Architect Richard Rainey was the man responsible for the renovation and conversion design of an old mill building dating to the 16th century into apartments at Brownmills, near Kinsale in Cork, and he also designed a new apartment block alongside it, again entirely clad in stone to complement its aged neighbour.
Then he went and modelled this house, along a similar design theme, so as not to have it jar in the gently pastoral landscape. The end result is a hamlet cluster of scattered buildings that look all sympathetic and neighbourly.
The original mill building was used for grinding corn, and the stream that powered the mill still runs along the boundary here, hence the appropriateness of the name Millstream.
It’s a house that modestly goes about its business, of providing a haven of comfortable and bright space, and lots of space, some 2,600 sq ft, on a private acre hillside site in an historic location. It is set between the opposing camps of the 1601 Battle of Kinsale, and the nearby creek beneath the mill is where provisioning boats landed supplies for English forces in that turning-point Irish battle.
However, Millstream doesn’t cast its eye back that far: it merely pays due respects to Irish vernacular architecture, without doing so in a slavish fashion.
Thus, despite the relative timelessness of this all-stone faced exterior, slate roof, cast iron gutters and mature boundaries, inside it is modern without being modish.
It has zoned underfloor heating in its main open-plan living area, which gives a gentle rising heat that never leaves the lower level cold, despite a double-height void that sees a floor-to-ceiling height soar into the apex about 30’ above.
This striking room is the real heart of the house: an angled chimney breast is the eye-catching feature here, with a French cast iron stove within the lower section in a tiled alcove.
A snaking, secret staircase, one of two stairwells in this two-storey and four-bed house, leads around the chimney stack up to a mezzanine used as a TV and den room, and to a working gallery, used as an art studio space.
Beyond the den area, doors open to a railed and timber decked first floor outdoor balcony.
The house is part wood-frame construction, and lots of wood features inside.
Red deal is used for the steeply pitched roof cladding and sturdy red deal beams “deliberately done to give an old mill feel,” says Richard. Steel tie rods and steel beam plates add a dramatic tension to the open roof space, as well as serving a structural, knitting together role.
The open void of central part of the T-shaped house was built in conventional manner, to allow a concrete ring beam go around to give necessary support to the roof which has Velux windows north and south to draw light to the inner core.
The main living area, lit by low voltage spots, is great for parties and has its acoustics regularly tested by hi-fi, piano and guitars. The room has a Finnish laminate oak floor, and oak features as well in the stairs and balustrades and again as a veneer finish on the internal doors.
Windows and external doors are by Rational, a quality make; door and window sizes and placing are traditional. Sizes are small, but extra glazing is provided in a compact 10’ by 5’ deep bay window in the main living area, notes the architect.
All materials used are from a natural palette, no PVC here. Windows and doors are timber, fascias are timber, but kept to an absolute minimum usage: the Spanish slate roof simply overhangs the stone walls by an inch or two.
The maintenance-free mantra parroted by the PVC industry is vastly overrated, argues Richard, who has only had to treat the exposed woods here once in four or five years, and for a cost of just a few hundred euro. Even PVC needs to be wiped and washed, and isn’t as long lasting as it claims to be, he says.
Rooms off the living space include a kitchen with ORM maple units and marble topped island, dining room off the kitchen, and off the dining space is a sun room glazed on three sides and with the balcony overhead. Kitchen, dining, sun room and halls all have rough, but rich terracotta tile floors.
This house has four bedrooms, all to the eastern side, two at each level, with almost identical bathrooms (half tiled walls, tile floor, cast iron baths, separate showers) in between them. Each bedroom has windows on two walls for different views.
Attention to build quality is evident throughout, and the stonework by Bantry mason Andrew McCarthy is first rate (Ridge Construction from nearby Dunderrow were the builders.) The mason even slotted discrete vent spaces for the wall cavity between narrow shards of stone. A recently added cobble drive and parking area continues the attention-to-detail theme.
Millstream is on the market for sale with a €750,000 price tag quoted by joint agents Andrew Clarke of Keane Mahony Smith and Victoria Murphy, both in Kinsale.
Location is a mile from Kinsale town, on the Cork side of this tourist harbour town, and Cork and its airport are a 20 minute drive turning onto the main Cork road at Belgooly.