An elegant lady of a house, dressed from inside out

Rose Martin says if you happen to be shopping for an utterly, idiosyncratic house in the city, then lift the knocker

This isn’t an average home, this is project, moment of madness stretched over three years — it’s a tour de force that won’t be lost on discerning buyers

It’s been a long road. Two years on, lots of time, pots of money and brigades of builders later, No 3 Newenham Terrace is ready. And now it’s for sale, too.

The four-storey townhouse will be familiar to readers who have followed the renovation of this Cork city house from the beginning. Riders on the city’s buses too had a bird’s eye view of the work (attracted by the branded safety screen) and neighbours have watched its emergence with the understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats.

No 3’s renewal is all to the credit of interior designer and now its vendor, Ber Pey, who has finally come to the end of a project which she thought would take a year, but which has eaten up the greater part of three. (But any aficionado of property programmes could have told her that — who ever takes on an old house and comes out on time and budget?).

However, she’s reached her target, bloodied but unbowed and her creation is magnificent, inside and out. It’s completion also marks a turning point for this long-neglected, Anglesea Street/ Infirmary Road area where Pey’s townhouse can be seen as part of the architectural resurgence in the immediate area. The designer is also in the vanguard of the restoration of this terrace, and shortly enough it’s expected that more houses will come on stream here eventually and that should propel the creation of a restoration enclave at Newenham Terrace.

Meanwhile, the area has some architectural gems: the jury is out in regard to the South Terrace apartments, but St John’s College gathers the plaudits and is worth taking a detour for — a stunning modern building that uses its land-locked site with elan. Designed by Reddy Architecture, it incorporates the Georgian orphanage, Buckingham House as well as the landmark, St John’s Church as part of a busy, vibrant campus to the rear of Newenham Terrace. The views from the back windows of No 3 are of some of the best buildings in the city.

Built in the early 1800s, this terrace had its gardens robbed in the 1980s for road widening, but still retains private gardens at the rear (although some have been paved for parking) and the mews entrance has allowed for a couple of new, stand-alone builds.

Not Ber Pey’s house, however, she has instead created an inner-city oasis, a calm contemporary garden along with landscape architect, John Butler, and the space incorporates waterfalls, sunbathing spaces, a limestone terrace and unique planting arrangements with glass sculpture by Eoin Turner. Major Wow factor, in short.

The house, meanwhile, is striking in a different way — it would have been easy to follow the Georgian pattern set by its period but instead the designer has picked a turn of the century theme that blends contemporary furniture with trawled-for, fin de siecle pieces to create an utterly fresh, original take on a classic scheme.

But the style never veers from the elegant, or the comfortable and the result is a high-end, five-star finish.

Where else will you find silk chenille chaises, lush crushed silk velvet drapes, real crystals on wallpaper? An hotel, probably, but not the average home.

But this isn’t an average home, this is a project, a calling card, a moment of madness stretched over three years — whatever — it’s a tour de force and one that won’t be lost on discerning buyers.

At the asking of €435,000 for 2,400 square feet of impeccable space, this house will have a defined market, Trish Stokes of Lisney auctioneers admits, but the condition, location and utter charm of the house will woo buyers. There are so many lush, but sure, style touches here that an initial viewing could pass in a blur of ‘then there’s this, there’s that, oh look at this’ — this house is a child in a sweet shop moment — it’s all delicious.

When purchased, No 3 was in a deleterious, but untouched condition, a fact that wasn’t lost on Pey, who felt she could turn it round in a unique way and perhaps, use it as a showcase for her talents at the same time.

On the basis of viewing now, both targets have been met. No 3 is an elegant lady of a house, and like a lady, she has been dressed from the inside out — the quality of this restoration can’t all be seen, much has gone on behind the expensively-papered walls and smoothly finished floors.

The upgrade involved every aspect of the building and it was under the hands of Cornerstone Construction for some time, which rebuilt it to shell when a number of different craftspersons took the house in hand. Also, Pat Ruane, Conservation Officer with Cork City Council, had an input and the project was grant-aided on the basis of the quality of work undertaken. (A mere drop in the ocean however in terms of the investment into the building’s fabric). Buyers can be assured that this house will stand for another couple of hundred years, at least.

The work on No 3 took off at a gallop throughout the winter of 2010 and stuttered to a halt some time last year, (big jobs and broken bones intervened), but a sudden burst of speed this spring has seen the exemplary renovation reach its conclusion. And the inevitable end — because now that it’s done, Ms Pey is selling up and moving on to another project, a larger canvas for her talents.

The revitalised, renewed, restyled and re-envisioned No 3 is ready for it’s close-up and Lisney’s Trish Stokes is geared up for a wave of viewings. And nosey-baas, too, she expects.

But that’s inevitable with a house of this age and with the tantalising glimpses seen through windows, supplement pages and en passant.

Ber Pey uses the ground floor front room as her office and this space is decorated in soft silver grey paisley paper with dark, lacquered furniture by Christopher Guy and a pretty splendid armchair sits beside an original, Carrera marble fireplace.

The kitchen is a true rendition of her talent, designed by Pey and using elements miles away from the norm, it manages to be comfy, period and unique, all at the same time. Thus restored, the reconditioned Aga thrums with heat, even in a wet, cold summer and the deep sash windows give a full view out to the garden.

Here, in respect to the house, the old door leading to the back remains unpainted, untouched, a memento to the past.

It would be impossible to go through every room in this house, the detail is too rich and the furnishings too many - but the first floor living room has to get a mention.

Finished with silk velvet chaises in elegant cream and a occasional chair in cream and black, the look is opulent and striking. Walls are papered around the tall Adams fireplace and the rest of the room is finished in panelling, with raw silk frames. On the floor, a fawn silk rug lies understatedly quiet, not competing against the opulent fittings above. One of two master bedrooms lies behind and this room incorporates a stunning wet room with opalescent, mosaic tiles; the rest of the room however, is finished in tones of old gold with luxurious bed linen and an imperious headboard. Square side tables with a mirrored lacquer finish, add to the boutique hotel effect.Overhead, there’s the second master, with a glittering chrome bedstead, (Pey had the brass finish chromed, a technique which gives an edge to an old staple and which fits the Art Nouveau theme of the house). Finished in dark grey wallpaper, with silk crushed velvet curtains pooling on the old polished floor, this is an attractive boudoir. Behind it, is a third, double room and overhead is a small suite, in the former maids’ room, where two pods have created a walk-in wardrobe and slate black bathroom, without changing the room’s original form. The bathroom, with lime highlights, is ingenious in the amount it squeezes into a small space.

Lastly, there’s the front door — look closely. No, it’s not covered in beaten copper, although it looks like it — rather, it’s a paint compound and the finish is so durable, it has to be polished up, just like copper. The effect is old, and new and mellow, all at the same time, just like the interior.

If you happen to be shopping for an utterly, idiosyncratic house in the city, with a garden, parking for four cars and the best of schools, shops, pubs and restaurants on the doorstep — then lift the knocker.

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