Going, going and gone…to someone else! When the hammer came down at a property auction in 1998, unsuccessful bidders Eileen O'Connell and her husband Paul Corr sighed with disappointment and prepared to look elsewhere.
The house they'd had their hearts set on was a fixer-upper on Collins Avenue in Whitehall, Dublin 9, where Eileen grew up. But while they may have missed out, their experience proved that when it comes an auction property, it pays to watch who else is circling.
"Just when it seemed that our hopes were dashed, we were approached by a woman who said: 'You know, I have a lovely house on the same street. Would you like to see it?'" recalls Eileen. "So we went to view it with her and shook hands on the spot."
Although 308 Collins Avenue was fundamentally sound, having lain untouched for half a century, it was what is euphemistically described as "in need of modernisation".
One of the area's characteristic 1930s period red-brick properties, it came with a big garden and scope for renovation. Working in construction themselves with their business, Altox Ltd, the pair were eager to use their skills and take it on as a project of their own.
The new buyers moved in with Eileen's father, who lived down the road in No. 195, and got to work on creating their dream family home, borne out of years of experience of doing up other people's houses. The house was stripped, rewired and re-plumbed, new heating installed, walls knocked and extended up and out to create over 1,500 sq ft of living space.
The inspiration for the refurb came from a trip to a salvage yard where Paul had found a set of Gothic-style doors and windows reclaimed from an old Church of Ireland chapel in the village of Dugort in Achill Sound, Co Mayo. These would form the basis for the extended open-plan kitchen-diner-living room, which has a double-height arched ceiling with wooden beams and skylights.
"Although we had to cut the church doors and windows down to fit, we loved them so much that we built the entire extension around them," says Eileen.
The modern kitchen has a double sink on one side and on the other, a separate Belfast sink which, according to the owners, came in handy for cleaning their kids' muddy boots after football practice. Above it is a feature stained- glass window, salvaged from a house in Rathmines.
"For us it's all about blending old and new to create a house that's a home, not a bland, anonymous space," says Eileen.
One of the arched doorways is set in a feature red-brick wall and framed in yellow brick. It opens on to a central pathway in the back garden with an AstroTurf lawn on either side.
At the far end of the garden is a deck, which has seen many get-togethers with family and friends over the years. It leads into a garden room, currently used as a home gym, with a separate bathroom. Previously, this was a games room, with a pool table, drum set and TV.
"It was a godsend when our sons were in their teens," recalls Eileen. "They had their own space to hang out with their friends and we knew where they were."
An added bonus in these home-working Covid-19 times is that there is a home office on the ground floor of the house, next to a lounge with bay window. Also on the ground floor are a utility room, guest wc and storage room.
Upstairs are three bedrooms and a family bathroom with an antique, cast-iron bath, walk-in shower and wc. The attic has been converted and has under-eaves storage.
No. 308 Collins Avenue is generating interest among better off first-time buyers and trader-uppers looking to buy in North Dublin.
If you're priced out of the likes of Drumcondra and Clontarf, selling agent Jason Kavanagh says this is where you'll get more bang for your buck, and it's just as handy as the pricier postcodes for shops, schools and amenities. Located 3km from the city centre, Collins Avenue is close to the airport and DCU, while Clontarf and St Anne's Park are within a 2km radius.