7th heaven: Hermitage — cared for religiously

In the same family’s possession since 1999, Tommy Barker says the hi-spec home was reconfigured during the post-Celtic Tiger slump.

NO 7 The Hermitage has been home to the same family from day one, back in 1999, but now, after nearly 20 years here, they are leaving. Leaving for the second time.

How’s that?

Well, back day one, they’d bought a site, with outline planning permission on it for a quite substantial dormer home and, as a young couple, they made every financial stretch the could to secure site No 7, as their ‘starter’ home.

Built initially with the aid of a parent who was a builder, they managed to get a decent home of about 2,000 sq ft, not too scanty in anyone’s books, not to mind as a first home.

And, they enjoyed things like a first floor living room, with feature roof-set eyrie window for lofty views over the Glanmire valley: homes in The Hermitage get some of the best views of still wooded hills, over towards Sarsfields Court, now in late autumn and early winter russets, and set seven minutes from the Jack Lynch Tunnel via the Glanmire access sliproad.

But, it was only when children started to come along they did they find shortcomings with the layout and the rooms’ shapes, positioning and even purposes.

So, they took the bold decision to not only enlarge it, but to pretty much totally reconfigure it, reckoning that after so many years in situ, they know all of its pluses and how to adapt to what wasn’t working for hem.

They moved out, for the first time, in 2012, to facilitate an 11-month rebuild project, with walls removed and repositioned, all services were pretty much updated, as was the external look, with zinc-roofed additions on either gable end, one small, the other large.

About an additional 1,000 sq ft more was grafted on, to bring the home’s size now to c 3,040 sq ft. All of it is high end, with all four of its double rooms with en suite bathrooms, in an adaptable format, with three of them up at first floor level, and one at ground, for lifelong use for anyone with access concerns, now or in the future, as well as being ideal for guests.

It was thoughtfully done too, future-proofed for the family and handily using a design team they were already familiar with, having a family background in the bar/restaurant business in Cork with several premises now to their credit, and having previously seen some premises’ overhauls, in a constantly evolving hospitality sector.

The couple had worked with Cork-based architect Derek O’Leary, of O’Leary Architecture + Design, whose work spans a broad residential and commercial sector, including leisure, retail and hospitality.

They brought on board, as builder, the engineer Kieran McCarthy, whose own company KMC has been making increasingly impressive and steady waves in the one-off sector of Cork’s private homes market, with KMC’s construction boards up on some of the suburbs most exclusive residential projects.

They also had worked with freelance interior designer Róisín O’Brien, and so when it came to making the jump to reinvent their home, they brought both on board, as well as using suppliers they also had worked with during work projects.

Of course, it helped that they were doing it in 2012, when most of the country was still in a slump, the construction sector was on its knees – and those surviving tradespeople still eking out a survival path had free slots in their diaries.

Going through the costs for the project in 2012, the couple remark on the incredible value they got, and on the courtesy of people they engaged with, and even recall a representative of a kitchen company based in Dublin calling down not once, but three times, to their late ’90s dormer home, travelling each time by train, to try to woo their business.

Suffice to say, that level of attention, and canvassing, and follow-through support, hardly applies now as a new mini ‘boom’ sees shorages all over the place of suitably skilled craftsmen (and, women) – as No 7’s vendors will possibly find to their chagrin, as they prepare to take on a new project.

They are selling now only because a classic Cork house, with 1930s roots on a large, south-facing site with 300 year history, has crossed their path: they are smitten by it, and they are prepared to dip a toe in the renovations sector all over again, but feel they’ll move into their next ‘second’ home first, to get a feel for it and what they’d like to do with it over a next life chapter.

Now, No 7 is fresh to market with estate agent Jackie Cohalan of Cohalan Downing, and she guides the 3,000 sq ft-plus home, on a private site of one third of an acre at €695,000 – that’s about €230 per sq ft. Some very expensive lighting, drapes, blinds, fixtures and more are all going with it, as they are so specific to this home they just won’t work with the next project.

Apart from the very effective reordering and creation of extra space, and the quality of the glazing (from Ballincollig-based 2020 Glazing, a company founded in 2009 by Ken Matson and now very active on both residential and commercial projects), and the integrity of the standing seam zinc new roofs, and the super-slick kitchen (Liecht, from Chris Keating House of Design), possibly the most eye-catching feature of this home is the lighting, with more than a handful of striking, stand-out and oversize pieces.

The lighting all came from Shane O’Byrne’s shop called Light, in Douglas’s East Village, and includes some engaging pendant lights, such as the two big ones over the stairs, with the shades’ interiors seemingly finished in gold (no, no, it’s not real gold.)

Some may have roots in the commercial hospitality sector but, judiciously chosen, looking right at home in a domestic setting, almost the making of it, in some cases, such as in the master bedroom, kitchen/living room, and in the masterfully handled hall, stairs and landing.

As engaging, underfoot, is the high-gloss herringbone parquet floor in a stained oak, in the hallway and main adjoining living room and finished with a super-high gloss or coats and coats of lacquer: the effect is reflectively liquid, and a testament to the leveling abilities of the builders KMC, as there’s nary a skirting board across the ground floor’s various finishes be it carpet, tile or glistening parquet.

Exemplary too is the carpeted staircase, with its timbered first step and its elegant, slender and snaking handrail a contrast to the clear glass balusters, done by Stan

Browne/Design Warehouse.

In fact, all of the workmanship here is very much top drawer. The owner admits to being a bit obsessive about finishes and fittings.

As recently as this week even the ‘lesser’ rooms (like the master bedroom’s dressing room) were getting final touches and some new units so that the vendors can truly say that every square inch and foot is finely finished, the real ‘walk-in job.’ (Even the unused attic, reached via a Stira in the main bedroom, is floored, plastered, insulated, painted, and heated.)

No 7 The Hermitage’s first floor proper has that great, double aspect main bedroom, with large bathroom with both bath and shower, as well as a room-sized dressing room, just refitted and with a sit-up-to feature window: this room used to be the upstairs sitting room, it transpires.

At the far end of the landing are two bedrooms, each with walk-through wardrobes/dressing rooms which link, in turn, to a Jack & Jill en suite shared bathroom.

Only, in this case, it’s a Jill & Jill en suite, as it’s used by twin, teenage girls, and each are scrupulously, identically sized (the rooms, that is, not the girls.)

It’s at ground floor level that this home really shines, though (did we mention/did you lamp the gleam off the parquet floor?)

Rightly so, the main, scene setter is the kitchen/dining/family room, now about 40’ from front to the back of the zinc-roofed added glazed extension, with double/triple aspect, and has underfloor heating.

Units and island/breakfast unit tops on the low-gloss Leicht kitchen are marble, and the plentiful appliances are AEG, with boiling water on tap delivery.

There’s also a very large double/triple fridge freezer, nearly walk-in size, or stagger-out size, complete as it is with a central wine chiller and prone bottles nestled on display.

However, it’s about the only fixture not included in the property sale. The family are very attached to it, it’s from Gaggenau, and it’s likely to have been as indulgent an investment as many homes’ entire fitted kitchens......

Auctioneer Jackie Cohalan doesn’t have to reach too far for superlatives and notes simply that “after being substantially upgraded in 2012 to the highest of standards and specifications, this home is as good as it gets,” adding “the finest of materials have been used and meticulous attention to detail is unmistakably evident in this beautiful family home.”

Off the main kitchen section is a pantry/cloakroom, built-on minus the underfloor heating (gas fired and zoned) support to deliberately be able to store provisions and foodstuffs at cooler temperature, and just in case heating is ever required, there’s a swish electrical radiator on standby.

Main, visible heat source is the wide Faber gas fire in a wide plain surround in the family seating section, with a flue passing through the external wall so as not to spoil the clear lines of the clerestory windows and recessed coffered ceiling ringing this room’s end.

Expensive, understated drapes and blinds in a combination of types feature heavily here, and in many other rooms, and the house’s owners reckon they spend tens of thousands of euros (even in a lull market) on fabrics, curtains and lights, all of which are being left behind.

Elsewhere, visible through glazed double doors from the kitchen is a bay windowed-TV room (it used to be No 7’s main ground floor reception,) and a now, much larger living room, south facing, with high-gloss parquet floor.

It’s got a large insert gas fire, in a black surround, framed by a simple white marble fireplace: this room has double doors to the brick-paved sun-trap rear patio, as equally reached from the family room/sun-room and again from a far end play room/office/den/optional extra bedroom.

It was created as part of the two-storey extension at the property’s eastern end, past an en-suite bedroom and a just-reworked, well-sized utility room/laundry.

Externally, the amount of extra work and updating is best seen and appreciated from the rear, where both extra wings are in evidence, especially the western kitchen/sun room add-on, giving the original brick dormer home a very contemporary visual edge and extra oomph.

No 7’s set on a sloping, wedge-shaped landscaped site (done day one by designer Dominick Cullinane) and there’s very considerable privacy, especially to the back, along with good parking, all behind electric access gates.

The Hermitage has 15 detached homes in all, dating to the late 1990s, and while initially they may have started out with features in common, many have evolved considerably since, in fits and starts.

Right next door, for example, No 6 The Hermitage went to market in May of this year, pushed up to 4,700 sq ft by its departing owners, and it has a hotel-like fitness suite, complete with gym and indoors swimming pool with counter current, sauna and body-drying 6’ high blow dryer.

No 6 was launched by Cobh-based agent Johanna Murphy at €950,000, about €200 per square foot, on a similar sized site, and while under offer is, as yet, unsold.

VERDICT: Seven’s generally a lucky number.

Glanmire, Cork


Size: 282 sq m (3,040 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 4


Best Feature: Hi-spec

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