Two new homes develops hit the market this week on either side of the city. Both small sites on brownfield locations in two of Dublin’s best suburbs, these new homes are changing the design and layout from those seen in the last property cycle. We take a look at these new schemes and ask whether they are the ideal format for the Irish home.
Townhouses: North and South
The two schemes in question are in Churchtown, Dublin 14 and Sutton Cross, Dublin 13. Although numerically adjacent, these are of course postcodes on opposite sides of the city. Sutton on the northside has stunning views of Howth and across Dublin Bay, while Churchtown is a well located southside suburb with good schools, green spaces and excellent connections. Both are highly sought after and recently deficient in new homes construction.
Warren Lodge, Sutton
This week Greg Kavannagh’s New Generation Homes launched Warren Lodge in Sutton Cross. The development features 9 new A2-rated homes on a former nursing home site. The site is everything with this development. Situated on the coast road overlooking Bull Island and Dublin Bay, the views are unprecedented.
And so are the finishes. High ceilings in the living rooms, contemporary kitchens with quartz worktops, en suite bathrooms, walk-in dressing rooms, landscaped gardens and high-tech heat pump central heating systems.
Of the 9 houses, four are situated at the front with uninterrupted sea views while the remaining 5 are at the rear of the site but are still high quality homes.
And they are all big. Betweeen 2,457 sq ft and 2,530 sq ft these are all 4-bedrooms with studies and ample living space. However, to fit this many houses onto a relatively small site – and to make them grand 4-bed homes with all the facilities – the developers have had to look skywards. Each of the houses at Warren Lodge are three-storey. While the height might take advantage of the gorgeous views from the bedrooms, it’s a long way to climb the stairs to bed at the end of a night.
Townhouses allow much more space to be created on a smaller site plan, however there are compromises. Plenty of stairs, disparate rooms, sometimes a lack of flow in the living spaces when many homeowners want single-level open-plan living space. In this case it also means very small gardens.
When you are spending between €830,000 and €930,000 on a family home you will probably want more than a postage stamp of grass, no matter the views out your front door.
On the other side of town, a former petrol-station site on the Upper Churchtown Road has been converted into 6 four-bedroom townhouses. This is a striking modern development with whitewashed walls and timber-cladding uppers. Inside are high quality finishes, Kube kitchens, solar panels and smart heating systems that makes these A2-rated homes.
Each home is an ample 1,950 sq ft over 3-storeys. However, building upwards has it’s downsides. Each floor is only just over 600 sq ft. That means the ground floor living room and kitchen is pretty small. And so is the garden, crammed into an L-shape between high walls.
Bedrooms 2, 3 and 4 are all on the first floor, but the fourth bedroom is more a study or closet. And finally the master suite is a decent 400 sq ft but you’re climbing to the second floor. Not great when you forgot something in your bedroom before leaving the house.
The master suite does feature a large rooftop terrace, but if you think you’re going to be strolling out for your morning cuppa in your dressing gown, make sure your neighbours aren’t doing the same – they all overlook one another rather uncomfortably.
If you think you’re going to be strolling out for your morning cuppa in your dressing gown, make sure your neighbours aren’t doing the same…
For close to €800,000 these are well located properties with an excellent finish – but not everyone will find the living arrangements to their taste.
Tall, Tall Townhouses
It’s interesting to note how new homes designs have changed. Back before the boom these site would no doubt have consisted of a mixture of houses but also apartments. Both are in areas with older apartment blocks so would not have been out of place to have four storey apartment blocks. By building apartments the developer would have piled more units onto a small site and therefore more profit.
Back then apartments were selling for excellent prices. Particularly in Sutton, you could see that site being a block of apartments with sea views at the front with a handful of semi-detached houses at the back to balance any planning requirements. Equally with the Churchtown site, there are two 3-4 storey apartment blocks across the road which should have meant this whole site could have been 10 – 16 apartments instead of 6 houses.
But in today’s market, apartment prices and demand are still low, whereas the demand for family homes is at an all time high relative to supply. So builders and developers are turning around schemes to be entirely house schemes, with zero apartment provision.
Developers are turning around schemes to be entirely house schemes, with zero apartment provision…
Go up or go home
However, to fit enough units onto these small infill sites they need to cram them in like never before. Your typical semi-detached home would formerly have been 2-storeys, with living room on ground and bedrooms above. That may have been around 1,000 to 1,400 sq ft for a 3 or 4 bed house. However for that you need a lot of site area and consequently you get fewer units on your plot.
And to build a really grand home of 2,000 – 3,000 sq ft you need double the plot size to place the house and gardens to make it a really executive home.
So to combat this, designs are now going up. Instead of your standard 2 storey semi-detached house, we see 3 or even 4 storeys. We would have usually called these townhouses when included in an apartment scheme. They offer your own-door entrance and large floorspace, but at the cost of many more stair cases and often a lack of flow to the property as a whole.
The age-old problem with townhouses
Like the converted Georgian terrace houses of old, this can bring back a problem of how to use the space. Period homes were built with external grand staircases to the first (or ‘upper ground’) floor entrance, where the high ceilinged drawing rooms were located. The ground or basement were historically the servants quarters and generally had much lower ceilings and smaller windows.
However in this century although these properties are sought after, the modern owner want their vast kitchens and family living space on the ground floor. This often leaves the formal first floor rooms wasted or rarely used, while you also need to ascend two flights of stairs to get to your bedroom.
Would you live in one of these houses?
So although there is a drought of high quality new homes on the market, and these are welcome additions to the supply of homes for sale, it will only be a select few willing to pay this kind of price tag for these tall, slim townhouses.
Unfortunately there are too few new homes being built and these small infill sites with high-end homes are the only ones that are economical to build. We need more estates of 50 to 100 homes, in a variation of styles. We even apartments to help the rental market and first time buyers sector. And those won’t be built on these small plots, rather larger brownfield or fresh greenfield sites.