For any young architect, winning a commission to design a big, detached house with a big budget to match is an exciting prospect. But when your mum has entrusted you with your late father's dream home project and your siblings all want to contribute, client consultation can take on a whole new dimension.
As the second-youngest in a family of eight, architect Jane Considine was well aware of the challenges posed when her mum, Mary, asked her to take on the task of designing her dream home, to be built on land that had once been part of the grounds of the former family home in South County Dublin.
Mary and her late husband Paddy Considine, founder of the advertising agency Adsell, had raised their children in Cornelscourt House, a sprawling pile originally built in the 1860s for a local Church of Ireland rector.
Considine was one of Ireland's breed of creative 'Mad Men' who came up with the ad campaigns from the 1970s and 80s that are still remembered fondly today. In a competitive and lively business world, his agency Adsell ranked with and competed with names like McConnells, Arrow, Lynch, Arks, Doherty and Eason Advertising to sell us everything from soup to whiskey. In 1996, Adsell finally merged with Dimension, whose biggest shareholder was McConnells.
"Dad was a big character, very dynamic," says Jane. "He always had a project on the go, and he and my mother had talked about one day selling Cornelscourt House and building a new home on the grounds. Some time after Dad died in 1997, Mum found a rough sketch he had drawn on the back of an envelope, an L-shaped plan, as they had discussed. She decided it was time to turn the dream into reality and as the architect in the family, I was tasked with enabling that."
Jane studied architecture at UCD, where she met her Portuguese partner and fellow student, Tiago Faria. After working with renowned architect Álvaro Siza in Portugal, they came back to Dublin in the late 90s to set up their own practice here, Tiago and Jane Architects.
Twenty years later (work started on the house in 2000), Jane recalls how she approached the important family project.
"Having grown up in Foxrock, I had always admired the grand cottage style of many of the houses that lined Westminster Road," says Jane. "I had quite strong ideas of how the new house should be, but was cognisant that my siblings also had their opinions and all wanted to express their vision. There had to be compromises. For instance, one wanted the house to be closely modelled on Cornelscourt House. I didn't think that was appropriate, but we incorporated elements of the former family home, particular in relation to the scale of the house. Mum wanted similar proportions so that there would be generous living areas for family gatherings, not halls and corridors.
"As a keen gardener, she wanted a conservatory, greenhouse and vegetable garden. She continues to grow raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes and grapes. She loved tennis, so we built a full-size tennis court in the garden."
These days, Mary's 19 grandchildren are the ones playing tennis, along with rugby or football, in the spacious grounds. Inside, there's a snooker room on the first floor looking across to Killiney Hill.
"That was Tiago's idea," says Jane. "From our work in Portugal, we also believed passionately in the importance of paying attention to detail and using the highest quality materials possible. We installed custom-designed timber windows, mahogany doors with mahogany handle insets and skirtings on the floors as well as the walls. A lot of effort and design went into the fittings and joinery, and we considered that a good investment because not only are they hard-wearing and made to last, they are things of beauty to be enjoyed."
Outside, the house is finished in Belgian brick and Wicklow granite.
"We had four sample walls built for family members to consider," Jane recalls. "There was solid consensus on the Belgian brick, Wicklow granite and Welsh slate on the roof."
Entertaining has always been integral to this family's way of life and consequently, Foxrock House has two large dining rooms with interconnecting doors, overlooking an orchard in the garden.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, the saying goes, and like their father who started his career as an artist and illustrator, three of Jane's sisters, Mary Frances, Catherine and Anne, are artists and their work adorns the walls, along with some of Paddy's original paintings and sketches. Mary moved into her swanky new L-shaped home when Cornelscourt House was sold to the Durkan family in 2002. Tucked away on a 1.36 acre site off the Old Bray Road, a stone's throw from the Dunnes Stores flagship, Foxrock House is a on a slightly elevated site with views across to Killiney Bay and Dun Laoghaire.
An enclosed porch with limestone tiled floor and glazed double doors lead to a split-level front hall and cloakroom with guest wc. Also on the ground floor is a library, dining room, drawing room, living room, family room, kitchen, utility room, laundry room and shower room. Extra-height ceilings add to the sense of light about the place.
Upstairs, the main bedroom suite has a sitting room, dressing room and ensuite bathroom. There are three further double bedrooms, one with dressing room and ensuite bathroom, a family bathroom and snooker room.
Foxrock house is within walking distance of both Foxrock and Cornelscourt villages, beside the N11 and within minutes of M50 and Luas Park and Ride at Carrickmines.