Back in the Middle Ages, turrets were built as defensive works for castles, providing essential observation posts to look out for approaching invaders. Happily for Michael Henry, when he peers from his turret in the decidedly unmedieval south Dublin suburb of Churchtown, he is unlikely to spot anything more menacing than the occasional passer-by casting a second glance at his twin-turreted home.
Dominated by neatly laid-out 1930s-style semis featuring half pebble-dash, half red-brick fronts and bay windows overlooking sweeping driveways, Lower Churchtown Road is the kind of place where you are more likely to come across a Range Rover than Rapunzel.
Yet thanks to the presence of a pair of circular turrets with curved windows, red roofs and a contrasting cream render finish, number 110 stands out from its neighbours by conjuring up Disney-like images of fairytale castles. No wonder Michael Henry wasn't surprised when he once heard a little girl tell her father on the other side of the front wall, "Daddy, I think a princess lives in there."
Named after the Japanese cherry blossom trees that line the street, 'Sakura' has been home to Michael and Mary Henry for the past 30 years. When they bought the property, it was a modest, three-bedroom bungalow. The couple moved in and spent many years thinking of how their perfect home might be. Having travelled extensively for his work in electronics, Michael was inspired by buildings he'd seen abroad.
Two things in particular impressed him - the extra living space provided by the ample basements of American homes, and the striking landscape of the Polish countryside with its medieval forts and castles. Mary wanted spacious, open-plan family rooms with lots of light. Then in 2007, when the country's boomtime goose laid a golden egg, the pair decided to go for broke.
The Henrys turned to architect Andrew Whittaker to be their knight in shining armour and design the home of their dreams. It wasn't the first house that the Henrys had built, but it was the most lavish and they dug deep - literally - demolishing the existing property and excavating down into the ground to create a massive, 958-square foot American-style basement with its own bathroom.
"It wasn't that we needed a basement at the time," says Michael. "I was planning for our future. There could come a time when we might need a large office space, or a granny flat, or accommodation for a live-in carer, for instance. The cost of retrofitting an existing house to install a basement room can be prohibitive, but we were starting from scratch, with a blank canvas, so it made sense to use the opportunity to go down as well as up."
As it stands, the house spans 4,198 square feet over three floors, with a 125-foot-long back garden set out in lawn and bordered by shrubs. The total site runs to a third of an acre.
"There was no point in building another tiny cottage on a site this size," says Michael. "At one point we considered bringing the house right over to the side wall, but instead chose to leave space for cars to the side, enclosed by an electric gate. That way, if somebody wants to run a business from home, there's space for staff to park their cars and access the basement office without ever encroaching on the main house."
A front porch opens on to a tiled hallway with a double bedroom suite to the right and a study and family room to the left. A bespoke spiral staircase, covered in Hollywood-style red carpet, leads through the front turret to the bedrooms upstairs.
There are four double bedrooms on this floor, including two en suites, a dressing room, attic storage and a family bathroom with jacuzzi, walk-in shower and wc. A Gothic archway off the main bedroom leads into the second turret overlooking the back garden. A small, circular room with double-height vaulted ceiling and powerful acoustics, this modern ivory tower has such a contemplative, Zen-like atmosphere, it's no surprise to hear it's used for yoga and meditation.
Downstairs at the centre of the house is a double-height lounge with a raised 'Rumford fireplace' set in a feature wall. (Count Rumford was an Anglo-American physicist who in the 1790s invented a tall, angled fireplace designed to reflect heat more efficiently). The lounge leads into a contemporary, open-plan kitchen-dining room with a Juliet balcony overlooking the rear garden. A separate utility room makes use of every inch of storage.
It may have turrets, but Sakura is no draughty castle, thanks to underfloor heating, masses of insulation and double-glazed windows that open up and out for easy cleaning. Other features include a centralised vacuum system, solid marble floors running from the hall through to the kitchen-diner, a large gravelled front drive and electronic gates - so heavy that they had to be installed with a crane - to the front and side of the house.
The owners are downsizing, but say they won't stray far as they're used to having amenities on the doorstep. It's a 10-minute walk to the Dropping Well pub in one direction and Dundrum Shopping Centre in the other. The Luas stop at Windy Arbour a short stroll away brings you to the centre of town in minutes.