Kilcrea is a place that appeals inside, outside and location wise. And there is still a little room to expand, writes Tommy Barker.
Not until now, has the family home Kilcrea, at very Blackrock village end of Cork’s suburban Church Road, ever come for sale.
But, after 75 years in the one family’s hands, handed down a generation and in absolutely top-notch order, with garden glories to match, here’s the chance to buy in a much-appreciated home.
And, as it comes to market, it’s hardly ever before been in better shape: it’s been modestly extended, tastily upgraded, and was then upgraded once again. It get a BER above and beyond what its venerable age might suggest, and there’s nothing at all needed to do, except to maybe have a tussle with the vendor about some of the plants gracing the garden, and the sun room, in a range of dozens of pots, and which it might be a shame to see being carted off.
Set on a corner site where the Blackrock Road meets Church Road at a right angle by the popular Statoil/Circle K station, and just before the Tennis Club, Kilcrea’s a 1940s built semi-d, on about a tenth of an acre with front, side and back gardens, one as neatly planted and mature as the next.
In fact, that’s not entirely true: the side garden is the glory, with a stout chestnut tree about to unfurl into leaf, and easily carrying thick ropes for a child’s swing. There’s a couple of mast-thin tall pines soaring higher than the adjacent telegraph pole and, most gloriously of all, an enormous spreading magnolia tree, in full early season bud and flower.
This magnolia’s back once more as a great domed shape after some relatively recent and necessary tree surgery, and it’s been the backdrop to many a family photograph, over many decades, when on any event at all worth recording, someone, or everyone, would pose in front of its canopy.
This specimen magnolia is girthy enough to embrace a whole extended clan, and in fact one of the last thing the departing owners, in-laws and outlaws and more, will do is take one more, last and final, shot there for the family album, and memories, for when the family link is severed.
“My mother always described it as Blooming Beauty in Blackrock,” recalls the 60-year old vendor of Kilcrea, who was born and reared here, among with a bunch of siblings, recalling the days when it readily accommodated nine or ten, including parents, and when – eventually – one of the ground floor rooms was made over as a fourth bedroom, to accommodate a growing brood.
Now, the house is down to occupancy levels of very low single digit figures, and it’s sell-up and move on time, to a new-build, on a smaller site. As a result, the quietly impressive Kilcrea’s coming available, guided at €455,000 by estate agent Michael O’Donovan of Savills.
Price wise, that’s not a whole lot more than a neighbouring semi-d on the main Blackrock Road itself, opposite Dundanion, fetched in recent times, and that house of a similar vintage needed work, quite a deal of it. As it transpired, having sold for well over €400,000, it has been all but knocked down, and is currently being rebuilt from the front wall backwards.
That clearly is not going to be the fate at walk-in condition Kilcrea, which impresses more room by room, garden section by garden section. About the only thing a new owner might do is add a fourth bedroom, upstairs, by way of a side/rear two storey extension.
That was a notion previously toyed with by the vendor, who got planning just for this option, but decided it just wasn’t needed, as there was always the option of using the ground floor home office as an occasional bedroom... “and it was my own bedroom growing up,” he observes.
That planning has since lapsed, but something similar could always be entertained once more in future years.
Who’ll buy? Well, some fortunate individual or family, couple or relocators back to Cork city from abroad, who’ll love the garden, relish the house’s combination of originality and its tweaked modernity, and who’ll rate the Church Road location as keenly as any Corkonian, who never left.
One of the more significant changes was opening up the ground floor’s two reception rooms, which had been separate entities. They’ve now been informally ‘introduced’ to one another, linked by a wide connecting beam/span, and now run about 30’ in depth throughout the house.
Each has original, polished pine floorboards, in great nick. The rooms each have original picture rails, and each has an impressive fireplace, not original, most probably better then what preceded them.
One, in the front room, has a wide, single cast iron insert in a painted slate or stone surround; the one in the back room is plainer, and has been fitted with an insert, high quality Austrian wood-burning Flamm stove, which has a double chamber fiunction to pump out additional calories when cranked up.
It’s probably become the heart, and hearth, of the home, as this welcoming reception room is right next door to the kitchen on one side, and opens, through a double set of small-pane glazed doors, to the 18’ by 15’ sun room, with impressive, pitched ceiling, crowned with tinted and tempered double glazing (by Wexford-based Viking Glass) to gain and retain maximum heat from the sun: this it the room most used, all year round, says the owner.
Kilcrea’s kitchen, tee-ed of the back reception, opens the width of this section of the house, to about 19’, and has units in beautiful spalted beech, in a U-shape, done by well-regarded Home Grown Kitchens.
When that spalted beech was first selected, Home Grown’s crew were asked for a delivery/fitting date: the answer was a bit unexpected “well, the tree’s still in a bog, in Belfast, so it will have to be cut, planked and dried first.....”
Turns out, it was 18 months before the job was done as promised – a new ‘bog standard’, and only in a good way.
Those units, and small breakfast bar, are topped with black granite, the floor’s in small terracotta tiles to match those in the sunroom and utility and Home Grown also made up slender small doors to an effective ‘serving hatch’ linking the kitchen to the 9’ by 9’ utility, and it’s topped by a feature circular stained glass window, one of several one-offs gracing the home.
Also at ground, off the utility, is a guest WC, and by the hall’s the compact study/optional bedrom 4, a little over 8’ square.
Making as much of a transformation inside as outside was the reshaping of a window on the stairwell, and was opened out wider, and taller, with slender French doors/casement windows made up in painted hardwood.
They look out on a small, feature metal balcony, now home to daffodils planted up in pots, and with plant choices rotated seasonally.
That balcony is directly over the main entrance door, which is recessed well back from the gable wall for shelter, and also giving screening is the single story wing/wall, at the back of the utility/guest WC, with another circular stained and leaded glass window in pride of place, framed by a mature virgina creeper, ready for 2019 take-off.
Back inside and upstairs, Kilcrea has two double bedrooms, each with pristine honeyed pine floor boards, one room has a cast iron fireplace, plus a single bedroom.
There’s a good shape to the landing, the gable balcony window gives it an extra lift, and the main bathroom (there’s no en suite) is a high-end, elegant affair, with double-ended cast iron slipper bath, separate shower and WC with high-level, period style cistern, all interspersed with brass pipes and fittings.
A pull-down Stira, meanwhile, opens access off the landing to a floored and insulated attic (expanding foam in the rafters), with extensive shelving and rails: it gives the house quite an edge in the storage stakes.
For those with additional space needs, above Kilcrea’s c 1,380 sq ft, there’s alway the option to add the two-storey extension considered some years back and for which planning has now lapsed.
But, there’s a whole buying cohort who don’t need four or more bedrooms and all singing en suite bathrooms, and Savills auctioneer Michael O’Donovan expects to see both categories, with a Church Road address and Blackrock village proximity guaranteeing curiosity, and good viewing levels.
As it stands, on its 0.10 acre with perfect east-west aspect, and with gardens in three parts that include that broad magnolia, imperious chestnut, scrawny pines, yew, acers, fatsias, bamboo negra and block-built shed, small lawn, seating bowers, water feature and twin, well-managed compost beds, Kilcrea’s a place that appeals inside, outside and location wise: new owners wanted, for good home.
VERDICT: a discreet charmer.
Church Road, Blackrock, Cork
Size: 130 sq m (1,400 sq ft)
Pictures: Ted Murphy