Ballinskellig beauty in the eye of the beholders

A five-minute walk down the road to the Skellig Chocolate factory. How sweet is that? Trish Dromey reports

    Price: €450,000
    Size: Sq m 218 (2,346 sq ft)
    Bedrooms: 2
    Bathrooms: 1
    BER: C1

VIEWERS of Skellig Studio in Ballinskelligs face a difficult decision – whether to be more amazed by the spectacular view it offers of the Skelligs or by the fact that this industrial looking, metal-roofed structure is actually an ultra cool residence.

From a giant Atlantic facing window, it offers a perfectly aligned view of the nearby islands.

“You can see Lemon Rock, Skellig Beag and Skellig Micheal, depending on the light they seem at times like one large island and at others you can see each of them distinctly,’’ say the owners who unsurprisingly are both artists.

It’s probably safe to say that only artists could have fallen in love with a long abandoned, run-down industrial building with cows grazing its site.

Although some say it might have been a fish cannery the owners believe it was built in the 1970s to make cast concrete fencing, an enterprise which never took off.

“When we found it in 2000 it was owned by an American who bought it in the 1980s but hadn’t done anything with it,’’ said the artists, Collette Nolan and Billy Foley who immediately began imagining it as a studio.

While anyone would have recognized the beauty of the site, set below the Skellig Ring Road just 250 metres from the rugged scenic coastline, few would have had the same appreciation as them of an abandoned metal roofed building.

“We liked it as a piece of architecture, we liked the long low shape, the metal roof, the cathedral style ceiling inside and the fact that it nestles nicely into the hillside,’’ they say.

Others might have wanted to demolish it and put up something new and modern but the couple asked an architect friend to keep the shape and the corrugated roof and to make it functional.

By 2007 they had planning permission, a builder from Valentia and architectural plans designed to turn the derelict industrial building into an extra spacious two-bed property, with a huge studio, an equally large living space and a multitude of large windows.

The plans involved adding an extension at the gable non-sea-facing end to provide space for a bathroom and bedrooms, and also the replacement of the roof.

“We put on an insulated aluminium Kingspan roof with sound insulation so we don’t hear noise or the rain,’’ says Billy explaining that they kept the original timber trusses underneath the roof.

Letting in the light with aluminium framed powder coated double glazed windows was a major part of the project, which took a year and a half to complete. It also involved putting down floating concrete flooring with underfloor gas heating.

In this very striking property, the feature which draws most attention now is a huge set of sliding doors which stretch almost the full way across the 28 ft wide gable end wall in the living area.

“ You can see the Atlantic and the Skelligs and when the sun sets behind Puffin Island it is very dramatic,” said the artists adding that from this window they can see the weather coming in from the sea and changes in the light which they never tire of looking at.

Inside the window is a huge living area which has white gloss kitchen units along one wall, a seating area with a couch and a stove on the other side and a dining area in the middle. Above the room is a vaulted ceiling with timber beams while above the kitchen units there are two long windows. “These frame the mountains, and from the sofa, you can look up at Coommanaspig, notes Collette.

Giant sized sliding timber doors separate the living space from the 870 sq ft studio in the centre of the property. Flooding this workspace with natural light was a priority for the artists. To provide it, the vaulted ceiling has been fitted with a bank of three roof lights and one wall has three almost full-length windows while the other has a row of folding doors.

The studio side walls are lined with panels of marine plywood and at one end there is a section of stud wall decorated with a large abstract charcoal drawing done by Billy.

The couple says that over the years they took inspiration from the setting, the light and the Atlantic, and have often spent months at a time working there.

At the rear of the property is the extension which has a bedroom with four double bunk beds made of oak. There’s also a large contemporary bathroom and a stairs to a mezzanine bedroom underneath the vaulted ceiling. Overlooking the studio, it has a low oak bed with a platform and, as with all the rooms in the property, its décor is minimalist.

Set into a sloping site below the road, the studio is on a site of an acre. Apart from gravel outside the window and some parking spaces, this has been left in its natural state.

Located six kilometres from Ballinskelligs it’s just a five-minute walk down the road to the Skellig Chocolate factory.

Estate agent Ron Kruger of Engel & Voelkers says he has been inundated with enquiries about the studio and very quickly received an offer of the €450,000 asking price. “It’s a once-off, contemporary property in one of the most stunning locations in Ireland. It’s also a versatile space, which could be turned into additional bedrooms or living rooms or altered to suit a new owner.

Most of the interest has been from Germans and US buyers who want it as a holiday home. So far, he hasn’t had any enquiries from artists.

VERDICT: Amazing in a great many ways.

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