Cover story: A cracker of a house with an exotic element

Tommy Barker discovers a sense of airiness within this detached home that is all nicely modern but not flashy.

Cover story: A cracker of a house with an exotic element

Location: Jacobs Island, Cork

Price: €425,000

Size: 218 (2,350 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 5 Bathrooms: 3

BER rating: C1

Best Feature: Understated quality

In property terms, ‘location’ is generally a given, long-established over time, in the mind, and likely to evolve rather than change hugely, or burst new and freshly formed on the scene.

But, in some way’s Cork’s Jacob’s Island is a rarity — a new residential location to the map — and chart — all over the past decade or so.

Out at the very tip of Cork harbour’s Mahon peninsula and along that great, equally ‘created’ amenity walk and cycle route from Blackrock Castle towards Rochestown and on to Passage West, Jacob’s Island sprung up during the development boom, when Owen O’Callaghan developed the massive Mahon Point scheme, but left the area’s fringe residential development to McCarthy Developments. McCarthys had the vision to see this as a great, as-yet untapped waterside location, and they also had snapped up the Rochestown Harty’s Quay site across the estuarine inlet, with a similar vision to create water-aspected homes over there.

Harty’s Quay is, however, all apartments; whilst Jacob’s Island has several apartment blocks also (all occupied), there was a fuller mix of house types built at Jacob’s Island, including 24 solid, detached homes. By 2006, the last few were selling in the mid €800,000s, while one-oversized one even carried a €1m price tag.

In the interim, the market might have dived nationally, but the area around Mahon and Jacob’s Island took giant strides forwards; now it’s one of the country’s fastest moving employment hubs, with the likes of EMC, Dell and lawyers Ronan Daly Jermyn all having moved to top class offices, supported by retail and residential developments — a sort of Cork equivalent to Dublin’s Sandyford renewal and boom.

Now, one of the standard bearer five-bed detacheds in Jacob’s Island, No 59 Longshore Drive with 2,350 sq ft inside, is up for sale — and it’s a quiet cracker.

Listed with estate agent Timothy Sullivan, who guides at a possibly modest €425,000, it’s in mint order inside, with quality finishes and touches. It has views eastwards to Cork harbour — at a stretch down to Marino Point — and it has a sub-tropical themed back garden: about the only thing missing to complete the exotic garden jungle effect is a parrot.

Dense planting in raised beds restrained by old rail sleepers and filled with tonnes of organic matter sees fig trees fruit and thrive, banana plants taking off (but don’t expect bananas to ripen), as well as tree ferns, bamboo, Chinese lanterns, triffid-like Echiums and a whole host more.

You can tell the owner’s into gardening, and that suspicion is borne out by the gardening tomes on bookshelves inside, which share space with boating books and photos. The master bedroom at No 59 even has a telescope, for monitoring harbour shipping activity.

These broad, yet quite squat, two-storey house designs have several contrasting facades, and No 59 has a quite luxe looking stone finish on the walls around the front door.

There’s a sense of airiness from the get-go, promised by the quite dramatic double height entry hall, with its lofty glazed panel section around the hardwood front door: you sense it even from the exterior, where a section of landing mezzanine projects, boat bow-like, into the hall.

No 59 has reception rooms left and right of the central hall, in what’s a very simple square floor plan and the right hand side sitting room opens through double doors to a bright breakfast room alongside the contemporary gloss kitchen with strong red glass splashbacks. Worktops and trim are in walnut, while the chunky breakfast bar seems to be in thick sections of teak.

It’s all nicely modern, but not flashy, floors are either marble/porcelain or solid French oak, doors, stairs and ballusters are polished hardwood and have the slight effect of making the house appear a bit older than actually is, but have a real heft of solidity to them.

The left hand lounge has a cast iron open fireplace, while the 19’ by 13’ sitting room across the way has a York stone fireplace. Each of these rooms has a bay window, and harbour and Blackrock walk glimpses beyond, and directly overhead are two of the house’s larger bedrooms, also with bay windows and even better views. Each has an en suite shower room, and to the back of the house are three more bedrooms, plus main bathroom, and there’s a double hotpress on the landing. Bedroom floors are varnished pine, softened by rugs brought back from travels abroad. A decent utility, and guest WC, wraps up the rest of the house’s accommodation. But, then, there’s also a large, very solid garden shed/home office, with concrete floor, and split-pitch roofs, with clerestory windows, ideal for storage, hobbyists, bike and boat keeping and more, with back garden access from both sides of the house.

The front garden’s nicely planted up, the drive is cobble lock, and just across the way (without impinging on the crescent of private houses) is the most wooded section of the wildlife public park on the Blackrock walk, named in honour of former city manager Joe McHugh — a fitting tribute.

And, No 59’s back garden’s contrasting sub-tropical landscaping’s truly lush — just bring a parrot.

VERDICT: Impressive.

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