Friday 19 January 2018

Dukes and Digs of York Street in Borough of Rathmines

The exterior of 20 York Street.
The exterior of 20 York Street.
Owner Graeme Dixon enjoying a cuppa on the patio.
The interconnecting rooms of the property.
One of the grand fireplaces in the house and the dining room

Valerie Shanley

Is there a Rathmines accent? Apparently there was — and it was notoriously marbley and hoity — as caricatured by Sean O'Casey in ‘The Plough and The Stars’.

The phonetically written dialogue of the ‘Woman from Rathmines’ hopelessly lost in the tenements during the Easter revolution of 1916, today preserves the now extinct tones in literature.

“For Gawd’s sake, will one of you kind men show any safe way for me to get to Wrathmines? ... I was foolish enough to visit a friend, thinking the howl thing was a joke, and now I cawn’t get a car or a tram to take me home – isn’t it awful?”

And in the following year, 1917, the world heard Lenin’s Rathmines accent in a far bigger revolution.

While most observers noted that Lenin spoke English with an Irish accent, thanks to his Dublin-born tutor, James Connolly's son Roddy, who met Lenin in St Petersburg, asserted more specifically that Lenin had a “Rathmines” accent, continually strangling his Rs in Ws.

Until 1930, when the self-ruled Borough of Rathmines came under the control of Dublin Corporation, this was the area to which Dubliners of means tended to gravitate.

Since then, however, it’s been through the wringer having seen its grand homes converted into flat warrens and digs for students up from the country.

More recently, the trend has reversed and many of the houses have been converted back again into private residences.

A couple who have been part of this new wave of conversions are the Dixons, owners of 20 York Road, a four-bedroomed bay-windowed terraced home just off Upper Rathmines Road.

The property is new to the market, with an asking price of €795,000 through agents Felicity Fox.

Graeme and Avril Dixon bought the property in 2009. Rathmines had been home to Avril for years previously, having rented there as a student. She and Graeme had been looking for a project that would also be their new home.

Number 20 proved to be a labour of love in need of all of the big upgrades including re-wiring, re-plumbing and installing a central heating system.

But they could see beyond the heavy work and knew they had a gem on their hands. The house, built in 1898, had been lived in by the same owner for a generation, and all of the characteristic period features remained untouched.

“I knew the road well and appreciated the way many of the older properties were undergoing renovation,” says Avril. “York Road itself used to be mostly flatland, but is gradually being reclaimed for family homes.”

Through sympathetic refurbishment number 20 is now a calm easy-on-the-eye house, filled with character.

The dark, sombre interior that is the downside of so many period houses is contrasted here with pale timber floorboards, white woodwork and subtle colours, such as the reception room’s walls painted in China Clay from Fired Earth.

A new lease of life was also given to the original sash windows, all fully restored and double-glazed. Gas-fired central heating was installed, ensuring the 1,620 sq ft space is cosy throughout. The original features are evident from the start with the chequered quarry tiles in the deep entrance porch.

Through the blue front door, the hallway is spacious, with a high ceiling and decorative plaster detail.

Off to the left are two interconnecting reception rooms, with the unifying feature of two original marble fireplaces.

Like all rooms in the house, these are high-ceilinged and airy, with the front room also benefiting from light streaming though the feature bay window.

Downstairs is the bright modern kitchen.

What were originally three small sculleries is now one large, extended room with cream-painted, solid wood presses and built-in Neff, Smeg and Whirlpool appliances. A particular feature of the refurbishment is the extended living space in summer, courtesy of a sheltered patio with sandstone flags and deck, accessed directly through glazed, bi-folding doors that stretch almost across the exterior kitchen wall. One of the walls in this ‘outdoor room' is in exposed stone.

This is where Graeme likes to relax. “It’s perfect for sitting out when the weather is good,” he adds.

Upstairs, off the first landing, is the first of four bedrooms, and the modern bathroom with Jacuzzi bath.

What had originally been a separate WC was incorporated into the bathroom during the restoration to make for a more spacious room. Right on top is another very spacious landing — big enough for additional storage, and full of light from a feature stained glass window. All bedrooms have cast iron fireplaces, painted white, and with original decorative tile insets.

Like the ground floor, these rooms have high-ceilings; with the bay-windowed master bedroom also retaining ornate plaster cornicing.

There are also the benefits of being proximate to the village with its selection of shops, supermarkets, restaurants and cafes.

“The public transport is great here with buses and then there’s the LUAS stops at Cowper and Beechwood,” says Avril.

From their sheltered back garden of number 20, double gates open on to Rathgar Place laneway. Rathgar and Ranelagh are both 10 minutes away.

The experiencing of restoring and re-decorating a period city home home has inspired the couple to take on another project elsewhere which will also be their next home.

“We will be sad to leave,” says Avril, adding that so too will their family and friends who often enjoyed a stay in Rathmines.

  • The property is for sale through Felicity Fox (01-6334431) seeking €795,000 .

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