Forget Ailesbury Road, this tree-lined Rathgar street has equally stylish houses and a more lived-in feel. No 32 is a classic example
For years Anthony O’Dea specialised in modernising Edwardian and Georgian houses around the country, bringing them up to modern living standards, while ensuring that they were restored sympathetically.
While working on houses on Orwell Park, in Rathgar, in Dublin 6, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he found himself longing to revamp a home of his own on the strip. He turned his wish into action in 2004 when he bought No 32, an Arts and Craft-style house on the northern side of Orwell Park.
The tree-lined Orwell Park may not achieve the prices or have the cachet of Dublin 4’s Ailesbury and Shrewsbury Roads, but it is on a par in terms of the style and quality of the architecture.
Estate agent Simon Stokes argues that it’s a much nicer place to live: people make their homes there, the houses are more homely and there’s a great sense of community, he says.
In the past six years, Orwell Park has undergone something of a transformation, as about a third of the 48 houses were sold between 2011 and 2015. A new tranche of residents — a mix of young families and couples — moved in, and hired builders to carry out renovations.
Workmen are still carrying out renovations on a couple of houses on the street. Two new upmarket housing schemes were built, Orwell Park Square and 59 Orwell Park, a scheme of eight apartments and townhouses that don’t look out of place on the boulevard.
There’s a new, affluent population on the street and, even on a weekday, couples stroll by and locals take their dogs for a walk.
As you turn onto the tree-lined Orwell Park from Orwell Road, the imposing period houses sparkle. No 32 can be found towards the end of the road. It has some political connections: the previous owners were related to Oscar Traynor, the Irish politician who took part in the 1916 Rising and went on to become the longest-serving minister for defence. Traynor was a regular visitor to the house and is believed to have lived there for a time.
O’Dea’s initial plans involved building a studio to the rear, but he shelved them and concentrated on the main house. In 2014, he added an extra bay window to the front reception room. The job has been so well done that you have to look closely to spot the differences between it and the original.
The house opens into a large entrance hall that has the original parquet flooring. It turns into the large reception room, which has two windows. The Arts and Crafts influence is instantly noticeable — even the doors have intricate carvings and the original Adam-style fireplace remains.
The Arts and Crafts details are to be found throughout the house, from ornate tiles around the fireplaces, to the ovoid brass door handles and parquet floors.
With the studio idea abandoned, O’Dea, who is a fourth-generation builder, concentrated on the back of the house. The kitchen was long, narrow and quite small, so he extended it.
“We took out walls to open it up and put in a Christoff kitchen. My son, who is a joiner, made up a lot of the units to finish it off,” he says. Velux windows and double doors leading to a decked back garden brighten up the space. Just off is a dining area and beyond that an outsized utility room.
There is a also second, smaller reception room to the back of the house. Its enormous bay window floods the room with light. Just off this, to the front of the house, is a study.
From the entrance hall, the stairs wind their way up to the first floor where there are four double bedrooms, all with fireplaces. O’Dea created a stunning master suite, with a walk-in wardrobe of mammoth proportions. With his son, he installed plenty of shelving, and the modern woodwork doesn’t look out of place in a home filled with exquisite craftsmanship.
The house sits on almost a third of an acre. You can reach the back garden from both sides of the house, and can also drive your car through the garage out to the rear.
O’Dea says he enjoyed the work, which took a year to complete. The family moved into the house for a while, but it has been let for the past couple of years. As O’Dea retires from the construction trade, he’s hoping to head back to his native west of Ireland.
No 32 was put up for sale for a while in 2015, with an asking price of €3.2m, but it was withdrawn. It has just returned to the market at €2.5m. That seems like a bargain price for such an exquisite home that has been restored so meticulously.