No expense spared on glass-enhanced, super-plush home

Owners of harbour-view dormer on 4.85 acres did it all, bar flatten the original and build again from scratch, writes Tommy Barker.

No expense spared on glass-enhanced,  super-plush home

Coming in right at the very top end of Cork city’s house-hunters market is this niche, contemporary Rochestown one-off with swagger.

Big, impeccably finished and with lots of ground, plus five-star, hotel-quality leisure centre/gym, bar and swimming pool, it’s as different as they come in the southern city — and it comes with a €2.2m price tag, via agents Cohalan Downing.

It’s rarified air, though, at this level, where buyers are so thin on the ground, yet there’s some comfort for vendors of the region’s best homes: there’s some genuine sales movement afoot.

Deals at and under the €2m mark have recently been agreed on a few prime period Cork suburban homes, and now, too, Cohalan Downing’s Malcolm Tyrrell has viewings and interest picking up on former Howard Holdings’ boss Greg and Ann Coughlan’s family home Fastnet House in Kinsale. (Fastnet is optimistically set at an uber-cool €3.75m for the 6,000 sq ft exemplary home, which comes with a pool and the requisite high-end trimmings.)

That price tag at least has the virtue of making this new-to-market Rochestown Road home look sensibly priced. It’s an utterly re-worked job, carried out on a slightly older dormer home, but with hardly a trace of the original left after several years of redesign, rebuilding, extending, upgrading — the lot.

The book, as well as the budget, was thrown at it and “I’d have to say, it is the best finished house I’ve ever seen for sale in Cork,” says its clearly-impressed selling agent, Brian Olden of Cohalan Downing, who sold this private home last time around too to its current family owners.

Mr Olden has been back several times since, and every time he’s seen something new added by the occupants. With a background in finance and trading, the owners are relocating to the Mediterranean having done everything conceivable to this super-plush home. They did it all, bar flatten the original and build again from scratch, which probably and in hindsight, might have been the easier route to this end result.

The original, already large home on 4.85 acres looking north over Cork’s harbour towards Jacobs Island at Mahon, was about 4,500 sq ft. Now, there’s 7,500 sq ft, and possibly more, of joined-up four-bedroomed house and pool/leisure centre and one-bed guest wing, all joined-up in thinking too, and dominated by an extraordinary glass cube in the front.

Well, it’s not precisely a cube, it’s a glass pod or a glass box, measuring 10 metres long, by four metres deep and another four metres high, done to an exacting commercial specification, yet residential in result and use; it’s the making of the place, both visually, and practically.

“We used to be out to the front of the house, with that great view up and down the harbour, and knowing ‘this is where you’d want to be’, and now, this is where we’ve ended up,” explains the owner within this oddly domestic human glass box, done with elan by Paul Keating of Cork’s Keating Architects.

That meticulously-designed and engineered box (see source book for supplier details) works as well by night as by day. There are twinkling lights once dusk hits across and along the water, while passing shipping adds to the fascination. And, both by day and by night, the full width of a flowing water feature right outside the glazing, in a 10-metre run through quality Kilkenny limestone channels and steps, adds to the picture, visually as well as aurally.

There’s a feeling that the job was done with a sense of fun, as well as a very serious purpose, and the level of craftsmanship (mostly by Cork or local tradespeople) is serious. There has to have been many months of work for the wizard, wood-working joiner in particular, with flawless doors with inlay, in the utterly unique, cocoon-like home office, and in the master bedroom’s dressing room, with a bank of curved wardrobe doors. The luxe look is on a par with what you’d expect on the super-yachts of the rich and famous.

Given the personal possessions on display here, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the home-base of a musician, what with guitars and pianos, art and sundry rockabilia; the muscular presence of a 1200cc Harley Davidson motorbike, ‘nonchalantly’ parked by the indoor swimming pool, très rock-chic, adds to the rock star/sports star suspicion.

Factor in a €150,000 spend on Bang and Olufsen sound and screens throughout the house, felt with a deep bass resonance, and you’d lay a bet with Paddy Power that the owner’s done a few successful and rewarding world tours - but you’d be wrong. The world tours are done on-line, by the wonders of the web, financially-based, and clearly lucrative.

The house bristles with technology, unobtrusively so, with air-conditioning and air-to-air heat recovery systems, and a lot of clever Toshiba controls, which means the glass cube never gets too hot, or too cold.

The 12-metre swimming pool is done on an e-clear system, meaning no chlorine smells, and the water heats the pool-room, which is as high-end as any boutique hotel pool/spa you’d visit, with a side wall done in Liscannor stone, and the ceiling in a stretched black, reflective, rubberised barrier called Barrisol which seems to play with space perceptions along the pool’s length. The pool — one of the house’s two centrepieces rather than an afterthought — has a countercurrent pump fitted for a proper swimming workout. “When it’s on, you can don a snorkle and swim all you like and never reach the back wall,” says the owner breathlessly.

It’s a place that get lots of use in this family’s routine, as does the gym, and a few very expensive super-light road-racing bikes are lurking around as well, so the house is the hub of a leisure activity.

Rochestown’s Hop Island riding centre is in view below in the midst of the estuary vista, as is the Rochestown-Monkstown amenity walking/cycling route below.

This property’s private demesne runs to about 4.8 sloping acres, with terraces, parking, a guest wing, a leisure wing, and with about 1.5 acres of it landscaped, the rest is in pasture and planted woodland, rich in silver birch and deciduous trees.

Not unexpectedly, security is tight, with no fewer than 16 CCTV cameras and tracking monitors, while entry is by way of a curving uphill drive, behind electrically-controlled access gates.

External finish materials are top quality, a mix of sandstone for the guest wing/gym/garage, the swimming pool section in between is part render, with a series of hardwood French doors and cedar trim overhead, under a ‘butterfly’-shaped roof, with its full spans in costly zinc.

The glass pod is bookended in standing-seam zinc too (Clonakilty Engineering’s David Guest did the framework), while the rest of the house and its rebuilt dormers are now roofed in top-quality slate. The addition of the wholly-glazed box meant re-engineering and strengthening most of the original house’s core, notes architect Paul Keating.

That slightly sloping glass roof is strong enough for workmen to stand on for maintenance, thanks to toughened and heat-strengthened glass, with laminated vertical and horizontal fins meeting in mortise and tenon joints, while bronze spacers do a spider-like job of clamping the other large sections together. “It was all manufactured, made and cut in Cork,” adds designer Keating.

Internally, and despite the full-faced modernity of that 10mx4mx4m box, the rest of the house isn’t overwhelming, and decor is moderated. There’s a double aspect large living room just off the entry hall and stairwell, a 35’ long living room/kitchen, understated but with Gaggenau and Neff , aplenty. Then, there’s a rear media/home-theatre/TV room en route to the pool room, a handy utility with sheltered rear access under some projecting overhead bedrooms, and that extraordinary home office, with wavy timber ceiling ribs leading into a sinuous, flowing hand-crafted desk — joinery in motion. This home office, lush in wenge and other dark timbers contrasting with the ash desk, has all-but-secret bookshelf doors which ponderously swing open to reveal a shower room, and a storeroom.

The same (un-credited) craftsman did the floating dark timber stair treads linked to a glass wall baluster, with an alternating geometric raised and recessed timber pattern on the main wall, and this same grid feature is more evident again in the link between the kitchen and the glass box, finished in polished teak.

Kahrs oak parquet flooring is much in evidence in the main living areas, with a seam of wenge timber tracing room outlines, and then that wenge strip turns up again in the handmade chestnut doors, all graced by other discrete sections of inlaid timbers: there’s weeks of work gone into making each and every door.

When you eventually get upstairs, it’s all even more hushed, courtesy of acres of wool carpet, with a suitably grand double-aspect master bedroom with harbour views from a series of squat sash windows. Just off is a dressing room with six double wardrobes, all doors gently curving but concealing all, plus vanity table and seat for views (or getting second opinions/views on outfits). The other one-third of the house’s considerable length is given over to an en-suite fourth bedroom, west-facing, with walk-in robes. The back of the house now has an add-on upper level, which is home to two further bedrooms, and which share a ‘Jack and Jill’ en suite. Like the rest of the house, rooms have air-conditioning, recessed spotlights, coved ceilings, radiator covers etc, while bathrooms have underfloor heating.

VERDICT: A dormer, but not as we know them, an extravagant showcase of design and workmanship, inside and out.

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