Home in one of Cork’s most desirable addresses is as fresh as a daisy after careful expansions and renovations, writes Tommy Barker.
THERE’S been a change of name, and a change of feel, to this choicely-sited family home, just off Cork’s suburban Blackrock Road, in the ever-fancied Menloe Gardens.
Now called Sonoma, after a memorable holiday to the wine region of Sonoma County in California, this 1929-built semi-detached home previously carried the name Scarteen, shared with Co Limerick’s C18th century Scarteen House, home to a famed fox-hunting pack of Kerry beagles.
And, its current owners reckon that it had at least one other name back along, too, in its 90-year history.
A young family, their hands full with lively and inquisitive twins (a boy and a girl: their extended playpen is the size of many homes’ box bedrooms!) bought Scarteen back in 2015, when it was already a fine home, in excellent condition.
But, they nudged it along a bit more, freshened the decor, opened up a ground floor en-suite bedroom into a very sizeable family living room (home to the aforementioned playpen), redid the garden behind, upgraded the front grounds and drive, and just made it their very own home.
Now, in rather quick time, they are on the move, having the fortunate chance to buy a larger ‘home for life,’ on fantastic suburban grounds, hence this house’s arrival back on the open property market as they prepare to trade up.
Sonoma is fresh as a daisy, and fresh to market with joint agents Hugh McPhillips of Marsh’s auctioneers, and Brian Olden of Cohalan Downing, who guide it at €650,000.
When it last transacted, in 2015, it had launched at €600,000 and sold after a short bidding round, at €595,000 according to the Price Register which records it under its previous name, Scarteen.
The Register shows eight sales within Menloe Gardens in close to the past decade. Two of those were for semi-d’s, at €455,000 for a do-er up, and €650,000 for one other, while the most recent sale is of a detached, Kincraigie by the green and its graceful mature spreading chestnut trees, at €865,000 via Savills.
Sources say Kincraigie is likely to see very major investment (or, possibly even replacement, as happened another detached, Bruidheanbarra, which sold in the market’s slump depths in 2011.) That one, effectively on a double site, on a corner facing the green sold for €730,000 and was demolished, replaced with a very large one-off.
Nothing like that is likely at Sonoma — it’s a walk-in job for its next occupants.
It’s about 1,800 sq ft, after two ground floor extensions, done by previous owners, who added a sun room to the back — with pitched ceiling and a Velux — as well as an addition to the side.
Those two are in addition to two interlinked ground-floor reception rooms, a living room and a lounge, as well as a separate, adjacent kitchen/dining room, with gas-fired stove.
Heating options are, in fact, many and varied: there’s central heating throughout, while the rear living room next to the sun room has a wood-burning stove in front of a black cast-iron surround.
Double doors, in immaculately-painted and panelled timber, link to a front living room which, in turn, has a open fire, with plain black stone surround inset into an original, tall, white-painted timber surround.
Both linked rooms have original polished pine floorboards, and the front room has a ceiling rose, and a wide bay window, recently refitted with new double glazing.
Since they bought in 2015, Sonoma’s owners upgraded the house’s glazing with new, highly-efficient, and appropriate double glazing, with casement windows topped with small framed panel windows, copying the original fenestration pattern.
They sourced the lot from B&D Windows on Churchyard Lane in Ballintemple, and then tied the facade together — the original house plus side wing — with plantation shutters, from Leamlara-based Bespoke Blinds and Shutters.
The side wing (left of the elegant and original, blue-painted timber bracketed porch which features similarly in a number of Menloe houses,) is a multi-purpose space, almost 20’ by 10’, with double-aspect, bay window to the front, complete with plantation shutters, and has a high, pitched ceiling for even more airiness.
In previous owners’ time, this had been a very large en-suite ground-floor bedroom, with the outline of where the en-suite had been still discernible in the lime-washed pine-sheeted vaulted ceiling. But after they bought it in 2015, its current occupants made better use of it as a really accommodating family room.
Should the next owners so wish, it could go back to being bedroom four, or a home office, any sort of use in fact.
Also in this side addition is a utility, guest WC and back hall, with side external access, with a floor recently retiled, to immaculate effect, in small black and cream tiles, meticulously done by Clonakilty tiler Martin Kelleher, who also used the same chequered tiles on Sonoma’s front doorstep.
Also retiled is the splashback in the kitchen, done in white Metro tiles for a fresh crisp look, and kitchen units were hand-painted, while the kitchen’s island is topped in black granite.
Also intact is much of Sonoma’s original internal detailing, such as
doors, and the hall’s two internal arches, one of which bookends the staircase with pristine polished timber handrails and its grey, wool-carpeted treads.
There’s change afoot upstairs here too. When last sold, as Scarteen, this house had three first-floor bedrooms, one of them en suite.
In a personal and effective move, the couple here opted instead to once more separate out the master bedroom from its previously added en-suite. They made the bathroom a far more plush affair, with a stand-alone, new, double-ended period-style roll-top bath with silvered claw feet, and they fitted a separate pumped double shower, with overhead rainfall type shower head, and put in a new vanity/sink unit, tall wall-mounted radiator and fully retiled the shower and walls for a calming, luxe look.
There’s a further, main/original family bathroom with electric shower, and two further bedrooms, including a neutrally (non-gender specific) decorated bedroom for the two-year-old twins, with a scattering constellation of silver stars on the walls above the cots, to spur baby dreams of higher things.
Preparing to leave Blackrock’s Menloe Gardens and west-facing Sonoma, for a move to a nearby suburb, there’s nothing left at all visible here to do for its next occupants, and it’s quite as trim outside as inside.
Its front approach is smart, now with electric gates. The drive is finished in lovely, rounded mottled gravel and landscaped all around, with granite edging, beds of box hedging and lavender, and there’s parking for a few cars.
Thanks to quite a wide site, and even after the added-on side extension, there’s still quite a bit of side garden/passage, now gated for shed, bins and storage, and the back garden beyond has patio, path, lawns, old apple tree, camellias and old, limestone back boundary walls.
There’s also a seated section with circular paved base and surrounding, brick low wall, which gets afternoon and evening sun.
VERDICT: A second chance in recent years to buy this Menloe Gardens semi-d, in one of Blackrock’s most appreciated addresses.
Some great ideas for you to use in your home and where to get them...
1. Check it out: Menloe Gardens’ Sonoma has kept faith with much of its original and distinguishing features, such as its porch entrance, part-glazed front door with brass trim, and its internal arches in the hall, which was retiled in a chequered pattern, by previous owners
2. Another internal arch, with rail and spindles, is a nice way to end the lower stairs section’s turn back into the hallway
3. Live life in colour: the bold colours on this original artwork are a brash counterpart to the interior design’s restraint. The polished pine floorboards are original, and the plantation-style shutters came from Leamlara’s Bespoke Blinds and Shutters
4. Sonoma’s kitchen has been matched, and mingled, while hand-painting the units and free-standing dresser then helped to tie it all together
5. Wash and go: a recessed shelf in a shower is a simple boon, and is fairly easy to integrate when starting a new shower installation. No harm to fibreglass seal it, though.
6. Sunseeker: West-facing Sonoma has enough back garden, and spaces between it and its neighbouring homes, to ensure there’s a sunny sport for some outdoor dining
Menloe Gardens, Blackrock, Cork
Size: 168 (1,800 sq ft)