Rathgar period house converted to €1.35m trophy home
Former flatland warren converted to €1.35m trophy home
It's three years ago next month since the death of old-style city flatland was proclaimed under changes to housing standards regulations.
These determined that every rental unit had to have its own bathroom and kitchen and therefore marked the end of the humble bedsit - long the staple first step out from home for generations of students and young professionals and civil servants. A vast warren world of Superser heating, shared bathrooms, 'beauty' board coated walls, coin fed electricity and sticky paisley pattern carpets vanished overnight.
As councils enforced the laws, 'for sale' signs began to fly up outside flatland houses placed there by landlords who couldn't afford the upgrades. Many of these buildings hadn't seen any serious maintenance investment in 40 years.
The prohibitive cost often required to renovate them has caused the prices of flatland houses to fall low relative to other properties. This also means family home hunters are now pondering whether it's worth their while acquiring one for conversion.
But what does it take in spend and in gumption, and what might the pitfalls be?
Alan and Karen Nicholl took advantage of the lowest prices in a generation in early 2011 when they picked up an 1860s Pre 63 two-storey-over-garden property in Rathgar for just €250,000 - a sum that wouldn't get you a two bedroom apartment there today.
The house at 85 Rathgar Road had been rented in seven flats and the price also reflected its condition - so bad it had been deemed unfit for habitation. The ceilings were falling in and the couple later discovered that the house was in danger of collapsing inside.
"The flats were appalling," says Karen, who project managed the restoration herself over nine months. "The entire upper floor was gone and you could actually look at the sky through holes in the roof." The internal supporting walls had been seriously compromised through years of inept bodgery and serious remedial work was required to stabilise them. In the end, the Nicholls spent close to €700,000 on what was essentially an 'inside out' rebuild with complicated heritage restoration requirements. They also went "high end" with most of the fittings.
"I loved every moment of it. We certainly could have done it for much cheaper, but the house we have today has been worth what we spent. I'd advise anyone to give a flatland restoration a go but cannot stress how important it is to get help from people who know what they are doing. The best thing we did was to employ two really good professionals in our architect and our quantity surveyor. Both saved us from any number of costly mistakes."
Today the house is entered via granite steps to the hall, with the original wide plank flooring and an ornate ceiling rose and coving. Off it are two classical interlinking main reception rooms - a sitting room with sash windows and original foldable timber shutters with double doors through to the dining room. Both have salvaged period fireplaces, radiators plus original ceiling roses and coving.
At garden level is the kitchen/dining room, a modern affair with painted timber units and a Belfast sink, quartz worktops, a Rangemaster six ring gas hob and underfloor heating. There's also a study on this floor.
On the first floor return there are French doors with stained-glass insets leading to a timber-railed roof deck for sitting out with a glass of vino on a warm summer's day. There are three bedrooms on the upper floor, all of which are equipped with their own ensuites and the master chamber comes with a bank of sliderobes. There's also a floored attic. Karen Nicholls is already in search of another period house project and the family are now selling up seeking €1.35m.
See the slideshow of the property on www.independent.ie/life/home-garden
85 Rathgar Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6
Asking price: €1.35m
Agent: Felicity Fox Tel: (01) 6334431