Douglas-home Igls spells out return to the boom time

It seems like it’s missing a few vowels, but this home has just about everything else, writes Tommy Barker.

Pictures: Ted Murphy

You could walk to Douglas Golf Club, clubs and bag thrown over your shoulder, or mounted on a trolley or golf cart, from the front door of this expansive family home, being sold this year for its long-time owners, who are now preparing to trade down after many decades in residence.

Called Igls (and looking like it is missing a few consonants and vowels to make a proper English word of it), it shares its name with a popular Tyrol holiday destination near Innsbruck in Austria, and so possibly carries on the long and proud mid-20th Irish tradition of calling family homes after holiday, honeymoon, or pilgrimage destinations, a few decades before cheap ’n‘ easy flights made blithe and blase world citizens of us all.

Unlike Austria’s Igls, at an altitude of nearly 900m, Cork’s is lower-set, about 70m or so above sea level rising up along Maryborough Hill — on a par, as it were, with the countours of Douglas Golf Club, whose main entrance gates can be seen from the front of this two-storey, extended home, on a private and mature half-acre site.

So, in the upper echelons of Cork’s residential property terms, and set between Elden and Lissadell, with c a dozen substantial mid-1900s builds in this row, the location can be considered stellar and southside.

Think, for example, of the Paddocks/Maryborough Orchard/Augusta Drive/Elden penthouses, or the ten one-off house sites opposite the Maryborough House Hotel entrance, sold at up to €300,000 a pop back in 2013 (and now looking cheap at that) each home to large builds, some of which would breach the €1m barrier all day long.

Routinely enough in the run up to the boom and even into the collapse, quality detached houses here would handily have traded in the €1m-€2m price bracket, yet, last year, not a single Maryborough Hill home topped the €1m mark on an open market sale.

One, Karyon (also spelled Karon) Cottage near the Elden development by O’Flynn Construction, came very close, via Sherry FitzGerald, turning up on the Price Register during 2017 at a preciously close €975,000. That comfortable home featured here extensively in late 2016, with about 1,900 sq ft of space, a Hamptons beach-house-style interior, on a site of 1.5 acres, and with a guide quoted at €950,000. Karon Cottage has since been demolished, and is being replaced by an over-basement new-build, currently under construction.

Also in this quite exalted run of homes, one called Tara on large grounds on the city side next to Igls, recently got planning for a modern extension, while on the other side, another detached, Kaduna, sold in 2013 for €1.24m, after a major boom-time revamp. The original Kaduna, in its 1960s style on great gardens, had sold at the market’s peak, around 2007, for €1.4m, before enjoying a makeover at considerable further expense.

That €1.4m figure is exactly the price point at which Igls gets offered, via agents Ann O’Mahony and Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald, but making straight comparisons a bit harder or at least less relevant is the fact it’s a different sort of proposition.

That’s because it’s already been extended and has had quite regular upgrades, so won’t really have to swallow the sort of cash that some other house sales in the neighbourhood have necessitated, or might need on resale: an example is a detached c 1,950 sq ft home a few doors away from Igls on a c 0.3-acre site, Poulgorm, needing lots of modernising, and priced accordingly at €690,000 by Sherry FitzGerald.

Thanks to a two-storey add-on on the left side, Igls stretches to a decent 3,500 sq ft over its two levels and has five bedrooms, all of them unusually with en suite bathrooms — this in a home that wasn’t a guesthouse, just a spacious family home.

There’s no shortage of rooms inside this wide, deep, and tall, family home under a series of varying roof pitches, wings, and bays. There’s a southerly orientated sun room/entrance across the middle of the front facade, and, beyond, up to eight ground-floor rooms and five first-floor bedrooms, all with their own private bathrooms.

At ground level, beyond the conservatory, is an off-centre hall, with kitchen off via a narrow arch to the right, and which faces the front garden and approach drive through a bay window.

Close by is a utility room, and a study with rear garden. Added on to the back is a large dining room, almost 20’ by 19’ with fireplace and a quite elaborate wood-sheeted ceiling in a herringbone pattern, with overhead roof light to draw light into the big, rangey room with a broad window bay overlooking the back garden and terrace.

There’s almost two houses’ worth of rooms, in fact, as what’s here on one side alone is more than adequate for many families. Continue to the other side of the hall and there’s a formal sitting room with fireplace, as well as an office linking into split-level, front-to-back lounge.

This comfortable and carpeted double aspect lounge, more than 30’ deep, is sub-divided by a few steps and polished brass handrail, and has a feature stone wall with raised fireplace surround at its upper section, and an expanse of glass at the lower section, for garden views and access to the pristine grounds. Also at this end is a ground-floor room with adjacent WC. It has external access only at present, via French doors at the front of the house in a bay window, but could be integrated more fully into the interior proper and used as a home office, or as a sixth en suite bedroom for older and/or independent family members, suggests Sherry FitzGerald.

Its condition is very good, overall, with attention paid on an ongoing basis to maintenance and comfort, but at the very least it’s likely to have a decorative upgrade or makeover, change of colours, and carpets for personal tastes.

Bringing it all back to pale, restful shades and whites is the decor trick that worked well for years past at least, and even doing this will allow any new occupants come to terms with the house’s bones and structure before deciding if more radical changes might follow.

Some may consider reducing the number of rooms for a smaller selection of larger rooms, and for more interconnectedness. The kitchen, for example has a quite narrow arched entrance right off the hall (it’s got a better link to the dining room), which does it no favours, while the room’s units in solid oak are excellent but could do with gracing a larger room, and the rear study is narrow too by most measures, at just about 7’ wide.

A bit of thoughtful reordering, aided by an architect with a good eye, would make quite the 21st-century difference in feel, without necessarily breaking the bank (we’re at €1.4m as it stands, let it be noted).

What is lovely are the grounds, front and back, complete with terrace, long-established landscaping, shrubs, and boundaries with immense privacy (especially at the rear).

A novel garden feature is the fish pond by the contoured front drive and approach, due to its protective ‘roof’ of thatch, like a wishing well writ large.

One can imagine koi or other fish in this water feature feeling quite smug with themselves, protected from predatory herons and other preying fowl — and, in fact, it’s quite a feat of thatching, larger than many a 19th-century shebeen.

Added to the privacy of the site is the primacy of the location, within a few minutes of Douglas Village (save for peak traffic time back-ups on Maryborough Hill).

Coming to the market with its €1.4m guide, there’s nearly a deja vu sense of price confidence and sales hopes for Igls, a five-bed, five en-suite home that almost merits a rechristening as Igl(oo)s.

Get the look

Some great ideas for you to use in your home and where to get them

1. Well, well, well. This roof-set light well or overhead lantern with pitched glazed sections works effectively to drop light down into this house’s broad dining room extension. Note the extra work gone into the chevron or herringbone pattern of timber ceiling cladding.

2. Another de-light. Igls has a conservatory mid-ships between its front facade’s asymmetrical gables and window bays. Having a glass roof instead of a solid, insulated one can mean some extra heat loss on colder days or evenings, but the upside is lots and lots more lovely light.

3. With-drawing room. A warm-looking wallpaper pattern, matched with a fireplace, can be themaking of a cosy evening time drawing room.

4. Plant, plant, plant for the years ahead. No matter how big or small your garden, do bring life and colour in with generous landscaping. It will pay dividends in resale values, in quality of life, and support wildlife.

5. Split city. Split level interiors can be successful in demarcating different functions in open plan or connected spaces.

6. Curves in the right places. An arch is a classical architectural form, always easy on the eye and inviting, even one as slender as this.

VERDICT: If the volume of cars in Douglas Golf Club’s car park directly across the road, and players out on the course and the card players comfortably ensconced in the clubhouse on a winter Tuesday afternoon, is any sort of harbinger of a return to economic prosperity, the ‘boom’ is well and truly on the way back.

Maryborough Hill, Douglas, Cork


Size: 326 sq m (3,517 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 5/6

Bathrooms: 6


Best features: Size and setting

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