If it can heat a house at -40 in Sweden, it'll work here': Inside a Dundrum haven built with German efficiency

97B Highfield park, Dundrum, Dublin 14 Asking price: €1.195m

Agent: Borgman Earls Property Consultants (01) 662 5931

Sierra Leone quickly became a no-go zone when the civil war broke out there in 1991. The decade-long battle began as a revolt against a longstanding dictatorship but the wealth that came from diamonds was also instrumental in heightening and sustaining tensions in the country.

At the time, Susan and Klaus Rubesamen were living there with their young family. The couple met years previously in Africa when she was doing voluntary work for Concern and Klaus was working for a German engineering company.

Living in challenging circumstances was nothing new for them, but it was clear that the situation in Sierra Leone was deteriorating quickly so with children to consider, the only safe thing to do was to leave the country.

“It was a huge change, but we couldn’t stay there any longer because the situation was becoming extremely difficult,” recalls Susan.

At such short notice, Susan and Klaus decided that Dublin would be the best place to bring their family.

The move was pretty extreme, going from a war-torn country to a settled suburb in Dublin, but they never looked back.


The sleek kitchen with a breakfast counter and Miele and Gaggenau appliances

They moved into a house in Dundrum and the kids started school in the area and so began a new chapter in their lives.

Years went by, with the family enjoying the proximity to schools, universities, the village and restaurants in the south county Dublin suburb, until eventually the children grew up and left home.


A master bedroom with ensuite bathroom

At this point, Susan and Klaus began to think about moving on themselves.

“We first thought about moving in 2005 because we were rattling around a six-bedroomed house. We were looking at downsizing, but we didn’t want to leave the area.

“The house we had, had a very large site that was actually two plots, so it meant it was easy enough to get planning permission for a second house. Our original house is now behind this one.”

Niall Brennan Architects were hired to work with Klaus on the project, with Susan admitting she had “no involvement whatsoever” and left it up to her husband and the architects to plan the design.

“I was working full-time while the whole thing was going on and it became a project that my husband was working on. I left him to it. I didn’t get involved at this stage. I thought when the house was finished that I would put my stamp on it.”

As an engineer, Klaus was full of ideas for a new home that would be energy efficient and more manageable in size.


One of the reception rooms

“He was ahead of his time when it came to energy efficiency. I remember the contractor saying to Klaus that the heat pump wouldn’t work, that we would need a back-up of oil or gas. Klaus said to him that if the system can heat a house in Sweden at -40C, then it will work for us,” laughs Susan, recalling her husband’s big passion for the project.

Clearly Klaus was ahead of his time in aesthetics too, because the result was a contemporary three-bed detached house that hasn’t aged since it was built in 2007. Set behind electric gates, 97B Highfield Park has complete privacy from the outside world, yet is only minutes away from the bustle of Dundrum Village.

The first thing that hits you as you walk into the 1,938 sq ft is how bright it is. The glass atrium upstairs allows the light to spill down the galleried landing into the living areas below.

Clean lines, a glass-fronted staircase and tiled floors set the tone for the fresh-looking interiors in the house. According to Susan, Klaus was involved in every decision made about the build, from start to finish.

“He was so passionate about it, especially the kitchen that came from Germany. All the Miele appliances came from Germany too.

“He knew exactly what he wanted. If he had a second career, he would have wanted to be an architect.”


The hallway with a built-in bookcase under the staircase

The large hallway has been put to good use with the installation of feature fitted bookcases under the stairs keeping clutter out of the other rooms.

The living room has two separate seating areas — one in front of the fire and another in the TV zone around the corner. There are doors out to the garden and patio area from here. The Poggenpohl kitchen is white and sleek and incorporates Miele and Gaggenau appliances. The conservatory-style dining area overlooks the garden.

A large utility room and downstairs bathroom complete the accommodation on the first floor.

Upstairs off the landing are three double bedrooms, all with built-in wardrobes. The master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom with power shower and the main bathroom has a bath with built-in shower.

Thanks to Klaus’s forward-thinking, The house at 97B has a B energy rating and is powered by a Thermia heat pump with underfloor heating throughout.

Even though it is the second house on the site, there has been no compromise when it comes to garden space.


The exterior of 97B Highfield Park, Dundrum

The front of the house has been paved and has parking for three cars. The south-facing back garden is lawned and bordered with mature trees and planting.

Sadly Klaus died 10 years ago, and Susan feels it’s time for her to move on from his dream home.

“I’ve been 10 years talking about downsizing because I’m usually on my own in the house, so I just decided that it’s time to go now. It’s crying out for a family. I don’t need the space anymore.”

The fact that the house is within walking distance to Dundrum, Milltown and the Luas at Windy Arbour will appeal to a family with children in local schools.

For Susan, it will be hard to walk away from the house that Klaus built but she is ready for the next chapter and hopes another family will love the house as much as they did. “I loved it from the beginning because it is such a light-filled house. Brightness and light are so important to me. I’ll miss it when I leave.”

The Borgman Earls estate agency seeks €1.195m.


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