Urban and riverside oasis with pedigree

A HAPPY meeting of a careful, considerate and talented owner, and a house with lots going for it, means that 44 Sunday’s Well Road - also called Coolara – is more than a special home. It could be one of Cork city’s best residential buys, for years to come.<

The large, three-storey period home – and it is very much a cherished home – is one of that very small handful of large semi-detached mid 1800s properties, with south-facing aspect and huge gardens, dropping in tiers and secret rainforest-like walkways to lawns and orchards which then run hundreds of feet to the River Lee opposite the Mardyke, Fitzgerald’s Park, the cricket and tennis clubs.

Always prized Cork houses, there’s been quite a few come up for sale in the past 10 to 15 years. Many of them have been expensively, discretely reworked by their new owners. Although hugely private, things like large glasshouses, modernist glass extensions, swimming pools and terraces can be glimpsed, or at least suspected in the screening greenery.

Cork’s city’s record private house sale was a classic, detached house Woodlawn on fine gardens a couple of hundred yards away to the west, making €5 million or so in an off-market 2005 deal. Semis of similar vintage needing considerable work made €1.5 to €2 million during the past decade, and some may have had a million or more spent on them. If you can have a trophy home without evident Celtic Tiger bling, then these are among the best, with modest, unprepossessing backs to the public road, and their joys turned to the sun, and southerly views over towards UCC’s elegant campus. Coming up for reluctant sale, with a family reared, No 44 carries a €1.5 million guide with agent Ann O’Mahony of Sherry FitzGerald, and it is a bit of a coup sale listing. This is the price level hunting ground of medical consultants, and many of this ilk are already in residence in these Grand Circle settings. Anecdotal recent Cork property market evidence suggest that even the best-heeled medics have had borrowing capabilities reduced since this summer, but Ms O’Mahony says off-market activity and sales shows there’s still strength at this sector.

No 44 has been in the same ownership since 1988, and it has been an ongoing project, improving every few years, and it has the feel of a place that’s been gently and intelligently brought back, rather than being done over in a rush, and dating to any particular renovation fashion.

The well-able ‘woman of the house’ has painted and papered, with quality paints, and expensive luxury papers like Colefax and Fowler, Nina Campbell, Laura Ashley etc, and the master bedroom suite is a heady, unrestrained abundance of off-white and pink Toile de Jouy, in wallpaper, bedlinen, curtains and other fabrics. It is house that can take it – but whether or not any possible new male occupant can remains to be seen.

Elsewhere, paint colours are rich, from a classical palette, doors and woodwork are classically painted white, many with feature, low-key leaded glass, and the main drawing room’s new casement windows have carefully integrated the original green coloured glass in their top section. Finishes are tops, as are furnishings, and largely period-appropriate, and the five-year old new kitchen has cream painted units and island, with pale Corian surfaces, and a double ceramic sink in front of a broad restored sash window looks through the sun room to the autumnal colours going off in russet stages to the distance. The owner, wistfully and without boasting, can admit “I think it’s the nicest house in Cork.”

Bar any personal decisions on decor, there’s really nothing really to do here when it next finds new owners. As it stands, No 44 currently has four bedrooms, spread over its three levels, four bathrooms, fine formal reception rooms including a full-width drawing room with two tall south-facing windows, dining room, study, and a host of smaller service/hobby/den/storage rooms in a hugely practical layout. For those crass enough to ask, there’s about 3,500 square feet of space, all of them sure-footed and well shod. Then, the huge draw is the south-facing sun room across most of the front of No 44, with terracotta tiled terracing and balustrading alongside: its aspect means it picks up sun all day long, hence the need for two large, shading (motorised) striped awnings.

This house’s huge plus is its set-back, off-street parking, for up to three cars, plus the easiest of access to a secure garage for a large car, plus storage compound.

Many neighbouring Sunday’s Well houses like this are restricted to little, or no car parking bar the on-street option, and this really doesn’t sit well with prospective buyers, who may not want the mirrors knocked off their Mercs and perky coupes outside their homes. So, a huge bonus here, plus if you park in the garage, you can get direct internal ‘bridge’ access to the house, so you don’t have to get wet bringing the shopping back from shops’ multi-storey car parking.

Beyond a screening wall, the house’s layout begins to reveal itself, first with a sheltered courtyard with clusters of Lavender around the planting, meaning drifts of summer scent on arrival, wafting up to the master bedroom’s protruding, west-facing gable bay window, which has sandblasted glass for ultimate privacy. All of the grounds – about three-quarters of an acre in all – are tamed and minded, no mean feat, and will be any gardener or child’s delight.

The lower lawns have been used for summer picnics under the spreading, fragranced yellow Azalea Mollis: this is essentially country in the city living. Previous owners kept canoes at the end of the garden, neighbours once had a tennis court, and salmon can be caught from the garden boundary. Away the Well.


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