Kevin Dennis is one of Ireland’s hottest garden designers. He won his fourth gold medal at Bloom in 2019 for his Urban Sanctuary Garden before the prestigious show was canceled for two years thanks to Covid-19.
also has gold three in a row for Dennis, who won his first Bloom Gold in 2014 and won two more in 2017 and 2018 for its distinctive architecturally designed outdoor spaces.
Only designers like Alan Rudden (eight gold) and Jane McCorkell (seven, with contributions to five others) can top that.
However, before Dennis rose to the top, Sandycove-based couple Richard Brickley and his husband James Nevin managed to get his horticultural design services for Turnberry Cottage, their historic home near the sea, by randomly posting on craftsman.ie. “We were lucky,” says Brickley. “Kevin wasn’t well known at the time, so we got these premium garden design qualities at a very reasonable price,” he laughs.
And if you’re wondering if exemplary garden design can stand the test of time, check out Dennis’ Modern Zen Garden. Fourteen years later, it looks as good as it did when he installed it.
The gardening was part of the couple’s plan to revitalize a run-down family home they bought in 2008. Brickley and Nevin had been living in a flat in the city center and were longing for a home with a Dublin village atmosphere when they found Turnberry Cottage. a family home tucked away at 27a Albert Lane in Dun Laoghaire which local lore says had a lively past. “The story goes that it was once a shebe that was visited by British soldiers stationed at Dun Laoghaire,” says Richard.
An architect they hired reported that it was built in 1837, the year Queen Victoria ascended the throne. According to a former resident, it was originally a one-story cottage, but an extra floor was eventually added. Later in the 1980s, a two-story extension was added, doubling its size.
It came with a shed further down the lane which has since been converted into a home office for James with mezzanine storage. It could also provide for some self contained residential accommodation subject to planning permission.
“The house was structurally sound when we bought it but was occupied by one family and was a little dated inside. So we only had cosmetic and decorative work to do,” says Richard.
“We liked the fact that it has three large velux windows upstairs that just let in light.”
And so they brought their different creative streaks to bear. Richard works in marketing while James is a former graphic designer turned technical creative.
The result is a lively and varied interior that reflects both characters. “I’m the minimalist,” says James, “while Richard likes a bit of opulence.” Richard adds, “So here and there we have clean rooms and other areas that are decorated with things that we like. It was neither planned nor structured.”
Because the couple loves to travel so much, the interior reflects their travels in many ways.
“When we were abroad, we would take our time to choose certain things that we liked and then somehow bring them home,” says Richard.
“Sometimes we have bought things on our travels, such as sculptures, which have proved a bit awkward to transport. We have a friend who was assigned to bring things back from Argentina and South Africa while we traveled on.”
Among the treasures of her travel books are striking zebra sculptures, African tribal masks and a Minoan bull-themed piece from the Greek islands. But they also sourced Impact articles from the local area. “The Wilton Gallery in Glasthule was an excellent source for antiques for us before it closed,” says James.
Many aspects already present in the house helped increase the visual impact.
“The living room floor is dark oak and we have never varnished or polished it since we moved here. It’s been worn pretty well and looks better now,” says James.
They added a super-plush bathroom with a luxurious free-standing bath, walk-in shower and ‘floating’ toilet, which they’ve finished off with an antique, gold-framed, cherub-topped Victorian mirror.
A regal blue color enlivens the landing with a multicolored striped rug and a series of white display/storage shelves stocked with eye-catching curios. There is a chandelier on the ceiling (an idea by Richard) and the whole is highlighted by a wide baroque style mirror that reflects the light from the skylights.
Accommodation spans 996 square feet, almost the equivalent of an average family triple room. The ground floor consists of an entrance hall with a glazed block wall, a modern white high gloss kitchen with integrated appliances and glazed splash walls. There is the dining room with its ornate cast iron fireplace and a glazed wall light port.
This leads to the living room with its original dark oak floor which contrasts with the white exposed beam ceiling and whitewashed exposed brick walls. One contains the deepened and raised open fire. The gable end of the living room is glazed complete with sliding door leading to the Dennis designed zen garden which faces south west.
“We wanted Kevin to design an evergreen garden that would be relaxing and provide interest all year round,” says James. “It also has a water feature which we love.”
Upstairs, her striking landing gives access to two double bedrooms, each with extended ceiling heights and bespoke wardrobes. One of these is currently Richard’s Home Office.
“We have realized how fortunate we are to be living in Dun Laoghaire/Sandycove during this time [the] Covid lockdown,” says James. “We have hill walks, lake trails, parks and many cafes and shops right on our doorstep.”
Adds Richard: “If we work from home at lunchtime, we could literally go downstairs, jump in the sea, swim and then have a coffee at a local coffee shop and come back home, all within an hour.”
Now, after 14 years on site, the couple are selling.
James says: “It was a difficult decision for us because we have always valued where we live. It’s surprisingly peaceful and quiet for being off the main thoroughfare. We are also so close to the sea. We recently attended the Dalkey Lobster Festival and were reminded of what a great community spirit there is.”
Richard adds: “We’re definitely staying in the area but we want a challenge. We think we are ready for a more ambitious project.”
And so Turnberry Cottage came up for sale via Colliers at a price of €685,000.
The house is close to FitzGerald’s, one of Sandycove’s most popular pubs, and 400m from the famous Forty Foot. Dun Laoghaire with its twin piers and People’s Park, Glenageary and Glasthule are all within walking distance and the house is also handy for Dalkey and Killiney Hill Walks and Killiney Beach. The area is also served by the Dart. And when the hustle and bustle gets too much, take the strain off your feet and relax in Kevin Dennis’ Zen Garden.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/former-shebeen-with-star-garden-credentials-41937540.html Property: Former Shebee with Star Garden credentials