This is your loft
Sunday Times
4 November 2001
This Is Your Life Big Red Book
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Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

This is your loft

By: Mark Keenan

Eamonn Andrews and his big red book might haunt this apartment, an attic-style conversion in the presenter's former house at The Quarry, Portmarnock. Like his book, it contains surprises.

For 25 years, the routine was the same: out from the shadows sneaked the big man with the big trenchcoat and the big grin. He would peer this way and that before beckoning to the camera to follow him as he sneaked off with a big red book under his arm.

In a back door, down a passage, into a room... and then the familiar musical refrain: "Daah, dah, daah, daah!" Eamonn Andrews had snared his latest victim.

It is ironic that the late Andrews is remembered for This Is Your Life, the show he fronted for more than 25 years. A Christian Brothers lad from Dublin's South Circular Road, he was one of the great heavyweights of early broadcasting.

Despite amassing quite a fortune over the years Andrews remained in Dublin, where he chose a site at Portmarnock to build a luxury home. The old quarry site seemed perfect for his needs: outside the capital, near the sea and not far from the airport at Swords for his cross-channel career.

He did not acquire a big Victorian or Edwardian house as Dublin's top professionals were wont to do. Instead he took on Sam Stephenson, then regarded as Ireland's most forward-thinking architect, and possibly still its most controversial.

Andrews asked Stephenson to design a modern mansion of which he could be proud. The result was a flat-roofed residence topped by a balcony rail.

Constructed in three main components, the two-storey house recedes in blocks, one overlapping the other like steps on their sides. This is interrupted on the last tier by a rudely jutting solid balcony. Stephenson also included a curved double-storey bay column and a highly unusual porthole window. It curves outwards, rather like a camera lens.

The grounds were landscaped and Andrews had his outside swimming pool unheated.

After he died in 1987, Andrews's home was sold to Peninsula Builders, noted for its conversions of large homes into upmarket apartments. New blocks were built in the grounds to take the number of apartments on the site to 28. Only a handful are inside Andrews's former residence, and one of them has come onto the market.

With two balconies overlooking the old pool (now a water feature) and a porthole window upstairs, No 28 is a loft-style apartment and is one of the better units in the scheme. It was withheld originally by the builders who are now offering it for sale at £360,000 (Euro 457,100).

This part of the old Andrews house includes his main living room and a good part of his old dining room. It is in fact the size of an average town house.

Because much of the house was in a 1970s style, the developers called in the professionals to give the apartments a modern makeover. For No 28, the talents of interior designer Gwen Dunne were brought to bear. "It was terribly dark and the fireplace stuck out like a pimple on an orange. I had it integrated, and brightened up the room with lighter colours. A wooden floor was also installed," she says.

Modern furniture, including a minimalist glass-topped dining table, and some bright paintings were added. The bill for the interiors came to £15,000, spent on furniture and fittings.

Accommodation includes an entrance hall with an inner hall, the large open plan living room and dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The best features here are the curving gallery area and the high atrium areas. The kitchen is spacious and the units are in the Shaker style. A stainless steel oven, hob and extractor provide a modern foil. The floor is tiled in terracotta.

Overall, the property is bright and airy. At 1,442sq ft, it is considerably larger than the average family home. The downside is that it is not suited for family use.

The two bedrooms are restrictive in their proportions and it is here that the conversion's improvisation works least well. In one room, the porthole window looks good, but it doesn't open, leaving the owner to open the balcony door for air - not an ideal situation.

However, the property is near some of Leinster's beaches and golf links, and for a single's pad, you could not do better.

No 28 The Quarry is on offer through the Sutton branch of Sherry FitzGerald (01-839 4022).