Welcome to the 'super terrace'
Priced out of semis, trendy couples are taking city terraces to new levels
At their very best Dublin's city-centre terraces are traditionally seen as quintessentially Victorian with characterful redbrick period façades and lots of charming original features inside.
At their worst, they are dark and dingy with no storage, no garden and a pokey downstairs bathroom, tacked on to the end of a tiny galley kitchen.
For years the location of many in some of the capital's neglected inner-city postcodes made buying a two or three-bed terrace with no front garden, an option for only those desperate to get on the property ladder or hard core city-centre devotees.
But post boom, these modest homes built to house the city's workers have come to symbolise a new kind of urban living for professional, hip and trendy first-time buyers looking to make their mark on an affordable city property that isn't an apartment.
Their appeal is twofold with downsizers looking for a home in a well-established area as well as young families who want older terrace homes to modernise and extend.
The future of the Victorian terrace as an ultra-modern hipster pad was first mapped out in Britain, which has acres upon acres of Victorian terraces in its cities. It happened under the last Labour Government when then housing minister John Prescott's plan to bulldoze 'Coronation Street' style city terraces all over the UK caused uproar from those in the design community.
The latter believed the high-density Victorian terrace with its clever use of space, was part of the solution rather than the problem. Among the design led developer responses was one from the world-famous Urban Splash, which led the way with Chimney Pot Park in 2006, a scheme of revitalised terraces in Salford, Manchester, home of the famous soap opera.
Uniquely, the developers got hold of whole streets of old run-down terraces to upgrade. They filled in the rear yards to provide additional downstairs space with roof gardens above, moved living quarters to the first floor to provide more light for day-to-day living. They opened out attic spaces to house the kitchen at the very top of the house and turned the extended downstairs areas into bedrooms. Parking, always an issue with no garden terraces, was provided in the new covered area which once held the old back yard.
The Urban Splash take completely transformed the view of two-up two-downs in these islands overnight. This return to the terraces followed in Dublin, is due in part to a surge in this type of design-conscious led gentrification. Along with skips and builders' vans lining streets have come brew bars, gastropubs and upmarket bakeries. Areas like Stoneybatter and Phibsboro in the northside and the Liberties and Ringsend southside are seen as 'on the up'.
"In other areas low stock coupled with a high demand is also pushing up prices," says Alistair Hickey of selling agents Felicity Fox. Compared though to the cost of a three-bed semi, the two-up two-down is still relatively affordable and allied with a shift in perception "they offer great opportunity to add value," says Hickey. On one hand, existing older terraces are being stripped out entirely and remodeled - as with the property at 56 Home Villas in Donnybrook (pictured above). On the other hand, where older city-centre buildings have had to be demolished, a more modern residence type based on the original terrace formula is springing up.
A perfect example is the home of Cian and Catherine McDonald in a scheme of four - post Tiger built terraces in Dublin 8's Arnott Street (also pictured). These offer the stengths of the terraces but without their inherent weaknesses.
Just last weekend the residents of Arnott Street held their annual street party. "Everyone here is really friendly and welcoming," says resident Cian McDonald.
Cian, owner of the Grooming Rooms in South William Street, his wife Catherine and their two-year-old son have lived in the area since 2014.
Their home is Number 49, a completely modern, new-build terrace of four homes that includes part of the original end-of-terrace redbrick that once stood on the site.
Completed in 2010, the scheme which faces north towards the Meath Hospital, addresses many of the factors that have traditionally put some buyers off traditional terraces. It's brighter, bigger (at 941 sq ft) and, like the Urban Splash revamped terrace concept, is arranged over three floors rather than two.
It comes with a large family bathroom, an en suite bedroom and plenty of storage.
As is the case with the new takes on terraces being explored in the UK, this dwelling makes use of every inch of space so it also digs down - the best of the space is in the basement which consists of an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room running the whole width of the house and measuring some 13ft by 22ft.
Sliding doors open to a south-facing decked courtyard garden, with a retractable awning so you can enjoy the space even when it's raining.
"It's got great kerb appeal, says Cian. "I like clean lines and the simplicity of the architecture juxtaposed with the street's original buildings.
"The area too is a real hotspot, with lots of great restaurants, pubs and cafes opening up all the time."
An added bonus is that it's also less than ten minutes' walk from St Stephen's Green.
A move to the suburbs to be closer to their extended family is nonetheless tinged with sadness for the couple, given the friendly neighbourhood they'll be leaving behind.
"We'll definitely miss the location and our neighbours," says Cian.
Number 49 Arnott Street is on the market with DNG Trinity for €725,000.
On the southside of the central city area in Harold's Cross, Portobello and Donnybrook, period two-up-two-downs have always been popular.
Though a purchase here for many is likely to be a move up the housing ladder rather than on to it.
Built in the early 1900s, No 56 Home Villas, located in the heart of Donnybrook Village, Dublin 4, is a modernised, extended redbrick mid-terrace.
Bought in 2012, it's has been totally transformed by its architect owners, John Power of Bright Design Architects and Rachel Moore, an associate with John Fleming Architects, and is now on the market for €595,000 through Lisney. "We gutted the house and opened up the ground floor layout. The kitchen has been moved to the front and a full-width single storey extension with glazed sliding doors added to the rear, increasing its size to 700 sq ft," says Rachel.
They've added a bathroom upstairs, a utility shed outside and created lots of clever storage in bedroom alcoves, under the stairs and in the attic, and with kitchen cupboards which run right up to the ceiling.
It's bright, light and gorgeously modern with lots of charming original features, including fireplaces and a brick inglenook.
"For us the big draw was the area - Herbert Park is literally right on our doorstep and has become our garden. The period character and good-sized bedrooms of the property also appealed and, unlike an apartment, we liked the physical separation of living to bedroom space. Plus our own front door," adds Rachel.
For some buyers, it's the intimacy of the terrace and sense of community that comes with living in such close proximity that appeals.
One of the advantages for buyers of two-up two-downs is that few terraces in the city are listed, so it's relatively easy to substantially overhaul the interior to make them suitable for modern living.
That's exactly what homeowner and architect Joan McElligott did to transform the 581 sq ft terrace at 53 Harold Road, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7.
When Joan bought it in 2015, the mid-terrace property was in poor condition it was in poor condition.
"It hadn't been lived in for a few years. There was no heating or kitchen and the roof leaked.
"While the original build was a solid structure, the house needed a full renovation job," explains Joan. Now the property is the envy of its neighbours.
Joan has been really clever with the space, using lots of simple design tricks, such as mirrors, colour and floor-to-ceiling storage, to unlock the house's hidden potential.
She's moved the stairs and opened up the ground floor layout.
"One of my priorities was to increase the outdoor space and make it feel part of the house.
"The original rear yard was too small to be used and there was no real connection to the house," says Joan.
Thanks to clever design, it's now accessed via a glazed wall that opens out from a glossy white kitchen.
Keen to begin another project, Joan is moving on.
Number 53 Harold Road is for sale for €385,000 with North's Property.