Hollymount House: ideal for artistic inspiration

Tommy Barker finds an artist’s ‘quarters’ hidden in a large period house.

A NOVEL, affordable slice of period property comes in the shape of No 4, Hollymount House — you’re getting one quarter of a large, imposing, mid-1800s home for the price of an apartment.

No 4, home to high sheriffs and to a titled artist, Lady Kate Dobbin, is now the home of another artist, Nuala O’Donovan, architect husband Kevin Busby and daughter, Niamh.

Hollymount House, above the Lee Road, just west of Cork city’s suburbs, dates from the 1850s and was owned by a former high sheriff of Cork city around the turn of the century, Alfred Graham Dobbin, who married painter Kate Wise, later to become Lady Kate Dobbin. Both painted, and they ended their days living in the Imperial Hotel. Some of their work hangs in the Crawford Gallery, Cork.

In the late 1800s, Hollymount was on 11 acres of land, at Moundesert, and the land (with small garrison) was often kept for grazing seized cattle - a sort of pre-NAMA asset recovery system. Names associated with Hollymount House included Dobbin, Dunscombe, Humphreys, Gale and Tobin, and, in the early 1960s, the main house, with its later Victorian rear additions was carved up by its then builder-owner into four self-contained units.

Now, one ‘quarter’ section, No 4, is being offered for sale, after yet another bout of changes by its visually literate owners.

Kevin Busby heads up the joint UCC/CIT Cork School of Architecture, while artist Nuala O’Donovan switched from a career in construction studies and draughtsmanship to design in Britain , and got her MA in ceramics from Crawford College of Art and Design, just last year.

Already working from the National Sculpture Factory, Nuala has a clutch of national awards, including The Crafts Council of Ireland/Irish Arts Review Emerging Maker Award 2008, and the RDS First Prize in Contemporary Ceramics 2009. Her work in unglazed porcelain following the forms of nature can be seen when the RDS National Crafts exhibition opens at the Sirius Arts Centre, in Cobh, from November 2 to 23.

Nuala’s wish for a base with studio space prompted thoughts of selling up. Their home, which is almost hidden from view, is tucked into a back corner and is a house of surprises — you certainly won’t have an idea of what’s within from the front door.

Nuala and Kevin made a rational use of the space, integrating rooms of Georgian proportions with the Victorian add-ons behind and linking in a side corridor with a glazed roof to draw light down into the ground-floor core.

It’s for sale with agent Michael O’Donovan of Sherry FitzGerald who guides it at €285,000 and says it can appeal to first-time buyers or to traders-down — or to anyone just not into a traditional, three-bed semi-d.

Fairly fully reworked, refurbished and upgraded, it now has about 1,200 sq ft of space, rooms of distinctly different character and lots of individual touches, like sneaking storage spaces in unlikely of spots — such as bookshelves over doorways.

Its large, 11’ high-ceilinged living room has working window shutters, an open fireplace and built-in shelving, the kitchen/dining space behind has a west-facing window and an east-facing, glazed roof above a home-office desk, there’s a hall, utility and central staircase, while the three bedrooms and main bathroom, with skylight, are on split levels overhead.

One of the bedrooms is in the original portion of the house, giving a sense of space and pleasant proportion, with an east-facing window. A bedroom above the front door has a south window, with views towards the river Lee, and the third bedroom is to the rear.

No 4 has oil heating, numerous restored or reintegrated architectural features and reclaimed floors in narrow plank maple. What it doesn’t have is much in the way of private outdoor space, with a modest but well-planted, sheltered front gravel drive with jasmine and other climbers. There are local walks over fields, through woods and by the River Lee, and the Lee Road below is a popular walking route too.

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