Friday 30 May 2008

Home Truths

House sizes for the super-rich are out of proportion, says Edel Morgan .

I'VE NOTICED that Ireland's wealthy need more space than ever to rattle around in.

There was a time when 465sq m (5,000sq ft) was considered ample room but now a good 1,022sq m (11,000sq ft) is required and a room for every eventuality before a house is deemed habitable - for a few years anyway until the walls start closing in and the realisation dawns that there's simply nowhere to put the Roman-style indoor pool with marble columns.

Homes of 743-1,022sq m (8,000-11,000sq ft) are no longer a rarity in this country. It's almost as if some kind of one upmanship has been going on among Ireland's rich who've been busy over the past number of years demolishing cramped quarters of 279-743sq m (3,000-8,000sq ft) and replacing them with something more proportionate to their bank balances (unless An Bord Pleanála says otherwise of course).

Others have been busy excavating and extending in every direction, or moving somewhere bigger (although fewer are taking this option in the current market).

The more money, the more the possibilities and many seem intent on exploiting them to the full. Why just have a home when you can have a mini-hotel?

The latest must-have is a home spa with a massive bath, sauna and steam room - an essential for spa parties.

Then there's the cinema, gym, swimming pool, games room, home bar, catering kitchen with 10 ovens and a range, formal reception rooms, family rooms, suites for each of the children, as well as a formal kitchen with Aga that turns into a ballroom at the touch of a button (only a slight exaggeration).

Then there's the staff quarters for the nanny, the au pair and live-in housekeeper.

A house of 1,022sq m (11,000sq ft) - at more than nine times the size of my house - is great for playing hide and seek but I can't help wondering if one could actually lose small children in a house that size and whether you'd need a loudspeaker to get the attention of family members or staff?

Telecoms magnate Denis O'Brien was looking to knock Belmont, his bijoux 743sq m (8,000sq ft) house on Shrewsbury Road and build a 2,044sq m (22,000sq ft) house with an indoor swimming pool, spa, staff quarters and six reception rooms.

An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission but, if history had been different, would he have had to issue guests with a map and compass upon arrival? If not, would he have allowed them to go to the powder room unaccompanied, or risk them never finding their way back?

Of course the bigger the house, the more the layers of complication.

For upkeep there's the team of tradesmen, cleaners, a supervisor to oversee the cleaners, groundsmen, security staff, a caretaker, and an interior designer on call.

Decor-wise, the attention to detail tends to be staggering with bespoke and antique furniture all the way - a three-seater from Ikea could be tantamount to social death.

A sweeping central staircase is a prerequisite for the big entrance and multiple chandeliers are obligatory.

It helps to get one up on your peers by being the first to have something like a height adjustable basement swimming pool or a diamond encrusted door knob - all the rage in London apparently at a cost of €25,000 per knob, or the less expensive Swarovski crystals version for around €322 per knob.

Am I jealous? Absolutely. The nearest I'm going to get to acquiring a sprawling hacienda the way things stand is if I move to Cavan.

The Irish Times

No comments: