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Dublin woman who caught the travel bug at 40 is selling her Portobello home

Frances O’Hara is swapping her two-bed Dublin 8 townhouse for a new life in Berlin

Asking price: €675,000

Agent: Owen Reilly (01 4751275)​

Traditionally, it has been people in their 20s or 30s who move abroad, but given the ease of travel, the option to work remotely and the fact that many are choosing to settle down later in life, an increasing number of older people are opting to emigrate.

Frances O’Hara, who turned 40 this year, is one. A data protection and privacy lawyer who grew up in South Dublin, she found herself disillusioned with life as a single woman in Dublin.

“I always thought it would be fantastic to live in another city, but then I found myself in a full-time job here. Time passed and it became more and more difficult to make the leap as I got older,” she says.

The exterior of the Victorian red-brick in Portobello

When a friend, whom she’d met as a student at Trinity College Dublin and is now a musician, invited her to visit Berlin during the pandemic, she jumped at the chance and found she was immediately smitten.

“I fell in love with Berlin,” she says. “It’s a vibrant, cultured city with a great atmosphere. It’s such a creative space and has a lot of people who work in the arts, and an Irish community of over 4,500 people.

“There’s an ex-pat feel and everyone looks out for each other.”

She continued to visit Berlin and when she was offered a job with a company that specialises in tech start-ups this year, she decided to up sticks and move.

Owner Frances O’Hara is moving to Berlin

“It’s a really exciting time in my life,” says O’Hara. “I’ve just turned 40 and I’m starting a new job, in a new city. It feels fresh and energising. It really has given me a new lease of life. It’s the Berlin effect.”

She’s now signed up for evening classes there and it helps that she studied German in school.

She also finds Berlin much more affordable than Dublin. “I’ve even met a lovely German guy,” she says.

For the last five years, O’Hara has been living in a two-bedroom red-brick terraced townhouse, just off the Grand Canal and Lennox Street in Portobello.

In fact, she came across the Victorian 70 sq ft home by accident in 2018.

“I passed by it and saw the ‘For Sale’ sign. I asked to have a quick look and the owners said, ‘Why not?’,” she says.

Navy-blue units in the kitchen

The period house, built at the turn of the 19th century, appealed to her because it was in walk-in condition.

“I really wasn’t looking for a project, so I liked the fact that it had already been renovated,” she says.

“Downstairs had been converted to a dual aspect open-plan living space and I felt the courtyard at the back allowed for a lovely flow of light through the house. On walking in, I was immediately struck by the calming atmosphere.”

When she moved in, she replaced the windows throughout with triple-glazed custom-made sash windows by Munster Joinery.

All the blinds and curtains were replaced with new ones from Brian S Nolan, and a new front door was added. The house has gas-fired central heating as a new boiler had been fitted before she bought it.

The bathroom had a big sink and small shower, which failed to maximise the space, so these were ripped out and a new shower from Waterloo Bathrooms in Dun Laoghaire was installed. The walls here were further insulated.

The house has retained a number of period features such as the high ceilings and the wrought-iron Victorian fireplace in the sitting room.

“The ceilings give it a sense of space and there’s a lovely curving effect to the walls in the kitchen and the pillars in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, which I think is quite feminine,” says O’Hara.

The back patio is a suntrap

Her choice of furnishings, mostly muted tones of cream, beige, taupe and salmon pink, are carried through to the two double bedrooms upstairs.

Last year, she had the kitchen replaced, adding a natural stone countertop and sleek navy-blue units, and new flooring downstairs.

The open-plan space has LED spotlights in the ceiling and a glass dining table which extends to fit eight comfortably.

She often uses this room for entertaining and, in the summer, opens the French doors to the west-facing patio, which has a table and chairs, potted plants and trellised walls.

“It’s an absolute suntrap in the summer and gets the sun all day long,” she says.

The cast-iron fireplace in the sitting room

There’s a shed at the back, which houses a washing machine and a dryer, and could be used as a home office. One of the things she’s liked about living here on her own is the sense of community.

“There’s a real neighbourhood feel to the area,” she says. “If you’ve any issues, there’s always somebody’s door you can knock on, and people look out for each other.”

She also appreciated the location which is a 10-minute walk from Grafton Street.

“You’re in the city centre, so there’s this lovely buzz around the place and it has plenty of nice bars and cafes. Yet it’s also very peaceful and you’re right beside the canal.”

One of the bedrooms

While O’Hara is excited at the prospect of a new life in Germany, she hasn’t ruled coming back to Ireland at some stage.

“I’m kind of just seeing where life takes me at the moment. It’s an exciting opportunity, so I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can.”

She will miss living in Portobello, but believes the time is right to make the move.

“The house would be perfect for a person or a couple who want proximity to the city centre and all its amenities, yet a peaceful suburban atmosphere.

“It has served me well for the last six years, but it’s time to let it go,” she says.

Owen Reilly estate agents seeks €675,000.

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