Bishopstown semi-d Firgrove is a tale of two houses after massive rear extension

Tommy Barker reports on a mature, well designed and well proportioned family home in Suburban Cork.

YOU get a lot more than you’d expect once past the threshold of 3 Firgrove: it’s a house that keeps on growing. And, growing on you too.

Extensively rebuilt and reordered after a small (!) gas explosion in the 1990s, the owners of this cracking, high quality Bishopstown semi-d got stuck in all over again with even more dramatic effect in 2012 when they added an expansive rear extension, over two levels, lifting it to an even higher plane.

As a result of this two-phased make-over, it’s sort of one house to the front, and another one entirely to the back, towards where life seems to naturally gravitate. 

And, overall, there’s c 2,560 sq ft of high-quality, well-finished spaces with personality quirks and top notch timbers, in the very heart of Cork’s suburban Bishopstown.

This reworking to the back of No 3 Firgrove has yielded two dramatic spaces: at ground level there’s now a 450 sq ft open plan kitchen/living/dining room, with a back wall with curves in all the right places, and embracing large glass panes, French doors to the patio, and a feature gas bowl fireplace, in a pride of view place. 

It all overlooks a long back garden book-ended by a timber chalet imported from Sweden, used as a playroom/home office.

It’s now so all encompassing, it almost makes the front, more original section of No 3 redundant for day-to-day family life and gatherings. 

Then, for the times when families do indeed need more private space, the ‘other half’ has two more traditional-sized interconnecting reception rooms — dining and family room — the latter with a good pitch pine fireplace and patio door access to the back garden. 

Plus, there’s an extra large hall with porcelain tiled floor, as well as a stairs/landing, ground floor bedroom to the side (with shower in a section) which feels like a well-delivered garage conversion, all next to a guest WC.

Up overhead, surprises continue apace in this accommodating home which clearly has earned its spurs in rearing a family to young adult status. 

There’s an en suite bedroom to the front, and also to the front is a second bedroom suite, entered via a day room/dressing room with feature brick wall with part glass-block insert, sleeping section, closet and shower room en suite, complete with industrial-feel printed steel plate floor for a dash of contemporary edge.

In most family homes, this would be the first pick given its spread of space and uses, but that’s just not so at No 3, when you hit the back, extended upstairs section.

Here is a master suite truly worthy of the name, and if you got it in a five-star hotel you’d hardly be disappointed. 

The back bedroom suite is about 480 sq ft, part-divided by a two-step change in levels and a curving, glass block wall and has an open area with great garden views through two sets of French doors from the bed.

There’s a high clerestory window for southerly light, a lower section by the entry point with sauna, and a walk-in closet/dressing room too.

On the ablutions front, the bar gets raised again: the en suite is 14’ long and nearly 9’ wide, hosting a large, wide bath set into a surround of cedar beams, hugely thick timbers in this scented wood which takes lots of splashes with aplomb... after all, cedar’s used all the time in traditional hot tubs. 

Bishopstown semi-d Firgrove is a tale of two houses after massive rear extension

It’s a luxurious, and distinctive touch, and in matching timber is the freestanding ceramic sink’s base and over-mirror.

This indulgent and calming, soaking room also has a separate, large tiled shower, with rainforest soaking head, and separate to this wash room is a fully tiled WC, with cedar splash-back by its sink, and tiled floor.

The master suite’s sleeping section, meanwhile, has a cherry wood floor, and wiring and speakers in the ceiling for music and/or radio for when the sanctuary-like silences can be broken. 

The twin French doors meanwhile, look over the east-facing back garden and open onto an unguarded section of membrane roof, over the living/dining section beneath. 

It would seem tempting to use this as a sit-out space, or just to have those tall glazed French doors open for birdsong and early morning light. 

What’s notable in the view to the back is the sheer generosity of gardens in the surrounding houses, so none are crowding in on top of anyone else.

No 3’s owners have been here since the 1990s and have had real city roots and business ties: when the option came to move out here to Firgrove, they reckoned it was as far out ‘in the country’ as they wanted to go. 

Now, with family reared, they are moving back citywards, having bought a pad with potential, within a five minute walk of Patrick Street and the Grand Parade’s new, signal building the Capitol, next to the English Market which will, in effect, be their local deli.

For almost anyone else, Firgrove could be considered ‘central’. It’s true Bishopstown, near the Bishopstown Bar, the new credit union site, banks, surgeries, a pharmacy, and cafe, the ‘old’ Dunnes Stores’ side entrance is just across the road from this family home par excellence, and there’s a variety of schools within a walk or cycle, as is CIT, UCC and the CUH. 

On the wider shops front, there’s a few local back ups, plus restaurants, an Aldi has arrived with a Lidl to follow suit across the road on another former garage site, and Wilton Shopping Centre is also a walk away, while the ring road has an access point just south of Bishopstown and Wilton too.

No 3 Firgrove comes to market this week with agent Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald, who guides at €525,000 and she really recommends viewing, saying it’s got a number of stand-out features, even apart from an ace, western suburban location.

The redesign and two-storey extension/reworking here was done by architect Declan O’Sullivan, and the serious production kitchen was done by Imago Alternatives in a range of bespoke timbers, including what the owners call South African soapwood on a curved top/breakfast counter, which they say can withstand very high temperatures for busy cooking and serving times.

This room has a tumbled marble tile floor by the cooking section, with a curved divide to a cherrywood floor over the rest of the large, airy room where there’s a low, single step up to the living and dining section; the quality of the joinery and floor fitting is exemplary.

Scene setter is the feature gas bowl fire and overhead flue, set on a raised stone window board in an over-sized central window; it’s exactly the sort of heart-warming thing you’d love to see when the back garden has a sheen of frost or snow.

The garden faces east, but is long enough so that the sun gets into the bulk of the garden all day long, and at the back boundary is the sizeable Swedish log cabin, in thick plank timbers which is insulated, with a power supply and heating. 

It’s quite deep, and has two store rooms/workrooms in the far end, and an office in front.

It’s perfect for a teenager’s den, music room or even an au pair, suggests SF’s Sheila O’Flynn, and right in front is a stone-fringed small pond, with connecting path ‘twixt house and chalet, amid mature landscaped grounds.

As the main house stands, it’s got four bedrooms, one at ground with shower and three en suite first floor bedrooms, with possibly scope to reconfigure the one with a day room back into a further bedroom.

But, for families who don’t need a big tally of sleeping rooms all on the one first floor level, it’s refreshingly comfortable and facilitative as it stands.

Out front, No 3 has off-street parking on a brick-paved drive, and well kept front hedge, being cut in a drizzle of rain on the day the Irish Examiner called to view in the last few details pre-sales launch. 

Given the quality and space on offer, in such a convenient and serviced suburban setting near major hospitals and colleges, it’s quite possible the home will be sale agreed before the same hedge needs another cut.

VERDICT: Rooms well improved.

Bishopstown, Cork


Size: 238 sq m (2,560 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 5


Best Feature: Great, roomy rooms

Pictures: Larry Cummins and John Roche


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