It’s rare for one of the most eye-catching of an agent’s photographs of a house to be the view from the top of its front steps. But in the case of 35 Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, it captures this property’s location on the cusp of city and suburb: from the rear you can see offices on the far bank of the Grand Canal, and just across from the front gate is the lovely Victorian park.
Defined by houses that were built in the late 1890s, and lined by majestic mature broadleaf trees behind railings, the square is a green haven just metres from the canal. Now managed by Dublin City Council, it has benches around the perimeter and along the central walkway under a pergola. The owners of number 35, a generously proportioned four-bed, have lived there since 2013, and the square seems to serve as an extension of their home. “Our boys would be up in those trees till 11pm,” says one, noting that it used to be the Loreto sports grounds. “We used to have old-fashioned birthday parties out there, like mini-sports days.”
Their other highlights include the annual dog show, a dawn chorus event led by environmental expert Éanna Ní Lamhna, and twice-weekly yoga sessions: “On International Yoga Day there isn’t a spare square yard that isn’t under a mat.” The owners say the friendly feeling extends to the local pub, O’Brien’s; they’ll always bump into a neighbour there, or at the nearby shops and cafes on Upper Leeson Street. They have put the house on the market through Sherry FitzGerald, with an asking price of €2.15 million, and plan to stay close by.
Among the former residents of the square that Deirdre Kelly mentions in her invaluable book, Four Roads to Dublin, were co-founders of the Gate Theatre Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards who lived at number 61 in the 1930s. Kelly quotes Mac Liammóir’s description, in his book All for Hecuba, of their landlady and her house: “Our life in her quiet house proved pleasant ... close to the canal, and red brick, slate roofs, art-silk curtains and near railings backed by laurel and box made a daily festival for our eyes — so demure and inevitable it all was, even with the wild skies above and the water flowing among the rushes close by.”
Almost a century later, there’s a similar feeling throughout number 35, of inviting the outside in. The porch at the top of the steps is one of the owners’ favourite spots to sit with a coffee and observe life on the square. “We like the quietness of this side,” she says. “No one comes down here unless they have reason to.” At the base of the steps is a lavender-hedged, paved patio soaked in southerly light, and the family pass cups of tea out through the windows in the ground-floor living room. This is a lovely cosy family room that opens to the kitchen, where smart streamlined units contrast with a black Aga.
In 2014, the current owners engaged conservation architect Robin Mandal to upgrade and extend the house, and his exacting standards and imaginative alterations make this area bright and modern while respecting the fabric and proportions of the protected structure, with its original return. Previous owners had added a second return and built a large conservatory, which Mandal replaced with a relaxed dining and reading/play area topped by roof lights and opening through big glass doors to the patio and garden. A square of artificial grass is edged by deep, well-tended flower beds holding crab apples and acers. A giant acer at the end wall shields the mews that was built about 20 years ago.
Also at garden level is a cleverly arranged shower room, with a utility behind sliding doors. There are good cupboards along the wall that swallow coats and shoes, and the space under the steps, beside the door, is dry-lined for storage. The house is Ber-exempt.
The main hall door is surrounded by stained glass, with the number 35 picked out above, and to the left off the wide hall are two fine interconnecting rooms. The owners were advised on interiors by the late Peter Johnson, who suggested closing off one of the doors from the hall: it’s still there, but having only one door unifies the space. “We use every room in the house,” they say. Matching marble fireplaces have attractive flowery tiled insets, and the original butler’s pantry in the return works really well as a home office. There is a bedroom on this level, with original stained-glass door, as well as a guest bathroom.
Upstairs, there are two bedrooms at the front. The fourth, a large double, is at the back and has very understated, beautifully crafted wardrobes built in. At the top of the return is a third bathroom, with marble mosaic floor, and storage framing the window. The calm colours used throughout make the house at once cosy and airy.
While the square is quiet, it’s very well connected, with buses, the Luas, schools and sports close by, and the city a short walk or cycle. There is disc parking for cars on the street.