See inside this Portobello cottage whose renovation was a family affair


16 Arbutus Place, Portobello, Dublin 8 Asking price: €735k Agent: Felicity Fox (01) 633 4431

lexandra Cullen and John Kilkenny have never fallen far from the Arbutus tree.

Since they have known each other they have lived in the area bounded by Camden Street to the east and Clanbrassil Street to the west in Dublin 8, the small and affluent district known as Portobello.

“We were in a house share on Pleasants Street and then we were renting a house on Arbutus Place when No16 came up,” Kilkenny says. “It was small (circa 700sq ft) and we were not entirely convinced it was for us really, though we really wanted a house in the area and we loved living on the street.”

They are both creative types. Kilkenny is a creative director with years of experience in advertising and Cullen is a radio producer, but it took a third eye to show them the potential in the little late 19th-century cottage. John’s brother Marc is an architect, and after taking a look, he convinced the pair they could make the most of the space behind the single-fronted cottage exterior.


The exterior of Arbutus Place

“Marc had been living in Scotland, but he came over here to do a job for me on some offices so I asked him to give it the once over and he stayed on to do the job. Then he ended up meeting someone while he was here and he never went back,” Kilkenny says.

“We pretty much just left the original front wall and the roof from a 1970s extension. We dug down by about a metre and we put in a second floor.”


The reception room in Arbutus Place

Adding well over 250sq ft or so of living accommodation, they managed to get two bedrooms on to the ground floor and a third upstairs, a master suite with a bathroom and walk-in wardrobe — albeit one that currently serves as a cot-room/ nursery.


The kitchen with open shelving and breakfast bar

On the ground floor meanwhile, there are two bedrooms at the back of the house plus a main bathroom. To the front is a living, dining and kitchen area with a pantry/ utility room. All of this and they still managed to keep a courtyard with enough space to swing quite a large feline and with floor tiles that match the kitchen and back hallway.


The extension and courtyard at the rear of the house

The courtyard is where Kilkenny and Cullen like to put their Christmas tree. “We usually get a huge one and make a mess of the house dragging it through,” Kilkenny says. “But it looks amazing in the courtyard. I love to sit and look at it from the sofa under the front window looking towards the back of the house.”


The dining area at Arbutus Place

Cullen meanwhile, is extremely fond of her ‘lockdown yoga room’, one of the bedrooms repurposed during the pandemic and currently employed as a work-from-home office. To be honest, she says “there isn’t a corner of this house I haven’t fully enjoyed and felt completely at home in over the years. I love throwing the front door open on a sunny evening and enjoying tine with our neighbours”.


Corner shelving makes the most of space in the living room

Tucked half way down a quiet cul de sac about 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre, the house has already allowed generations of kids to play outside.

At one point, seven children lived in the house, and in the 1970s it was home to 1980s Chelsea and Shamrock Rovers football star John Coady, who would have honed his ball skills outside on the street. Coady went on to play left back for Chelsea during the Tony Cascarino era and had two successful stints with Rovers, the team he supported from childhood.

But it is unlikely that the Chelsea goal scorer would recognise his former home today. Thanks to the skills of Marc Kilkenny (now working with Howley, Hayes Cooney), it isn’t an exaggeration to describe the current interior as light-filled. The three-sided internal courtyard makes sure of that and the reflective colours of the interior design make the most of carrying the light indoors.

The kitchen/ living dining area is a well put together open-plan space off a small hallway with a glass wall at one end giving an uninhibited view into the kitchen. This gives the impression the hall runs the length of the house.


One of the bathrooms at Arbutus Place

The hallway, though small, also has clever built-in coat storage. The living area has a Stanley solid fuel stove tucked into a nook, a high roof-lit ceiling and ‘Lisbon’ oak laminate on the floors, which is also used in the bedrooms.

The kitchen is cleverly divided from the main living space by an island/ breakfast bar.
There is underfloor heating, divided in to four individually controllable zones and the upstairs bathroom has a bath, while the ground floor bathroom has a wetroom shower.

“The flow of light and space has always seemed a perfect fit whatever way our lifestyle shifted,” Cullen says of the space. With two young children Evie (two and a half) and Max (one and a half) now part of life however, Kilkenny and Cullen find they are in search of somewhere with perhaps a little more garden space for their charges to play in.
Staying in Portobello may not be an option. Though they have been casting an eye around the same neighbourhood, Kilkenny fells they may have to look further afield this time.

“The most recent place to go sale agreed in the area that we liked is just a little out of our reach, so we will have to see. We are gutted to leave here as we have gotten to know the neighbours so well. So many of them were sad to see the sign go up,” he says.

“Lockdown in particular was amazing. There were so many barbecues and other social events on the street. You really couldn’t ask for a better bunch of neighbours.”
16 Arbutus Place is for sale with an asking price of €735,000 through the Felicity Fox estate agency.


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