Anyone who’s ever taken a boat ride in Amsterdam will have noticed that the period houses along the city’s network of canals are uniformly tall and narrow. In the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600s, Amsterdam was expanding so fast that property owners were taxed on the width of their dwellings. So rather than build low and wide, they built up and skinny. Much, in fact, like Irish city Georgian terraces.
These days, Irish builders are going Dutch in response to the growing pressure on space in Dublin’s urban sprawl. With the demand for family homes at an all-time high and land at a premium, the cityscape is shaping up to a new, leaner look as developers build up rather than out.
Initially, developers ventured back to the second floor by offering floored attic rooms, which were non-fire safety compliant, so they could be used as studies or home offices; but not as bedrooms. More recently, they moved on from flooring attics to offer fully fledged new three-storey houses of 2,000-3,000ft, designed to appeal to trader-uppers. By making them tall and narrow, builders fit more units into infill sites than they ever could with conventional designs.
Three years ago, when New Generation Homes launched Silverton, a development of 21 three-storey houses in an elevated site on Harold’s Grange Road in Rathfarnham, most of the units were sold off-plan. Located 250m from Marlay Park with its 300 acres of woodland, playing pitches and playgrounds, and with prestigious schools like St Columba’s College and Loreto Beaufort on the doorstep, it was hardly surprising that the majority of buyers were local families trading up in their home area.
One such couple was Barry and Bairbre Murray, who bought No17, the end house on a cul de sac in the development. Having grown up nearby, the pair had a checklist while looking for a house in the area. It had to be south-facing, A-rated, close to a park and preferably not yet completed so they could add their own finishing touches. Silverton ticked all the boxes.
“We had recessed spotlights installed and lowered the light switches so our son, who’s now six, could reach them,” says Barry. “We integrated the TV wires and power cables into the walls so they wouldn’t be visible and instead of the laminate flooring that came as standard, we had a solid oak herringbone floor with white varnish laid downstairs.
“Our neighbours all have a shed in the back garden, but as we’re on a corner site, we had enough space to put the shed in the side passageway. It fits all our garden tools and mountain bikes. The three of us cycle in Ticknock at the weekends and take the dog Tilly for walks there most evenings. Marlay Park was my playground as a kid and now it’s our son’s.”
When they bought the house, the pair invested in high quality materials and finishes that would stand the test of time. There’s a wool and silk carpet on the stairs and landing, while the velvet handmade wool bedroom carpet is so soft and springy, you can imagine quite literally bouncing out of bed in the mornings.
The A3-rated property has an energy efficient air-to-water heat pump that keeps the temperature constant all year round. Last year, the pair’s fuel bills came in at under €2,000.
The box bay living room off the hallway has a feature fireplace with solid fuel burner. There’s a guest wc opposite the stairs and beyond that is an open-plan kitchen-dining-living room spanning the width of the house. The first floor has two double bedrooms and a family bathroom. But it’s on the second floor where the height of this house and the elevated site on which it stands come into their own, taking advantage of stunning views in both directions.
From a double bedroom to the front, you get an eyeful of Dublin City, while the master bedroom to the rear looks out over a field, with the top of the Dublin Mountains visible beyond the trees.
The M50 is three minutes from Silverton, it’s a short drive to the Dundrum Town Centre, the Grange Golf Club and a choice of schools, and for dog owners, Deerfield Kennels is just around the corner.
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