Are you in the frame?: Upgrades and replacements make this older house feel like a modern home

Helen Ville’s sash replacement windows reflect a subtle upgrade of an older home says Tommy Barker

WINDOWS are the eyes of a house, but in the last 20, 30, and even 40 years, when we Irish have replaced windows in earlier housing stock, we’ve gotten it wrong more often than right.

The rot probably set in in the 1970s, when rotten, softwood timber window frames were replaced with aluminium. The earliest examples were single-glazed, so while the upside was no maintenance, the downside was no heat insulation/retention capacity, and streaming condensation on the inside of the panes. But you couldn’t kill the frames.

Next came PVC and double-glazing, and though chunky of frame and reviled by the purists and most architects, it was an improvement, at least if the proportions matched the originals (they often didn’t).

Next came powder-coated aluminium, and alu-clad windows, and Scandinavian, high-performance units and triple-glazing, and even curtain walls of glass.

And, after a quarter century of white PVC ubiquity, along came variations like cream-coloured frames, and the current, yet enduring fad for grey windows (in vogue for a decade now, and much-loved by architects). And most noticeable, and welcome, has been the new, replacement, sliding-sash windows for houses of a certain age and disposition. They look right ‘at home’ as soon as they are slotted into place in builds dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Thankfully, too, they are now broadly affordable: previously, braver types getting replacement, hardwood-timber sliding-sash windows might have needed an extension on their mortgage such was their cost.

Notable, too, are the local authority, grant-aided replacement sash windows coming back into place in genteel homes and terraces, in areas like Cork’s St Luke’s Cross: for want of a metaphor, seeing the aluminium frames of the 1970s being banished is like seeing the acne vanish on someone’s face.

That’s all a very roundabout way of praising the look and aesthetic of Helen Ville, an early-to-mid 1900s end-terraced home, off Cork city’s Magazine Road, near UCC and the Bon Secours Hospital.

In recent years, it’s had quite the stylish makeover, both within and without, and sets its stamp from the very first impression. It’s also about the only house at Coolgarten that’s gone back to sashes; the other homes have had a huge range of other replacement windows, while a detached house by the Magazine Road entrance to Coolgarten has kept its honest sash originals).

Helen Ville’s facade is part mellow red brick and dash, with some contrasting render around the windows. It’s got a bay window at ground, smart, new sliding-sash windows with profile edges, and even plantation shutters to set it all off: tall double doors to the back have the same plantation-style shutters...not cheap.

It’s now up for sale, and runs to about 1,335 sq ft, all pristine inside, and has four bedrooms, after an attic conversion.

Estate agent Jackie Cohalan, of Cohalan Downing, prices Helen Ville at €385,000, and says it’s deceptively spacious, spotless, and “requires nothing other than the inspiration of the new occupants to furnish.” At ground level, it has interlinked reception rooms, a living room with gas insert fireplace and bay window, plus dining room with garden access through French doors.

Then, to the side, via an arch, is a rear kitchen/diner with new units, and, further back, garden access, thanks to another set of double doors.

The back garden is quite low-maintenance, and features a fairly elaborate and costly surround of low, limestone-fringed walls, extensive landscaping/planting and paving, as well as a small circular lawn area in the embrace; there is a shed at the garden’s end, with side gate access from the printed-concrete finished front drive, for off-street parking.

VERDICT: Helen Ville’s a looker.

Magazine Road, Cork City - €385,000

  • Bedrooms: 4
  • Bathrooms: 2
  • Size: 124 sq m (1,334 sq ft)
  • BER: D1
  • Best Feature: got the sashes its fore-fathers would have worn

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