window frames the views over the grounds and the sea. There is a good array of built-in wardrobes and an en suite well-equipped with shower tray, bath, bidet and twin basins.

There are four more bedrooms, two south-facing, and one with an en suite. A family bathroom with shower and bath completes this floor. A back stairs leads to two more bedrooms on upper and lower returns.

Summerhill also has a garden level where all the nuts and bolts of a large working household can be hidden away. For a spell in the 1970s the property was owned by Pat Gibbons, the man behind Zhivago's nightclub on Baggot Street, where, as any child of the 1960s will tell you, 'love stories begin' and where, for the price of 70p on weekdays and 90p on weekends, you could dance til 3am. His legacy lives on at Summerhill - there's a teeny dance floor, bar and wine cellar, though, the vendors say, the disco lights have now been replaced.

This level also comprises a good-sized working gym, as well as a sauna and upmarket shower, which the vendors say they don't use but with a little refreshing could be a very nice spot to warm up after a dip at White Rock.

There is also a two-bedroom coach house, currently rented out, which could be repurposed as staff accommodation or a granny flat.

The five acres of grounds are immaculately maintained with a terraced waterfall that pools on three levels, velvety lawns, mature trees and considered planting. There is a tennis court to keep sporty types amused and even a par three golf hole and putting green where the vendor likes to practise his swing.

The split-level kitchen/living room with its central skylight and extra height
The split-level kitchen/living room with its central skylight and extra height

Properties as fine as Summerhill rarely come up for sale and it will be of interest to anyone with deep pockets in search of peace and quiet within striking distance of the city. It is a beautifully secluded spot with room enough to house a large family, but not so big as to be overwhelming to run.

As for the vendors, they are downsizing to an apartment in Dalkey. They will miss their neighbours, they say, along with the birdsong, and the sound of the waterfall. But most of all, they will miss the views at Summerhill.

Agent: Premium Home, Lisney (01) 280 6820

The formal dining room at Summerhill
The formal dining room at Summerhill
The master bedroom at Summerhill with view over the bay
The master bedroom at Summerhill with view over the bay

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