Inside the former Westmeath hideaway of heiress Daphne Guinness - but the sky-high rent might make you wince
The Irish hideaway of Daphne Guinness is seeking a new tenant for the price of a Fendi handbag
'I don't like living in cities all the time. In order to have ideas, you have to have some peace and quiet," said the fashion icon, designer extraordinaire and society queen Daphne Guinness. But could you pay €10,000 a month for the privilege?
With her trademark monogram, 'Bride of Frankenstein' beehive and her high heel-less footwear, the outrageous Neo-Gothic siren is the darling of society parties in London and New York. Society gossip columns fixate on her outfits and her open on-again, off-again affair with the controversial French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy ("God is dead but my hair is perfect.").
When requiring rural downtime, the brewing-empire heiress and daughter of the 3rd Baron Moyne has been known to return to her Irish roots. Most recently, she has been residing at Coolatore House, Rosemount, in Co Westmeath - Paddy Dunning's Victorian Neo-Gothic mansion, which was also a hideaway for Michael Jackson in 2006 and previously for Peter Sellers.
The striking and super bright granddaughter of Diana Mitford grew up between Ireland, London and Spain, where her family socialised with Dalí and Man Ray and where young Daphne swam in the former's lobster- populated pool.
Following a difficult period in her life after one of her long-running splits from lover Lévy and the suicides of her friends Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, Guinness came to the secluded privacy of Dunning's Grouse Lodge studio complex in Westmeath to record her album Optimist in Black - and loved the big house adjoining so much that she started renting it.
Now recently vacated again, it still holds some of the avant-garde designer's trademarks including the crimson carpets that have become a hallmark of her cutting-edge New York and London pads. The 8,773 sq ft mansion is seeking a new tenant at a rent of €10,000 per month or €120,000 per annum, making it jointly the most expensive property to let in Ireland alongside Martha's Vineyard, the waterfront Dalkey home built by Jim Sheridan, which is also seeking a tenant at the same five-digit monthly rate. The only higher amount sought was the €80,000 p/m asked by Daphne's relation Garech Browne some years ago for the Luggala Estate in Co Wicklow.
Given that even in the rental crisis, the average punter doesn't have the price of a Fendi handbag or a second-hand Merc to hand over every four weeks, Dunning has turned to Sotheby's International Realty to find a tenant for the 1866 Gothic-styled nine-bay two-storey country retreat originally built for Arthur Upton and extended in 1894.
Aside from the elaborately carved marble chimneypieces, parquet floors and 'olde worlde' courtyard complex, the great appeal of this house is its carefully planned Victorian gardens amidst 15 acres of grounds. The former were initially designed with the Victorian pursuits of lawn tennis and croquet in mind while the latter include extensive wooded areas. Interestingly, the woods are also home to a decommissioned life-size waxwork of Elvis Presley (Dunning also owns the Dublin Waxwork Museum) and this apparently was encountered unexpectedly by the King of Pop, who was walking the grounds during his tenure and returned to exclaim, "I just met my father-in-law in the woods!"
The main reception hall is double-height and has a remarkable cathedral-like beamed ceiling. The standard lamp-posted, carved main staircase rises all the way through the house and is complemented by a back stairs to permit catering access while entertaining.
To the right of this is the drawing room interlinking with the dining room. There's a library across the hall, a television room, kitchen and pantry, and a home office is located on this floor. For a house this size, the kitchen is somewhat spartan - the size-zero Guinness famously asserted: "I'll eat when I'm dead."
On the next floor we find most of the bedrooms, six in all, as well as three bathrooms and a linen room. A 'Gibb' or secret hidden door in the reception hall also leads to a stairs which goes down to the basement. This houses a home cinema, a 'disco room', a home gym and a large bar/pub, which has a long, crafted bar counter with a bristle of Guinness taps as its centrepiece (what else?).
Rosemount, Co Westmeath
rent per month: €10,000
Agent: Sotheby's International
Contact: (087) 2512909