House of the week

WITH four decades of building high-end houses under his tool-belt, Tim Lawton is still producing top-end houses - albeit slowly, one at a time.

“It’s like therapy for me, I could be off living abroad or out all the time on a golf course, but I just love building. Here, I’ve given it my best shot, I couldn’t do any better. Even in recessionary times, I couldn’t hold back, I got the best of tradespeople available to me, we all got on superbly. Everyone pulled together: in fact, when you get good people, it’s all very easy. I defy anyone to build better quality,” Lawton proudly asserts.

In most builders’ mouths, those words could ring hollow, but he’s preceded by his reputation.

Lawton’s name is behind some of Cork’s more up-market house schemes, including Douglas Wells apartments and Court Cairn near Highfield being examples.

Now, just up the road — on Highfield Avenue near the back gates of the CUH — Lawton’s back on top form, producing the first of four new houses on an acre site he bought via agents Timothy Sullivan Auctioneers for over €1 million back in 2008, as the market continued its dip.

Lawton admits he was lured by the location (previous house sales in the vicinity went as high as €1.4 million for relatively dated homes), and now it’s selling time for his new product.

He’s just handed over the keys of the first finished house (seen here) to new owners, and is close to signing contracts on a second, and he suggests the selling prices are ” a shade under the million.”

The original house, Kilconnor, had been in the middle of the cleared acre site, and was a five-bed, 3,200 sq ft dated home. Now, each of the four replacement houses will be the same size, 3,200 sq ft and five-bedroomed, done to a design that isn’t likely to date at all, only age gracefully.

With a strong Victorian look and solid external proportion, these Bertie Pope Architect-designed houses take the best of the old, and marry it with the very best of the new.

While the design is underplayed if anything, and the decor here almost an object-lesson in keeping it neutral, this is a house that builds on Tim Lawton’s decades of experience of building for fussy and often demanding buyers.

Timber framed, to a product by Cork-based Cygnum (who are getting a lot of British media attention for a passive energy school in Wolverhamption) it has huge insulation and air tightness values, getting an impressive A BER cert rating, with heat recovery system, solar sourced hot water, zoned underfloor heating and a specially sealed wood-burning stove. There’s lots of wired-in technology, too, but nothing too fancy or obtrusive: this place speaks with a hush.

There’s quality from the foundations up, and all Lawton’s experience went into being clever, so while ceilings are extra-high at 10’ he’s raised door heights above standard, to 7’, to keep in proportion.

The entire back of the three-storey house is one open family living/dining/kitchen space, with Glenline kitchen at one end, fireplace in the other, and porcelain tiling aplenty. There’s two other reception rooms, and the layout is ‘lifelong’ adaptable so one can live, eat, sleep and shower on the ground level alone.

The attic level is home to a sprawling multi-use room/bed number five, and the middle floor has four bedrooms, all en suite, with a great master bedroom, dressing room/walk thru’ wardrobe and bathroom with Jacuzzi, double sinks, granite tops etc.

“I bought this site in a recession; I’m not building these to lose money, I’m getting a salary out of it and I’m doing what I love,” enthuses Lawton. “There’s no snag list, we tested everything and cleaned the windows when done. This is my builder’s finish.”

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