THERE’S a knowing, modern eye and sensibility that oversaw the design and delivery of this nicely aloof property — you can sense it from the almost ironic use of a grass strip up its long, snaking approach drive. That drive to the door is like a green Mohican haircut between twin tracks of fresh concrete, a sort of stairway to heaven, West Cork-style.
A package that is considerably more than the sum of it parts, this contemporary and private coastal home, with a punning house name Seaclusion, is a new to market arrival to a spring/summer market that will win over visitors in almost any weather conditions.
Sunny is still probably the best for first viewings, but stormy is good too, while the sweep of a lighthouse beam from the Galley Head is an all-night reminder of the presence and proximity of the sea. You’ll hear the sea, too, and smell it, and with salt in the air, well, most of the senses are catered for: as for touching it, well dive right on in.
Set on eight acres of sloping landscaped site overlooking Galley Head lighthouse, Warren Strand and Rosscarbery, Cork, Seaclusion is a modern arrival on the site of an older, cluster of vernacular stone dwellings. The best of the old has been kept, and is now a Bangor slate-roofed, stone-built two-bed guest cottage that holds its head up with the best of old farmhouse conversions, right down to its winsome half door and warming antique cast iron radiators.
But it’s the main house built in front of it which is the premier production.
Of this property of two unequal halves, the new half’s a wholly high-end, high-ceilinged main home with spectacular combination living/dining/cooking area opening to an unrivalled viewing terrace and patio with ocean and landscape views to warm the heart and charge the senses.
It makes up the front part of the respectful modern courtyard cluster by architect Michael Shanahan, with its 150-year-old antecedent (now the detached guest cottage) while further enclosure is provided by a large utility house/boathouse/storehouse with kitchen.
Retained old trees, one in the midst of the courtyard, help to anchor the newly-gathered cluster to the top of its eight acre site, while gravel drives and flagstone-paved paths arcing all around also help to tie the considerable ground works into the exacting drystone walls in both associated (but generations apart) dwellings.
What’s old has been kept ‘old, but comfortable’, whilst the new build is more bells and whistles, with things like geothermal heating, rainwater harvesting for garden sprinklers, and solar panels hidden away behind the house, which also has underfloor heating, Super low-e glazing in the new build, plus a swish Italian kitchen, and sleek, tactile finishes in abundance.
Then, there’s sophistication and wizardry in things like 4MB broadband and satellite communication links, TV points aplenty, CCTV and an alarm that will tip you off on your phone anywhere in the world if anything untoward happens on your homestead.
Luck was on the side of where to site the house at Seaclusion; the views are in the same direction as the sun, so that the very efficient 40’ sweep of sliding glazing right across the front of the house draws in solar gain, and locks in heat, while on finer days the smooth action doors pull back to allow the outside in and the inhabitants out.
The owners of Seaclusion, have backgrounds in design and building/architecture, and the grounds have been adorned by garden and architectural salvage, from places like Dublin’s Georgian homes, from France, Spain and Italy.
The antique mix starts with the house’s secure Pier Road entrance, with cast-iron Victorian entrance gates apparently made by the firm responsible for the main gates and railings for Trinity College Dublin. Other pieces are rare, or just well-chosen, and include a mid-19th-century Parisian cast-iron gas street light, now electrified and with Italian shades, a 19th-century Italian marble well head with wheel and chain, from Verona, Italian limestone plinths from a demolished 18th-century, an Italian limestone birdbath, a metal grotto from a Breton village, converted into a seat facing the Galley Head peninsula, and old terracotta planters.
The immediate grounds have been recently, and expensively, landscaped in swirls and walkways and will similarly age with grace.
Accommodation here swells to about 3,500 sq ft in all, across the two distinct buildings, each with two bedrooms, each extremely comfortable, and while there’s similarities like high ceilings, treatments are entirely different — sort of age-appropriate.
The main single storey (but over basement) house is T- or L-shaped, with part-slate and part-zinc metal roof, and has some dry-stone walling to visually tie back and refer/defer to the older cottage cluster across the graveled courtyard which it shares with the boathouse/garage.
It fits in the main living/dining/kitchen area with its southerly wall of Shuco sliding doors to the sun terrace; there’s a master bedroom suite with high pitched ceilings, top-notch bathroom and dressing room, plus guest bedroom and adjoining bathroom, utility, stores. The basement could make for a further third en suite bedroom, gym, media room, etc., and already houses the ‘brains’ of the house, its IT equipment and geothermal back-up and tanks.
As you’d expect, the interior is high-end, yet low-key, with finishes like American oak flooring (with underfloor heating) in the main house (the guest cottage is reclaimed pitch pine) and the kitchen is by the Italian company Schiffini Mobili. Apart from the front wall of glass there’s a picture-perfectly placed east gable window at head height for rolling estuary and wooded hillside views towards Cregane Manor, as well as three top-level opening eyelet windows at the top of the 16’ high back wall.
That wall, adorned with art and supporting the large mono-pitch slate roof, is pierced by a large open fireplace, with the chimney’s slick letterbox opening above the roof being a bit of design feature, crowning Seaclusion’s presence on the landscape. The fireplace is a matt finish ribbed black cast-iron work, made locally, and while it burns logs, it’s also plumbed for gas.
The kitchen here, at the western end of this great 40’ by 17’ airy space, is in high-gloss and brushed aluminium finishes by with marble countertops, lots of storage and an unstinting appliance specification that includes Siemens, Gaggenau, Nordmende and a Franke sink, with a Blanco sink in the utility/boot room.
Smaller and select feature windows in the house are chamfered, or splayed back at the sides, and show the attention to detail in both the design and the execution.
Furniture came from various sources, but most notably from Skibbereen-based Embellish Interiors, who have sourced designer one-offs, and pieces from the likes of Stephen Shell Furniture who they sell a lot for, especially his painted mahogany pieces as well as distressed French works.
Lighting is a mix of old Italian and new chandeliers, as well as designer fittings like the TAL architectural cube wall lights, which coat the ceilings and walls with ambient light after dark.
Flooring is either American oak or Porcelenosa tiling, while in the more traditional country-style cottage it’s rich-hued old pitch pine, buffed up, contrasting with the pine sheeted high ceilings: also salvaged here are the cast iron radiators.
Linking sections of the grounds are in materials like gravel. lawn, and concentric sections in Kota green flagstones, edged with salvaged antique cobblestones and shrubberies. Old granite steps, meanwhile, lead to the secret garden behind the houses, an ideal sitting and reading spot.
The setting’s the star act at Seaclusion, an hour and bit from Cork city, airport and ferries. There’s spectacular scenery, plus progressive towns like Skibbereen and Clonakilty on either side, and thriving Rosscarbery is a walk away, with good bars, restaurants, coffee shops, galleries and more, as well as a host of visitor amenities.
Beaches nearby are top notch, with formal and informal walks and treks, and the ocean’s the backdrop, with passing ships, whales, dolphins and seals.
Selling agent for this gem-set package is John Hodnett of Hodnett Forde, who guides it at around €1.5 million and who feels it’s going to have an international appeal. There’ll be an attraction as well to the better-heeled, discriminating Irish buyer looking for a quality spread that’s going to be easy to keep, lock up and leave, and return frequently to.
It could attract lifestyle retirees too, and one of West Cork’s few €1m to €2m sales in the past couple of years was Cregane Manor, on 36 acres just across the tidal inlet from Seaclusion. Cregane was bought by a working, professional Irish couple who clearly valued the setting. Now, Seaclusion joins the set.
VERDICT: Money wasn’t spared in creating the quality mix on offer here, driven by the combined attractions of the location, and an eye for style.