Saturday 19 October 2019

In Pictures: House where Grand Designs inspired a software millionaire to go for broke in D14

Grand Designs inspired a software millionaire to go for broke in D14

In the swim: the fantasy pool room at Brentwood
In the swim: the fantasy pool room at Brentwood
The hallway
A view of the three floors above the kitchen
The kitchen has a three-floor-high ceiling overhead
One of the landing areas
A living room
Circle of friends: Wondering what to do with the rounded stump foundations of what was formerly a conservatory on the side of the house, the owners decided to build a tower
The home cinema
The main bathroom
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Has it really been 20 years since the ever earnest Kevin McCloud appeared on our screens in his first episode of Grand Designs?

In that 1999 pilot we saw the picky lighting expert from the Home Front series drafted into his own far grander property vehicle to enthuse and ponder upon the prospects of a kit house project in Sussex.

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Of course nothing went swimmingly, there were ups and downs and car crash moments, but it finished up alright in the end. And the rest is history.

Since then, over 200 home builds or renovations have had the Grand Designs treatment, from a lofty water tower to a humongously huge London city piano factory. We've had hand-crafted wooden abodes in the woods, medieval barn conversions, homes which cling to the edge of cliffs and homes dug into them.

Circle of friends: Wondering what to do with the rounded stump foundations of what was formerly a conservatory on the side of the house, the owners decided to build a tower
Circle of friends: Wondering what to do with the rounded stump foundations of what was formerly a conservatory on the side of the house, the owners decided to build a tower

Among them are fabulous Irish projects and this year McCloud named one as his all-time favourite. The remarkable rural contemporary house built from shipping containers by Patrick Bradley at Maghera in County Derry was treated by McCloud in his usual poetic fashion: "Into the fairy kingdom has landed, quite gently, something from Battlestar Galactica." In his recent anniversary 'top five' programme, he named it the penultimate Grand Design, adding that "it hasn't lost its magic."

One of the most heart-wrenching projects dealt with Roscommon man Sean Simon's efforts to restore Cloontykilla Castle in Boyle, the crumbling castle ruin which he had played in as a child. Despite pumping all his own money into it, the bank pulled the plug on promised finance leaving the project untenable.

But what we perhaps don't realise is that the inspirational show has directly prompted Irish couples to get up and running on their own personalised Grand Designs.

To celebrate the show's big birthday, we take a look at fantastic homes which have been directly inspired by the series, we assess ready-to-go grand designs - sites with full permission and architect plans included - we look at grand old homes in need of a GD adventurer to return them to glory.

And we start with the most fabulous. Brentwood ticks all the boxes required for a fantastic Grand Design. For a start it took three years to conclude, ran way over budget and actually cost its owners far more that in its current sales price (almost €4m) to build. It was fully inspired by the couples who got self building and refurbing in Grand Designs.

The McCloud fans who own it transformed a tired Victorian at Sydenham Road in Dundrum into a fantasy extravaganza complete with tower-housed cinema, a triple-height kitchen, saunas and jacuzzis as well as a tower top party room which overlooks much of Dublin.

The exterior of Brentwood
The exterior of Brentwood

Back in the grim 1980s, as unemployment for young people edged towards one in four, a school leaver from Dundrum, in Dublin 14 began to build a software business from scratch in his bedroom. The software made him his fortune when he later sold a chunk of his company.

He and his wife had one big weakness, however. Both were (and still are) huge fans of the Grand Designs TV series. Since he was a young lad, he dreamt of designing and building his own dream home and watching the series gave the couple the inspiration to go for it.

Brentwood is among the oldest homes in Dundrum, thought to have originated in the 1820s. They called in architect Shane Santry and got to work, spending the proceeds of the sale on a 'sky is the limit' project that took three years from start to finish.

The couple drew up their wish-lists and handed them to their architect and then went off to source all the bespoke fittings and fixtures but designed important aspects of the house themselves. For example the unusual sweeping staircase which fans up through its three floors was designed on architectural software by the owner.

The kitchen has a three-floor-high ceiling overhead
The kitchen has a three-floor-high ceiling overhead

Wondering what to do with the rounded stump foundations of what was formerly a conservatory on the side of the house, they came up with the idea of a tower. This then raised questions of how floors would access each level of the tower and ultimately the conversation led to the wholly unique open plan kitchen area with a three-floor-high ceiling overhead. In the end the entire house was stripped out, right back to the shell and the roof although they left cornicings and plasterwork intact.

With planning permission already in place for a second home in the garden, the couple were inspired to consider what else they could put there. The result was a magnificent bespoke pool room complete with a twisted water slide especially imported from the USA.

But as they went to clear the site they ran into granite bedrock, requiring heavy rock-breaking equipment to be brought in to dig out the floor area. The rocks have been recycled into garden walls. Today the house spans 6,480sq ft which likely makes it one of Dundrum's largest. To put it in perspective, this is the floor area of an entire cul-de-sac of six average-sized family semis.

Kevin McCloud would marvel at the combination of ultra modern features like a centralised sound and entertainment system and underfloor heating. The Victorian-style sets of chandeliers were designed for the house by leading London-based lighting designer Sharon Marsden who crafted the lights to work with twisted and strategically broken fibre optic cables.

The reception hall has Crema Marfil tiles and the rather impressive, owner-designed staircase sweeping upwards.

The exterior of Brentwood
The exterior of Brentwood

The library has two tall windows, bespoke corner bookcases and a mahogany parquet floor. There's a dining room with an antique distressed effect feature mirrored wall and double doors to the drawing room with its ornate marble chimney piece. Doors lead into the eight-seater home cinema with Dolby surround sound.

The kitchen/breakfast/family room is Cathedral-like in its height with bespoke Danish walnut kitchen, exceptional storage with integrated De Dietrich steam oven, two Neff ovens, Silestone worktop, a central island and pull-out larder. There are two mezzanines incorporating a dining area and family den, study and home office. All six bedrooms are ensuite with Villeroy & Boch and Hansgrohe showers. The master has its ensuite in the tower with a double jacuzzi/whirlpool bath and mosaic marble Italian walls.

The pool complex is accessed from the main house and garden and it has a sauna, two changing rooms, shower and wc and a full bar. There's also a home gym and there's really not enough space here to include all the other quite incredible details.

The owners are embarking on a new Grand Design in Sligo but keeping a house in Dundrum. Sherry FitzGerald is seeking €3.995m.

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