This 11,400sq ft home outside Cork City is a product of its Celtic Tiger origins but could prove the answer for many, writes Tommy Barker
Size: 1,065sq m (11,400 sq ft)
How do you build a family home and wholly private leisure centre that’s 11,400 sq ft in size, and yet manage to make it look not exactly huge, or even hotel-sized?
Well, you go down, for a start, and hide a lot of it underground, in a multi-use sprawling basement layer, with a games room and a dance floor, and which curiously only floods with light, thanks to a bank of glass above a section, drawing in and down the sun’s rays.
Then, you go up, into an enormous attic space, to fashion another recreation space, or gym, or media room, and scope for a whole lot more up under roof level.
Then, maybe you go out to the side and back a bit also, in wings and under roof slopes, and then don’t go crazy on fancy or flash trimmings. Maybe finish in it all in natural Liscannor stone? Under a quarry load of slate roof, and then wait for the build materials to mellow a bit over time.
That all helps, but, really, there’s not getting away from the fact this Kilcully one-off, within a five minute drive of Cork city, just beyond Blackpool and Dublin Hill, is a very, very big home.
Built at the entrance to a small gathering of four or five other (far smaller, yet all very substantial) detached homes in an accessible rural heartland, you only sort of spot it passing by on the road and reckon it’s a damn big home.
Little do you know. Little would you guess that it’s like the proverbial iceberg in terms of hidden mass, all of which is comfortably supplied with solar panels for water heating, with and two geothermals wells for helping with the heating, and for the quite luxurious, balmy swimming pool suite also.
In fact, this mid-2000s constructed house is about 10 times the size of an average, common or garden three-bed semi-d, which quite typically can range from 950sq ft to 1,250sq ft a piece.
Oh, and almost incidentally, the detached garage to the side of the main dwelling is possibly the size of another three-bed bungalow in its own right, also crowned with a proper slate roof. So, it’s safe to say there’s as much accommodation here under the many roof lines to equate to what you might find in a city cul de sac cluster of homes, yet all within a singular, one-off home with ‘just’ five main first floor bedrooms. En suite ones, naturally.
However, it’s not just all about size: there’s also a massive amount of quality building and high-end spec and finishes here, including a virtual forest of walnut timbers, used generously.
It all features from the very bottom at expansive basement level, right up to the top floor’s open plan gym and play room, and is an essential material used in the vortex of the central staircase.
The top specification runs through the ground level’s side leisure centre, with its cool blue swimming pool, its Jacuzzi-like jetted jetted whirlpool circle, sauna and steam room, all specified by the same architect who did the swimming pool at the Europe Hotel in Killarney.
Holding all the disparate levels and functions together and forming the very heart of the this house is the staircase, coiling its way from basement to ‘attic,’ circular and in some respect as a spiral, save for the fact it’s so wide, and it takes time-out for pauses for breath on the mid level.
Without doubt, it’s the stand-out feature of the entire home, deliberately so, and shows a bit of architectural concealment, in that it runs in a circular core, within an otherwise typically rectangular build, and means that some rooms off it then especially at the first floor/bedrooms landing level have some curved internal walls.
But, ah, you think, there’s a flaw in the layout?
Just suppose you want to move from what’s currently the attic gym in your new, aspirational and very upwardly-mobile home gym to your swimming pool and to the rest of you own private, domestic leisure centre: but, your legs have turned to jelly, your knees are knocking, your breath is gone west and you just can’t face the two flights of stairs to get to balm of the Jacuzzi jets, steam room or sauna.
No problem, here: you just take the lift.
Yep, this capacious family home has its own internal elevator, serving all four floors … everything has, indeed, been thought of, and thought through.
So, now that it is up for sale, newly listed with estate agent Darragh Taaffe of Keane Mahony Smith with a €1.5m price tag which is only a fraction of what it cost to build, what’s the story?
Well, there’s little surprise that it was designed and built in the early to mid-2000s, and done for a family with building, construction and development in their background.
Architect was Jim Leahy, a very well-know and long established Cork-based design practitioner, who’s very well known for a number of quite spectacular one-roofs, and mostly of them known for having circles, lots of glass and odd window shapes and window placing, and when a client goes along with it, some very dramatic roof shapes and outlined too.
In the 1990s, he was doing things like grass roofs on circular towers in Kinsale’s Sandycove, for a family with an international tech background. Jim Leahy sunk a house down into a quarry off High St, and did the ever-engaging apartment block opposite the Opera House, the one finished with limestone and crowned with armadillo-like and sail-like copper clad roofs. He built a stone. Rapunzel-like tower off Barrack St.
Safe to safe, he generally works on challenging sites, and then challenges builders to ‘man-up,’ and deliver to the design.
Here at Kilcully, the architect had one of the easiest sites he ever got to work with, it would appear, greenfield and village set, so just dig down, down a bit more and then soar up.
In this case, the builder accepting the challenge was also the client who’d be moving into the house with his family, and so had ‘skin in the game.’
Builder/client, is Paul Forde, a co-director of one the busiest development firms of the boom, Murrayforde. They were house builders of some scale for over 20 years, and latterly he’s been associated with schemes as diverse as Sheridan Park on Tramore Road, later block-selling the brick-finished very attractive 28 townhouses to City Council, and he was also involved in the headline grabbing Botanika, off Cleve Hill on the Blackrock road, another challenging site, and where the main detacheds sold for over €830,000 a-pop.
This Forde family house (it doesn’t have a name, or number) took two years to build, and even that seems pretty impressive given the amount of mech and elec and plumbing specification which keeps it all ticking over, and it all gets a very respectable B1 BER.
It’s for sale now as, after 10 years of being a family home, it’s trade-down time. Viewings start soon with Keane Mahony Smith’s Darragh Taafee, who reckons individual tours will take closer to two hours than one, and who’s preparing to gen up on the technical specification going on deep in the house’s bowels, very much looking like a commercial building’s set of back-up, safely out of sight, reached down a set of steps via an outside wing, like down to a secret bower.
Down here, there’s plumbing and machinery ticking away and thrumming, and even the brass pipework is a sight to behold, with large skillfully brazed pipes in a super-orderly fashion: about the only thing missing for a Bond-villa touch from this nether region is a periscope up through the swimming pool?
Very much an overall product of the Tiger Times era in which it was built, when lots of people weren’t known for sparing expense, this is indeed a build where the sums of the overall spend at the time, now is far above the value as it goes to market.
Even today, you’d get a very good detached four-bed city home for the price of what the plumbing and some other services here cost to deliver. Then there’s an enormous kitchen, done in burnt walnut by Glenline, with more integrated appliances than you could shake a wooden spoon at. There’s as many ovens as you’d find in a working restaurant; two double Maytag fridges the size of larder presses, and two wine cooler fridges for extra good measures.
You’d water, feed and provision a small army (or a large family, or a gang of friends) out if it, without breaking a sweat. And around a central chimney breast from the ‘work’ area is the dining section with a wood-burning stove, one of several stoves in the house’s ground floor level which includes four reception rooms off its split level marble and walnut floored hall and stairs core.
(Heating, by the way, in delivered underfloor, primarily from gas boilers, and the floors throughout are concrete, poured in situ rather than delivered in Ducon slabs possibly because of the odd shapes and curves specified by architect Jim Leahy.)
Given it’s got 11,400 sq ft, and a price tag of ‘just’ €1.5m, it equates to €130 per square foot and, nope, you could not replicate it today for twice that amount today, especially give the scale and the cost of the finishes, from brushed steel sockets, Smart Home tech and built-in speakers, seven showers/bathrooms, leisure centre, gym and play/games rooms, elevator, and that exceptional staircase done by a specialist crew all the way from Amsterdam.
Vendor Paul Forde admits “we sort of got carried away with it a bit, I suppose, but we’ve lived here for 10 years, and we used every bit of it, it was a fantastic family home.”
Given the exterior, all in Liscannor stone, and concealed pipework and slate roof, it’s not going to need lots of maintenance, and with a B1 BER, it’s likely to be quite efficient in overall energy use per square foot, especially in comparison to a period country mansion, but the vendor does add “if you can afford to buy it, you should be able to afford to run it too.”
It’s set on about 1.5 acres, all walled-in, with lawns and landscaped beds, and is planted inside the perimeter wall with red robbin shrubs for seasonal colours, and is surrounded with wide apron of hard surfaces, from paths and paving to decking and tarmac for lots of parking, while there’s also the garage for more parking.
For those looking for a country home of scale, five or 10 minutes north of the city’s suburban fringes but wanting a bit more land for horses, pets or projects, there’s the option to buy an additional and adjacent 14 acres with direct access, via a local landowner.
So, who might emerge to view, and to buy?
If it was 10 or more years ago, it’s the sort of place local and national media would automatically have matched say, to footballer Roy Keane as a possible pad near the family’s roots, or posit as ideal for a Lotto windfall winner who wants to live the life.
It has relative proximity to Apple HQ, and there’s a fair share of Cork techies who have made lots of money, either in things like Apple shares or Bitcoin, and who’d see the value here in such a fully delivered, all-in property package.
If it was south of the river, in stockbroker or medical consultant suburban belts, it would get even more traction, yet KMS’s Mr Taafee readily admits “there’s plenty of money on the northside too, especially for something as exceptional as this.”
Then again, it could find a buyer/occupants from other quarters, even from the quite young to the elderly, even those with special care or mobility needs, with the array of en suite bedrooms, ready internal accessibility with the elevator, security and swimming pool, sauna and stem room for therapies, all in the one package.
VERDICT: Bingo! What about an Irish base for a Dr Eva Orsmond’s Irish weight loss centre, without the building hassle, or flights to Portugal and massive carbon footprint?