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Saturday, June 16, 2012
A canny builder realised Clairelee’s potential writes, Tommy Barker
There’s twice the house you’d expect from first glimpses of Clairelee, a modern build on Trafalgar Hill in Cork city by the foot of Lovers Walk.
Its owner is a builder who came to view an older cottage on this great south-facing site in Tivoil, and he knew there and then he could do better. And, he has done so, over three levels.
Built over a year, around 2007, this is a surprising 2,800sq ft home, thanks to the way it works with its steeply sloped or tiered site which effectively makes it a dormer built on top of a lower ground floor.
Although its proportions when seen from the Trafalgar Hill entrance make it look like a dormer, built of quality materials, the other aspect from the south — or across the River Lee by the Marina — shows it to be far more substantial (see pic bottom right), while inside, the layout, materials used and space amassed mark it out as very different indeed.
With everything done and all bedded in (bar one bedroom which needs to be finished) it is a walk-in, and a walk-through job, for its next owners.
Guided at €895,000, it is brand new to the market this summer with selling agent Miah McGrath of McCarthy and McGrath in Midleton, who has sold a lot of houses in east Cork done by this building contractor client, who very much did Clairelee as a sort of personal challenge as his own home.
He used architects Dennehy and Dennehy to outline the replacement house he had envisaged, and it’s been delivered as planned, with all the main rooms really set up for the south-facing garden and river views — they start to draw you in as soon as you come in the mid-level entry hall. A tone is set straight away by the likes of a fireplace in this hall, by the cherrywood joinery and by the hints of lots of house yet to come, signalled by two staircases, one to the top floor master bedroom, a sort of penthouse suite on high, and the other stairs to the lower ground level serves three more en suite bedrooms, a family room with decked balcony access, plus a large utility room.
Most visitors won’t get beyond the mid-level, or want to leave there: it is home to a 28’ wide by 15’ deep main living room, with three sets of glazed French doors to an upper balcony, with full-on River Lee and leafy garden views, all to the south.
That direct aspect means heat pours in, and heating is rarely needed. The room itself is visually warmed by rich cherry flooring, and on the gable end is a wall-mounted bespoke gas fire in a cocooning black granite surround. At this room’s other end, to the right/west and up a single step, is the high-ceilinged kitchen/dining room, again with great river and cascading garden views from a couple of windows which drop right down to floor level either side of a breakfast bar that seats five.
Kitchen units are white gloss, topped with varnished walnut, and home to two circular sinks, one a drainer, plus an insinkerator. There’s a vaulted ceiling, and two heritage-style cast iron roof lights pull in extra light, in addition to the feature central light and spots.
Piece de resistance here at Clairelee, perhaps, is the top floor’s en suite master bedroom, taking up this entire level, with bed mid-ships, there are double aspect north/south dormer windows, characterful sloping and ceilings, great views — and none so fine as from the deep Vogue jetted bath near a large double shower.
Grouping this suite’s washing, splashing and soaking facilities together in one spot, and then separating and distancing the WC and basin right across the bedrooms at the other side, is a great way to separate business, from pleasure, as it were.
Parents of very young children, meanwhile, might be nervous of sleeping up at roof level while the three other bedrooms are two floors beneath; so either they’ll have to move down for a few years, or have a nursery set up at top floor level. Once the kids are older, however, all parties to the family equation may be well pleased at the separation of space. The lower ground level has en suite bedrooms, and access to the terraced and tiered gardens is via a large utility room.
The gardens are quite lush and private, woodland in feel and dominated by a few maples, with gravel paths, brick and paved steps, with BBQ area, good garden shed/studio with power supply, and it’s only when at the foot of the garden and you look back up you fully realise just how big a house this really is.
Location is a mile or so east of the city’s bridges and city centre, and Clairelee was deliberately designed to mimic features of older houses 0 though the PVC windows somewhat break the spell. Features include cast- iron entrance gates to the graveled drive, with off-street parking, natural slate roof, cast iron drainpipes, lots of decking and balconies (the railing were temporarily absent during our photography) — and the city river setting and changing vistas.
VERDICT: There’s a comfort factor knowing the vendor is an accomplished building contractor.
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