How this designer couple created a small wonder in Dublin's Stoneybatter

The vendors of 35 Carnew Street in Stoneybatter would not be going anywhere if it weren’t for their fast-growing two-year-old Milly and their burgeoning art collection – both of which now demand a little more space.

No 35, say Natacha Diaz and Peter Hopkins, is bulging at the seams, and they have spotted a larger house not too far away in Glasnevin.

The two-up two-down redbricks of Stoneybatter have seen some of the highest percentage price rises of any Dublin district in recent years. And it is easy to understand the lure for first-time buyers (FTBs) in their twenties and thirties struggling to find an affordable home.

For starters, the place retains a sense of community that many new build schemes aimed at FTBs find hard to achieve. It is low density, with pockets of green spaces, parks and squares for toddlers to enjoy and parents to bump into their neighbours. St Gabriel’s National School is within walking distance, and there seems to be a cafe on the end of every street.

There is even a local Facebook group that shares goods for upcycling. When the couple’s heating broke in the middle of a cold spell, a neighbour was on the doorstep in minutes to lend them a heater.

As Natacha and Peter both agree, it won’t be the easy walk in to town and their jobs that they will miss most – it will be the neighbours and friends they met while living at No 35.

They bought in 2013 for €205,000, according to the Property Price Register. While the house was in good nick, some updating was needed. Both Natacha and Peter work as designers so they paid close attention to all the details. They upgraded the windows to double-glazed, researching a company that specialised in exactly the period details they wanted.

They added two stained glass windows, one based on a scene from writer and illustrator Oliver Jeffers’ classic, Lost and Found. They cobbled the backyard, and added a cute shed that looks like a Victorian beach hut. Upstairs, they insulated the two bedrooms to bring their BER down from E2 to C1. And they fitted a new combi boiler and a larger water tank that has improved their water pressure radically, they say. In Milly’s bedroom, they built in a platform bed to add an optional guest bed.

On the ground floor, they ripped out the original bathroom and fitted a shower, free-standing claw-footed bath and encaustic tiled floor. The hanging wooden door has a sliding rail that Peter found on Etsy. They punched through double doors from the open plan living space to the yard. And everywhere they hung Peter’s eclectic collection of prints.

When it came to selling, the pair opted for one of the new breed of estate agents that is disrupting the traditional process of buying and selling. “We wanted something easy and quick,” says Natacha. They chose Auctioneera.ie, a company that launched a year ago and has now sold over €6m of property. It offers all the usual agent’s services but at a flat fee – “that was a big thing as it works out much cheaper for us”, says Natacha. Perhaps most interesting, all bids are posted online, making the process transparent.

According to Helen O’Keeffe of Auctioneera.ie, “if a buyer offers the asking price of a property, we implement a 15-day timer which is in effect a deadline for offers.

“We do find that there can be a flurry of offers then towards the end of the deadline timer which is really interesting as it occurs in real-time on our site for all parties to the process (and onlookers).”

The end point for offers for 35 Carnew Street is March 5. The process has been remarkably quick and painless, says the couple. The house will have been on the market for less than three weeks.

Era: Late 1900s

Size: 74sqm

Agent: Auctioneera.ie

Viewing: Today, 3-3.0pm – final bid must be placed before Tuesday, 5 March

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