Tommy Barker says this is a one-off Macroom home and homestead that’ll be hard to bypass. Be smart, check out the smart home.
Macroom, Co Cork
Size: 284 sq m (3,000 sq ft)
Pictures: Ted Murphy
At long last, the road is coming out to meet them. But, the nest-clearing Dutch family who built this smart home near Macroom and above the N22 haven’t time to wait — the rest of the world beckons: college and work overseas for the now-adult children, a stint working for the EU in Brussels and, then, parental hopes to buy a boat, and sail around the world, before it’s too late for further adventure.
Back in 2001, when Macroom-based vet Bertil Douw, and his wife Carlien, commissioned and built this comfortable energy-efficient home and homestead a few miles west of the mid-Cork town, talk of a Macroom bypass was just that, all talk....as it had been since the 1970s.
Now, though, work is tangibly moving on the N22 upgrade, which will see a €160 million bypass of bottlenecks at Macroom and the slow crawl out to Ballyvourney, with the new route from Coolcower towards the County bounds fenced off, land bought, and archaeology and geology surveys underway, in preparation for the funding go-ahead to appoint a contractor. The new 22kms dual carriageway stretch, will, inter alia, need 20 bridges built to speed traffic routes from Cork to Kerry, and to the Klondyke tourism goldmine spot that is Killarney.
And, the agreed new route has an access point a mile out of Macroom up a winding country lane, with grass in its middle, to a clutch of elevated home on a south-facing hillside, with views to Gougane Barra, Mullaghanish and the climbers Holy Grail of Kerry.
It was this great, expansive and distant sweep of rural views that captivated the Utrecht-trained vet back in the late 1990s when he was testing cattle at Carrignamaddry for a local farmer. “Ireland is a great country for vets,” observes his Indonesia-born Dutch wife, Carlien, of the circumstances that saw their Douw clan locate to Ireland in 1996, where an English speaking population was also a requisite.
Bertil said it would be a lovely space on which to site a home, and the farmer asked if wanted to buy some land, done deal, some two acres sold, up at a nice elevation of 575ft above sea level, the equivalent of a mountain, for a family from the low-set Netherlands.
The house was designed with energy efficiency in mind, and the couple with young family drafted in the services of Niall Murphy of J&N Murphy engineers in Macroom to design and get them planning for what’s about a 3,000 sq ft home, modern but not uber contemporary, comfortably at home in a rural setting.
They stayed local too in their choice of build, opting for a timber frame construction, sourced from locally-based and highly regarded Cygnum, who’ve now gone on to do some very large pioneering wood-frame projects not just at home, but in the UK also.
Here at the Douw family home, there’s geothermal heating working away underfloor and via rads upstairs, as well as solar panels for hot water, and at present energy bills for heating and water are coming in at about €125 a month, reckons Carlien, while admitting they’ve dropped from a bit higher levels when their four children were at full-time ensconced.
How quickly families can move to another level! Work and study has taken them from here in jig time: one son, having studied at the local De La Salle and then started college, is now about to move to the very north of Norway, by the Arctic Circle, to study geology. As you do.
In the meantime, Bertil closed his vet’s practice in Macroom just before Christmas and is doing temporary animal welfare work for the EU (he was also an assessor of Irish practices for the Irish Veterinary Union for a period), and the game plan, reveals Carlien, is to work for another year or two, then buy a boat, and set sail while they still have the energy and curiosity to travel and explore.
Right now, their house’s drive is home to a banana-yellow 20’ trimaran dinghy, looking a bit incongruous on a hillside in mid-Cork, but they say they’ve used it to explore much of Cork’s coastline, harbours and bays.
And, it would have a lot more nautical miles under it hulls were it not for the fact this Carrignamaddry property was set up, first and foremost, for family, and for a passion for horses. The two-acres has lots of immediate landscaping, as well as several paddocks and there’s an excellent stable block with three boxes, so it’s perfect for anyone wanting to keep a few ponies and horses for their own life chapter.
The ‘lifestyle’ Douw property mix went to market just before Christmas with Macroom estate agent Tom Heffernan, with a guide price of €485,000, and includes the main house, all fresh as a daisy after a major 2011 upgrade, as well as a stand-alone home-office/surgery, used as back-up for Bertil’s town-based practice, along with a lofted double garage, stables, land in paddocks, all with perfect privacy, along with the chance to roam the unspoiled countryside along old famine roads and lanes, as far as Mullaghanish. You can go three hours on a hack from your own front door, and barely meet a car, approves keen rider Carlien.
As well as providing great creature comforts for the family of six (and all six-footers-plus, thanks to a daily budget for six litres of milk) this has also been home to several horses and ponies, two dogs, two cats, a fish tank and various wildlife passers-by, not to mention the flocks of finches and many other birds varieties all fed and watered from outdoor feeding stations by the large patio-terrace.
This distinctive terrace (above) has stout pergola sections, uprights and crossbeams, in sturdy larch and of a size that’s reminiscent of a scene from Golgotha, with climbers making their way up them: there’s even a dogged wisteria, which normally mightn’t acclimatise too readily to a frame instead of a wallplace, and the terrace is set up for year-round al fresco and impromptu dining, with chiminea for occasional back-up heat.
The immediate grounds are sheltering too, and densely planted, with a large variety of native trees and some more exotics, with a mix including hardwoods, eucalytpus, sequoia, birches, and over 3,000 bulbs (they are Dutch, after all) with daffs and
crocuses currently making seasonal forays above ground. Many of the trees came from local wholesale nursery Nangle & Niesen, among whose latest projects was supplying trees for the refurb at Adare Manor Hotel and its golf course reordering.
What, finally, of the south-facing house, at the centre of all this natural vigour? This doesn’t disappoint either, with an easy flow, good-sized rooms and airy feel, and warm underfoot, to boot.
Essentially dormer in style, but broken up under several different roof sections and gables, it’s visually naturally at home in its setting, but has nice twists, turns and tweaks seeing as the family relocated to Ireland with experiences of living in several other countries, hot and cold.
It got quite the makeover back in 2011 when a small fire in an upstairs bathroom melted a 300 litre water tank, and that was the prompt for the couple to do some new floors, and bathrooms, and those well-chosen alterations (plus some very stylish polished granite sills internally) are now some of the signature notes of this home.
Most notable is the expanse of the black Brazilian limestone (sourced via the internet and directly imported) used as flooring for much of the ground level, in one-metre square sections flawlessly laid by a tiler from Eastern Europe, who was found only after a long search, as most Irish domestic tilers felt the unbroken large format, and narrow joins, was just too challenging.
Here, the finished outcome flowing from room to room, is a quiet, understated triumph, with stone and fossil flecks, in contrast to the white walls, and where furniture and artwork of walls is a mix of finds and family heirlooms from Holland, Thailand, Indonesia as well as points in between, along with Bertil’s Irish and international landscape photography.
Ideal for displaying art is the double height entrance hall, with open tread stairs and feature, tall glass-block window side wall. The original idea was to have a double height, triple aspect main living room also, but as the design progressed to the build, there was a pragmatic change of mind, so that now the space above the living room which would have been overlooked by a galleried landing is home to a day-room, bed sit/guest room with two feature apex windows.
This upper level is home also to four dormer bedrooms, one at each corner, as well as a long luxury bathroom, with large steam shower enclosure which has multi jets and rainfall heads, i-Pod speakers and has both steam and sauna functions. The room’s quite swish, with a wide ceramic sink, and wall-hung pan, but looking incongruous still to domestic Irish eyes is the wall-mounted urinal... handy though with three sons being reared and, eh, trained.
In current family usage, the main or master bedroom is downstairs, off at the house’s western end. It too has the same black Brazilian limestone floor tile, and double aspect and uncluttered feel thanks to simple storage, plus a walk-in wardrobe.
Piece de resistence is the adjoining en suite bathroom (pic, left), though, a truly relaxing space with very high quality sanitary ware, jetted relaxation Jacuzzi bath, double taps over a wide sink, good storage and a very large shower, with not just one, but two, jetted multi-point shower stands. Add in the fact this room too has underfloor heating, and it’s a spot you could while away hours on a cold Irish winter’s day.
Elsewhere, this house has a home office, a guest WC, and a back hall/utility/boot room, with at the home’s core a large double aspect kitchen/diner with island, Siemens appliances and overall clean lines, with units imported from the Netherlands. A large wall of glass (sliding doors, really) floods the room with light, and gives access to the garden terrace and much-used outdoor dining space.
Then, one small step drop visitors down to the main living room, about 20’ by 20’, with recessed lighting, windows on three sides (most glazing is 1990s planner-friendly small opes) and, although the geothermal underfloor heating easily gets internal temperature up to 26 degrees, there’s also a circular contemporary Scan wood-burning stove, as much for affect and visual impact as anything else (the house has a triple glazing and a B2 BER.)
With spring in the air, Macroom estate agent Tom Heffernan is looking forward to starting viewings at this one-off home, and while the €485,000 price tag is high for the locale going on recent sales (at 3,000 sq ft, it’s also one of the larger,) he reckons it is going to have a particular appeal to relocaters.
“What would you get in the city, or even Ballincollig for that sum? You won’t get all that you get here,” he rightly points out.
And, finally with tangible and visible progress on the N22 bypass of Macroom and Ballyvourney, and an access point just down the hill, this accommodating family home is handier to reach and commute to/front, and is ready to go, all over again.
VERDICT: International flair, off the N22.
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