Monday 24 June 2019

Do a Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter style of living in this Irish home

Whether you're living in blissful coupledom or opting for separate lives, No 52 offers the opportunity for both

The living room area and bar
The living room area and bar
The kitchen
The exterior of the house with double doors
Outdoor seating
Bathroom with plunge bath and rain shower
Handbasin and vanity unit
David and Zaira in the kitchen
Former spouses Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter

Alison Gill

Famously the Hollywood director Tim Burton and actress Helena Bonham Carter lived next door to one another at Belize Park in Hampstead London for 13 years. At the time Carter told Vanity Fair of their unusual but probably quite practical arrangement: "My house looks like something out of Beatrix Potter while he's got slime balls and dead Oompah Loompahs lying around, and skeletons and weird alien lights."

And rather than divorce, British couple Jan and Gabrielle Henning who failed in living together, managed to keep their marriage on track when he bought the house right next door. Gabrielle remained living in their formerly shared home. With their front doors side by side, her home has been decorated with clutter while his is contemporary and minimal inside. She doesn't have to put up with his smoking and he doesn't have to put up with her friends crowding out the house, except when he bangs on the wall due to her partying.

If you'd like to try the boy and girl next door relationship in Dublin, the perfect house to start is 52 New Vale in Shankill, Dublin 18. Originally a 1930s bungalow, it was acquired by David and Zaira Mulcahy in 2002, who decided to refurbish it and turn it into two adjoining houses to sell on again, but later changed their minds.

The result has been a twin-fronted single house which can be shared, as the happily married Mulcahys have done since they bought it, or else split it seamlessly into two identical adjoining residences - if you fancy going Burton Bonham Carter that is.

Outdoor seating
Outdoor seating

David and Zaira have poured years of blood, sweat and tears into the house.

"We worked on it for about 10 years," says David. The hard labour shines through in the high-spec finish, which the couple is very proud of. However, they don't think it's splitability makes for its biggest attraction.

"I think the biggest selling point of the house is the finish. So much work and thought has gone into the kitchen, windows and particularly the bathrooms. The main bathroom is done to hotel standard with a rain shower and plunge bath. Because we did the work over time, we adapted it along the way to suit our needs," says David. The small things like electrical points and speakers make it very functional, kind of like a smart house."

The fact that sun gives us free heat is not something many of us think of when designing our homes, but David worked on conservatories for years, so he knew exactly where to position the windows and doors in order for the house, and their pockets, to benefit from this natural occurrence.

"It's a very economic house to run because it's south-facing, so even in winter it rarely feels cold," says David. "We also installed solar panels which really help bring our costs down. Our bills in the summer would only be about €30 a month because from about March to September we're pretty much off the heating grid."

Being from Argentina, Zaira is not a fan of our climate so is relieved she doesn't have to worry about it when she's at home.

David and Zaira in the kitchen
David and Zaira in the kitchen

"I find it difficult to cope with the Irish weather, so the brighter the house, the better for me. Nothing compares to waking up to a living room full of light or being able to see the moon from your kitchen. I think it will be difficult to get used to living in a house with not so much light."

As for splitting the house, all it needs is a wall down the middle, with the meter boxes and electricity broken down to work independently in each unit. This could be very attractive not only for next door couples, but also for anyone who needs to live beside aging parents or relations, space for an au pair or for independently minded older kids who are ready to move on but can't afford it or cut those apron strings entirely. The unit could also be rented out.

No 52 has a floor area of 1,658sq ft, but only has two bedrooms. This was something that the Mulcahys felt strongly about. "We could have easily made it a three or four-bed house, but we didn't want rooms sitting idle," says David. "The living room is where we spend most of our time so we really wanted to make it special. I don't understand why people have 'good' rooms or spare bedrooms. All summer we've had the doors open in the living area and really enjoyed the indoor and outdoor space."

If, however, interested parties are looking for an extra bedroom, the attic is currently used as an office but is big enough to convert into another bedroom. David runs his own attic company ( so needless to say, the attic isn't just a dreary room at the top of the house. It's got two skylights and solid wood flooring so would be a good option for a kid's room.

The two double bedrooms are at the front of the house. The bedroom to the left has a dressing room with walk-in wardrobe and walnut flooring. The ensuite bathroom has the aforementioned plunge bath and huge Gessi rain shower. The second bedroom on the other side of the house has the use of a wet room straight across the hall.

The living space is at the back and spans the entire width of the property. It's a bright area with four lantern skylights and numerous other windows to the side and back. There is an exposed stone wall with a wood-burning stove and a large media unit to house a television with full surround sound. The kitchen has white gloss fitted units and an island. Separating the kitchen and living space is a small bar with high stools and shelves to display your best bottles on. A wooden staircase in the kitchen leads up to the converted attic.

The kitchen
The kitchen

The outside of the house is pretty low-maintenance. The driveway at the front is paved in limestone with parking for several cars. To the left of the house is the main garden area with a sandstone patio. There is more space to the right for a shed or vegetable plot.

When the Mulcahys told their neighbours that they were moving, they thought they were mad to be leave such a beautiful home after all the work they put in, but David is itching to get his hands dirty again, with a new project already lined up.

52 New Vale Cottages

Shankill, Dublin 18

Asking price: €545,000

Agent: Savills (01 288 5011)

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