'Ranelagh, but without the notions'? – Refurbished period family home in the heart of this rejuvenated Dublin suburb
A poster by graphic designer Fintan Wall adorning a wall inside 24 Richmond Hill reads: “Visit Rathmines. Like Ranelagh, but without the notions.”
The owners of the Victorian terraced house used to echo the sentiment. There was a saying on the street: ‘Ranelagh has everything we want; Rathmines has everything we need.’ However, that’s not quite the case anymore.
The neighbouring urban villages of Dublin 6 have been through waves of regeneration in their long history together. When the recession hit, Ranelagh, with its gentrified houses and chi-chi restaurants, held its own while Rathmines took a hammering. Vacant shops lined the main street and one of its two shopping centres closed down. Once renowned for its cult screenings of The Blues Brothers, the old 1923 built Stella cinema likewise shut its doors, while many local houses were stuck in a time warp of their own, still set out as pre-1963 flats.
But times are changing and Rathmines is no longer the poor relation. In the last few years, the place has had such an injection of new-money fillers that it’s looking positively rejuvenated.
Like Ranelagh, whose foodie hotspots include Host, TriBeCa, Cinnamon and Dillinger’s, trendy pavement cafés and restaurants have started to smooth over those Rathmines wrinkles. The Elephant and Castle spread its renowned chicken wings to open here last year, as did Voici Creperie & Wine Bar. Young upwardly mobile couples stroll around the park off Belgrave Square before dropping into Fallon and Byrne in the Swan Centre for a cheeseboard and a glass of wine and a trendy treat for their little ones in the form of a gelato served from a 1970s Fiat Cinquecento.
The Stella cinema reopened in October 2017, restored to all its 1920’s glory and rebranded as the Stella Theatre. In its heyday, this was the biggest and glitziest cinema in the country, decked out in art deco splendour, with a fountain in the foyer and a ballroom on the first floor.
In their book, A-Z Of All Old Dublin Cinemas, George Kearns and Patrick Maguire recall that: “In the 1940s, the pubs closed at 7.30pm on Sunday nights and quite a few of the ‘garglers’ would then make their way to the Stella to see a picture. Most suburban picture houses at the time would start their show at 8pm, but the Stella management delayed their opening for half an hour in order to give the boozers time to go home, have their tea and then take in a movie.”
Today’s tipplers don’t have to go home for tea, they can have it brought to their table at the start of the film. While the cinema originally had a capacity of 1,283, today it caters for an exclusive audience of 216 who can enjoy tapas, prosecco and popcorn while watching a movie from the luxury of plush red velvet seats, sofas for two or double beds in the front row.
Also tempting the trendies to this area is Alan Hanna’s Bookshop with its incorporated Bark cafe where one can pick a book of choice and pore over it with a coffee and gourmet sandwich. Then there’s the bar du jour, Blackbird, a craft beer reincarnation of the old Rathmines Inn. It’s two minutes’ walk around the corner to 24 Richmond Hill, which, like many houses on the street, was once set out in flats and bedsits for generations of up-from-the-country students and civil servants who occupied ‘flatland’.
During the Celtic Tiger, the house was bought by somebody with pockets deep enough to manage a complete conversion and refurbishment into a smart, four-bedroom family home with period features intact. No sooner was the modernisation complete than work took the owners elsewhere. They put the house up for sale at €850,000 – and then came the crash.
As the property languished on the market with no bids, the asking price fell to €715,000 and was eventually sold in 2011 to the current owners for €650,000. With all the heavy lifting having been done, all this couple had to do was paint the walls in their preferred neutral shades and hang curtains.
Set off the road and fronted by a gravelled driveway with parking for three cars, the two-storey-over-basement house is accessed by granite steps going up to the front door and down to a side door at basement level. At 2,292 sq ft, it’s twice the size of a modern three-bed semi.
The hallway has a feature arch, coving and a large ceiling rose typical of the Victorian era. Other period features include high ceilings, original fireplaces throughout and exposed wood flooring on the ground floor. A reception room to the left off the hall is currently set out as a study and thick wooden doors open from here to the living room, with shuttered sash windows overlooking the back garden.
Steps from the hall lead down to a bedroom with a dressing area off, and an ensuite shower room, an ideal set-up for a nanny/au pair. A door on this level leads out to a low-maintenance, south-facing back garden with Indian sandstone paving and an artificial lawn. A variety of herbs and vegetables, including courgettes, artichokes, spring onions and chard, grow in raised beds, and there’s a storage shed at the far end. A side gate leads from the garden with right of access through to Mount Pleasant Avenue where the Leinster Cricket Club is located.
The basement of the house is given over to an airy, open-plan kitchen-dining room. The kitchen has a five-ring Rangemaster, lots of storage, granite worktops and windows to the back garden, while the dining area comfortably fits a table for 10 and has recessed lights and a coal-effect gas burner. A door leads out to a small front patio with steps up to the drive.
Upstairs, the first floor return has a double bedroom with dual aspect windows and a family bathroom with bath, walk-in shower and wc. On the first floor, the main bedroom spans the width of the property with a feature fireplace, ceiling rose and two sash windows overlooking the front garden. Another double bedroom, also with fireplace and period features, overlooks the back. Steps lead up to a separate wc on the second floor.
There’s a choice of schools and crèches nearby, and leisure amenities include Little Kickers football club for toddlers, the Swan Leisure Centre and Mount Pleasant Tennis Club. It’s 10 minutes’ walk to Portobello and another 10 minutes to Grafton Street in one direction, and 10 minutes to Ranelagh in the other.
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