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Saturday, July 21, 2012
During the bubble, few new homes were well conceived or built, writes Rose Martin of one of the exceptions
It could be said that the building bubble produced very little in terms of quality housing stock save for very many, ticky-tacky apartments often massed on roundabouts, (Fingal Co Dublin is a case in point).
And the result is not only poor quality builds, (Priory Hall is just one proven example), but smaller houses — we linger at second from bottom for average house size in the developed world. The Brits sink lowest with the average house coming in at around 76 square metres — we’re just slightly more at 88 sq m, which in terms of our larger family sizes, is positively Dickensian.
The only really decent housing stock in the country in that period were self builds, the much despised, snootily derided ‘McMansions’ which, while they may have offended taste, at least afforded decent living accommodation at a good price for the average family.
The only other stock that came close were quality builds — and for quality here, read cost. While there were many overnight developers created during the boom, a few who knew what they were doing went for a small, discriminating vein of buyers and, along the way, managed to offer decent rooms, high ceilings and a quality finish — but at a cost.
And the response to those high guides was to say that the land cost was a significant factor, too, and indeed in the case of Hayfield, on Cork’s Model Farm Road, it broke a price record at the turn of the century. And houses changed hands here at over the million plus mark.
Ruden Homes, under John Deane, built Hayfield to a restrained, simple plan and while the houses are dense, they are set in an attractive enclave off the Model Farm Road. Even during the haemorrhage following the bust, houses here discreetly sold and it’s an open secret that at least 70% of the population at Hayfield are in the business of making people better.
This month’s offering enters the market at a healthy €650,000 asking price for a decent, well maintained house of 2,000 square feet. The design is by Hogan and Associates and has signature high ceilings, dropped levels and an intuitive flow of rooms. Since it was built, No 14 has been loved and almost mollycoddled, and there’s an immediate charm and warmth for the visitor.
Tucked away to one side of the estate’s large and relatively safe green, it’s a manageable house in immaculate condition — no extra money will need to be spent here. The glossy black door leads into a calm, relaxed environment with a large, formal sitting room to the right and guest bathroom to the left, with staircase climbing discreetly upwards behind.
Through to the far end of the rectangular hallway is the open-plan living, dining, sunroom and kitchen space which faces south-southeast with wraparound back garden. This is one of the standout features of this house, a well-designed terrace divided into numerous herbaceous beds and criss-crossed by sandstone pavers.
Because of its size and orientation, the owners decided to forgo grass and went instead for a bountiful, green glade that mixes specimen trees and climbers with honest-to-God vegetables and herbs, delicate flowers, hardy annuals and shrubs in a delightful, abundant mix. And the best thing about the garden is that the sunroom projection sits almost in the middle, so even in bad weather, the scents and sense of it is immediately available through open double doors, or windows.
This cosy seating area (with newly-installed wood-burning stove) is simply finished in walnut flooring, leather furniture and sandstone fire surround, but because of the drop down in levels from the kitchen / dining room, the ceiling height is much higher, giving a greater sense of space.
There’s a good flow back into the house too, leading onto the dining area with its feature, aubergine walls creating a relaxed, enveloping space while the kitchen across the way is in soft Wedgwood blue. Hand made, by Celtic Interiors, it’s set off by a huge, steel Rangemaster stove and forms a great working U-shape with integrated serving / breakfast bar onto the dining area.
At the extreme left, behind the kitchen, is the well-fitted galley utility with door to the side garden where bins etc are stored out of sight.
The bedroom floor is as good as the living space, which is often not the case, and here there are two decent en-suite rooms, either of which are suitable as master bedrooms — one is to the south over the sunroom projection and the other faces west to the front, while the smallest room, also to the front, is fitted out handsomely as a home office. The final bedroom is a lovely guest room with a good finish and it faces south too, and adjoins the main bathroom.
This house is showing well, says TJ Cronin of Irish and European and bases this on his long-running sales record here: at peak’s height, he was selling the larger houses here for up to €1.3 million and properties similar to No 14 at a height of €900,000. Those were the days. Joint agent Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald says the asking price reflects the strong showing in sales terms in this estate, where she’s sold a number of houses in the last year. The larger Hayfield properties are now making close to €900,000 and the 2,000 square foot types are in the early to mid six hundred thousands.
VERDICT: A home: quite simply.
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