“There’s something special about Martin Street,” in Portobello, Dublin 8, says the owner of number 2, the first house at the Lennox Street end of the terrace that terminates at the Grand Canal bank. Like Kingsland Parade and Warren Street on either side of it, it was built in the mid-1880s by the Dublin Artisans’ Dwelling Company on the site of the city basin, which was opened as a reservoir in 1812 but closed, drained and filled in in 1883.
Clearly a lot of the neighbours feel the same about the street, as only nine of the 45 houses have sold in the past 12 years. And the current owner of number 2 says many people still talk fondly about its previous resident, the much-admired sports journalist and Kerryman Con Houlihan, who lived there for about 25 years until his death, in 2012.
On learning that the house was on the market, Irish Times sportswriter Ian O’Riordan shared “special memories of having the great pleasure of visiting Con on occasion over the years; the honour it was to be there, how welcoming he was. You’d never know who else might knock in – athletes or painters, poets or politicians, writers or singers – all made to feel at home.”
O’Riordan recalled that there were books “in every available space... on and under tables, up and behind every shelf, though never in a cluttered or untidy way. Con being utterly generous, he rarely let you leave without insisting you take a book with you.”
When the current owner bought the two-bed redbrick house in 2013 – for €250,000, according to the Property Price Register – she set about opening it up to light it from front to back and to maximise the space, which extends to 81sq m (872sq ft).
The previous owner had enlarged the downstairs with a kitchen and bathroom, but the 2014 redesign by architect Derek Dockrell involved pushing the kitchen farther out, moving the bathroom upstairs and taking a bit off the second bedroom for it, and flipping the stairs around.
Now most of the living space at the front is used as a home office, with a book-lined wall like in Houlihan’s time there, and the angled chimneybreast creating a focal point. The builders removed the original cast-iron fireplace in error, says the owner, but as compensation they replaced it with a better one from the same period. She inserted a wood-burning stove in the middle room, which was then a bit dark but thanks to Dockrell’s vision and persistence, the pitched roof in the kitchen draws light all the way in through high, south-facing windows. The Ber is C2.
The three rooms downstairs are open plan once you come in from the hall, to the right, but the owner says she kept the opening between the two livingrooms such that it could be subdivided by doors in future. They are unified by a Scandi-pale laminate floor.
The kitchen at the back, with that tall ceiling, is fitted with grey-green units from In House that make good use of all the space, and open shelves at eye height give extra interest. At the end is a utility room lit by a Velux, and an original outhouse is now a pantry. There is storage under the stairs.
French doors open from the kitchen to the little paved town garden, designed by Tiggy Mays of Howbert and Mays; the scent from the climbing jasmine fills the kitchen on summer evenings.
As number 2 – like numbers 1, 44 and 45 – is an end-of-terrace house, the pretty gable front creates greater ceiling heights upstairs: the owner has exploited this with tall wardrobes built in by Peter Browett, who also made a mirrored cabinet for the bathroom. This has a little window, a good wide shower, a heated towel rail and Vitra fittings. The subway tiles here echo those in the kitchen.
The main bedroom at the front has two west-facing windows, and extra storage above the wardrobes, and the smaller bedroom to the back is home to a toddler; the owner and her family are moving for more space.
“You get a good feeling when you turn the corner and come into this house,” she says, voicing her mixed feelings about leaving the road, with its cool neighbourhood shops and easy access to the city centre. “Whoever buys it will love it.”
Number 2 Martin Street, Portobello, Dublin 8, is for sale through Sherry FitzGerald with an asking price of €525,000.