Tommy Barker admires a warm, lavishly-proportioned custom-built home just beyond Bishopstown in Cork.
THE setting of this ten-year old family home is kind of a match, or a metaphor, for the young couple who built this one-off house: it’s sort of where city meets country, a bit like themselves.
He’s a native of Ballinhassig, a rural and wide-slung parish on the western fringes of Cork city that stretches for miles. She’s a suburban Bishopstown-born person, and, post marriage, was inveigled to try country living for a change.
As it turns out, where they got a site and eventually got permission to build a home on it isn’t that far at all from Bishopstown: it can be glimpsed a few miles away, over fields and stretches of farmland and it, or Wilton, could be walked to, at a reasonable push.
We’re at Chetwynd, a sort-of townland half way up Spur Hill which runs up the back of Cork’s airport hill: from the tippy-top of Spur Hill, you can even look down on the airport runway a mile or so to the east as the birds fly.
Handily, this Chetwynd home isn’t impinged upon by any flight paths; it’s so well set on the hill that a run down the adjacent Maher’s Lane leads to the Bandon Road, on the city side of the landmark Viaduct, while a two-minute drive down Spur Hill leads to Wilton’s Sarsfield Road, and thence the south city ring road, and points in all other directions. It’s country living lite.
However, after a happy decade ensconced in this sizeable and high-end home of nearly 2,800 sq ft, with fields as far as the eye can see behind, it appears the pull of Bishopstown or at least the ’burbs is strong, so this well-specced Spur Hill four-bed family home is fresh to market, and ready to serve.
It’s on “a full acre,” says the man of the house, betraying rural roots and appreciation of acres, hectares, roods and perches, and the property was built by direct labour with a certain level of confidence gained from being involved in another family member’s own build a year or two earlier.
Design is credited to Matt Aherne of Ballinhassig, and has some unusual touches for sure.
Glimpsed from the road by Spur Hill, only an end gable is really seen, not giving much away about the style and substance of what lies beyond and within. Even that position is uncommon in the Irish countryside, where houses typically get built facing the road, irrespective of views, aspect, neighbours and any other host of factor that really should inspire a bit of creativity in placing.
Of course, it helped that this was quite a deep site — and a ‘full acre’ too — so that meant being able to place the two-storey/dormer build quite far back, after a private driveway once past electrically- controlled access gates.
In fact, there’s huge privacy around the grounds as a result of extensive landscaping (lots and lots of beech trees and hedging planted) with a choice of parking/access either side, front or back at this sideways-on house, and also helping to shelter it is the presence of a lofted detached garage, with plumbing, electricity, and windows all in place.
Subject to planning permission, it would easily make for a granny flat or self-contained studio, capable of adding a further 500/600 sq ft to the main house’s airy accommodation.
Traditionally built (as in, masonry construction,) and highly insulated, it has a number of surprise features internally, the most dramatic being a double height living room, with massive glazing on one end wall, and all overlooked by the first floor’s landing mezzanine, with clear glass panels as balusters, topped by oak rails.
Centrepiece is a contemporary light fitting, with dozens of lights in a cascading spiral, as effective seen from upstairs as from down below.
This wholly-bright, high volume living room has a wood-burning stove which, usefully, also opens back out in the adjoining kitchen, meaning heat radiates out in all directions.
And, that’s sort of an early example of the ‘belt and braces’ approach the owners took to speccing this property. It has two heat delivery options, for example — radiators and underfloor heating — and even heat generation comes in a choice of two, either oil burner and/or a wood-pellet boiler, and there’s a separate outbuilding for storing tonnes of pellets.
An end-of-house room, with triple aspect and currently used as a playroom, has a stone hearth in its gable wall, with flue in place for a second stove, so staying warm and cosy in this B3 BER-rated four-bed home should be easy.
All four double bedrooms are upstairs, with oak surrounding a concrete built staircase for a reassuring solid feel underfoot, without so much as a squeak to be hear when ascending and descending. The upper level has a wood-floored landing and open mezzanine, with the latter used as an office area with computer in situ. Two of the four beds are en suite, and the other two have wash-hand basins. Might this start a return to the 1960s trend for wash basins in bedroom?
The master bedroom is off-square, with a dramatic sloping ceiling. A decent-sized walk in wardrobe is actually a walk-through room to a very spacious en suite, with separate shower, and double-ended slipper-style bath, all with quality sanitary ware. (The main bathroom’s also high-ceilinged, and has a large walk-in shower.) Back downstairs, most day-to-day family time is spent in the kitchen/dining area, with its adjunct sun room add on, and it’s good, bright space, very well finished and detailed.
It has a hand-painted kitchen done by David Lane, with granite worktops, large island, and a host of appliances. A stand-out feature is the floor, done in travertine tiling with with a bead of inset hardwood trim paralleling the room’s borders: it was quite a bit of extra work for whoever did the flooring, and elsewhere at ground level there’s considerable amounts of semi-solid walnut flooring, heated underfoot.
Rounding out the rooms is a utility/pantry with rear garden access, study/laundry, and guest WC.
Externally, finishes are a mix of painted render, stone and glass, there’s inset decking and sheltered seating/BBQ section, plus lawns big enough for smallies’ football matches.
A location within two kilometres of the city’s western suburbs has, heretofore seen some very large one-offs built on and over Spur Hill, down Maher’s lane and around Chetwynd, many of them home to medics, given proximity to main hospitals and key road networks and Sherry FitzGerald’s Johnny O’Flynn expects a similar cadre to be among his viewing cohorts at this €775,000 property.
VERDICT: The draft version of this home’s sales brochure enthused “this is a fantastic opportunity to acquire a family home in a country setting while only being a few minutes from civilisation.” Hmm, you can take a woman out of Bishopstown, it seems, but only for so long.
Spur Hill, Cork
Size: 258 sq m (2,782 sq ft) plus lofted building
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