Peek inside TV3 presenter Sybil Mulcahy's South Dublin home
TV presenter Sybil Mulcahy has really helpful friends. One of them introduced her to her husband of 13 years, while another found her ideal home in south Dublin for her.
Home. A small, simple four- letter word, but as the author of Little House on The Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, once said: "Home is the nicest word there is."
Top TV3 presenter Sybil Mulcahy wholeheartedly agrees. And without being too dramatic, by the time January 2014 dawned, a house she could call home was something Sybil felt she was never going to find. "We had sold our first house, which was too small, at a loss, and we were looking for another for three years. It seemed never-ending. I'd say we went to auction ten times. We actually managed to buy one house, had sale agreed, everything, then the owner pulled out. For over three years, we spent every Saturday looking at houses," the vivacious blonde recalls.
Warming to her theme, Sybil goes on to say: "I knew every estate agent in Dublin and they knew me and my budget. I did everything. I even did flyer drops, saying, 'If you'd like to sell your house, contact me' to every house on roads I thought I'd like to live on. I got one response, but the owner couldn't agree a figure - she kept raising the price. I got sick of it."
Of course as Sybil - who does now have a beautiful home in south county Dublin - realises in retrospect, she was looking at houses she couldn't afford, in an area that was beyond her means. It was the area she grew up in, the area where her parents still live, and she wanted to be close to them. As the youngest of seven - five girls and two boys - the mother of three is the first to admit she was/is the pet.
Not that being the pet stopped her from flying the coop after she finished college; she did English in UCD, followed by a H Dip in applied communications in Galway. Then she headed for the States. It was 1995. "I went for a summer, but stayed for five years," she notes with a laugh. Needless to mention, romance was a factor in her staying. His name was Rob. "I met him in a coffee shop in San Diego - I was waitressing and I served him a sandwich," she reminisces.
It was a good five years - as well as waitressing, she sunbathed and surfed. However, after a while, the appeal of the lazy life lessened, and so she did courses in the local community college in TV production - editing and reporting. The romance continued, Rob's mother adored Sybil, and, best of all, she got work in a local TV station and realised that TV was her dream career.
Then, in 1999, she heard TV3 was opening in Dublin. Suddenly Ireland seemed very attractive. "I thought, 'this is my chance'. Rob had asked me to marry him, but I decided to come home and see if I could get a job. I did - as an editor. The first year home we went back and forth then, finally, I said, 'that's it'."
Sybil has no regrets; she went on to get her dream job in TV3 - that of reporter/presenter. TV3 has been good for her in other ways too - it was through Paddy, a cameraman friend there, that she met her husband, engineer John Prendeville.
"Paddy told me he had a friend having a 30th birthday party in Searsons in Baggot Street, and invited me along. As it happened, I was going to the closing party of the restaurant Le Coq Hardi nearby. After it, I skipped up the road and arrived at 1.30am. It was John's 30th, we met, he left his own party and we went up to the Burlington for drinks. That was 13 years ago," she says with a smile.
The couple have three kids - Hugh, 8; Genevieve, 6; and toddler Michael - and after each birth Sybil went back to work and steadily climbed the TV3 ladder. She started in news, then became an entertainment reporter, before joining the Xpose team. After two years there, she became co-presenter with Martin King of TV3's The Morning Show. Then, after five years on the couch with Martin, she moved to Midday. She recently opted to go freelance, but she's continuing to do Midday and has now also just started her own prime-time evening show called Life. "I'm thrilled with it, it's been great fun traveling the country and finding fascinating people with extraordinary stories," she says.
The timing of the new show is ideal - last year, she and John found the perfect home and she settled the family in before embarking on her travels to research the show.
After all her years of disappointment, she got a fantastic break on the house front. She and John had gone to auction on an architect-designed house they really liked but were, as usual, outbid. Then, by chance, some time later a friend of theirs, Joe McDonald, who services alarms, was in a neighbouring house, designed by the same architect, the late renowned Michael Scott. "Joe was chatting to the owner and mentioned that friends of his had bid on the other house. The owner said, 'we're selling too' and Joe said 'would you mind if I gave my friends your number?' She agreed and I rang her immediately."
Sybil and John came to see the house the following Saturday, realised it was much bigger, at 3,600 square feet, than the other house, and thought it was out of their league. "We walked in, thought, 'oh holy, no way would we be able to afford this'. It was lovely, the fire was lighting in the hall, I'd say we were there for 20 minutes in total," Sybil says.
They weren't optimistic, but engaged auctioneer Billy O'Sullivan to negotiate on their behalf. "On the following Monday, Billy went to the house at 5pm, he was in the TV room, the owners were in the kitchen and they went back and forth with figures. At 6pm, he rang us to say, 'you have it'. That was it! Billy is the business," Sybil says gleefully.
The contract included a closing date of July, so Sybil and John didn't see inside the house again for five months and couldn't remember what it was like, so those five months were tense. "Because I never thought we'd get the house, I didn't take any photos, and then when they did agree to sell it to us, I didn't want to be bothering them by asking if I could see it again" she says.
Sybil needn't have worried. When they finally got the key last summer, it exceeded expectations. "We didn't realise how big it really is, or that we now had a huge garden - there are trees that are so big they should be in the Phoenix Park," she says. "And the owners were so nice - they left Champagne and a handwritten note explaining the name of the house, how everything worked, and gave us lists of the people who service the utilities, everything."
The house was in perfect structural order, and all it needed was a big paint job and lots of furniture. They got the kitchen units painted to complement the blue Aga and now have a wonderful kitchen/dining room. They got comfy sofas and armchairs from DFS to create a cosy TV room. Sybil's mother has been extremely generous with pieces from the family home but still, the enormous dining and drawing rooms are only part furnished. Sybil isn't bothered. Hasn't she the years ahead for furnishing the rest of the house; needless to mention, she's planning to stay put.
'Life', starts at 8pm this Friday for five weeks on TV3; 'Midday' is on Mondays to Fridays at noon on TV3